NEW YORK CITY: The Lark has announced that playwrights Zora Howard and Edison Ventura Mata Diaz have been chosen as the 2020-21 Van Lier New Voices Fellows. The year-long residency, with additional support from the Jerome Foundation, supports playwrights of color aged 30 or younger in order to help address the lack of inclusion of early-career playwrights of color in the field.
“I am grateful for the gift of time, space, and artistic community the Lark has provided me through the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship,” said Howard in a statement. “Amidst this time of stifling uncertainty we’re living in, this fellowship is a deep breath of fresh air. And I cannot wait to find the possibilities it will open up in my work.”
This year’s fellowship includes a cash award of $35,000, an increased amount meant to reflect the median, entry-level salary in New York City so the playwrights have the opportunity to write full time. Fellows will also have access the the Lark’s artistic resources and support, as well as a $5,000 opportunity fund for research, travel, and other expenses.
“If you asked me what I’d be doing right now five years ago,” said Diaz, “I would have never imagined this. I’m extremely grateful to be selected, and can’t wait to develop new projects with one of the most poppin theatre laboratories ever. I’m looking forward to making connections with the Lark’s community of amazing artists and creatives. I want to flip the American theatre upside down, and this feels like a huge step toward that.”
The Van Lier New Voices program is part of the Lark’s group of fellowships aimed at engaging a diverse community of playwrights. Previous fellows include Donja R. Love, C.A. Johnson, Ife Olujobi, Xavier Galva, Brittany K. Allen, Christina Quintana (CQ), Erika Dickerson-Despenza, and David Zheng.
“We are so grateful and excited that Zora Howard and Edison Ventura Mata Diaz will be spending this season with us at the Lark,” said the Lark’s artistic team in a joint statement. “Zora is a formidable dramatic talent and storyteller who creates intricately designed, sobering worlds, alive with poetry and humor. We are so thrilled she’ll be joining our community because we know we can only be made better by her presence and her work. Edison is a Lark community member who has brought his casually ingenious performances to many of our rooms, and we can’t wait to start forming those rooms again—this time, around his own sly, searing, playful, and fearless plays.”
Zora Howard is a Harlem-bred writer and performer. Plays include STEW (2020 Drama League nominee for Outstanding Play, Page 73 Productions), AtGN, BUST, HANG TIME and GOOD FAITH. Her work has been developed with SPACE at Ryder Farm, Pipeline Theatre Company, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Cape Cod Theatre Project, among others. In 2020, her feature film Premature, which she co-wrote and starred in, opened in theatres following its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. BA: Yale University; MFA: University of California, San Diego.
Edison Ventura Mata Diaz is an Afro-Latino writer/actor/finesser born in Providence, RI and raised in the Boogie Down. His work is an exploration of the hood, class, spirituality, and all things wavy. He’s had his work developed with LAByrinth Theater Company, Curious Theater Company and the MCC Youth Company. He was a 2018 Space on Ryder Farm Greenhouse Resident. Recent acting credits include The Siblings Play (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater).
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