NEW YORK CITY: National Queer Theater, in partnership with the Dramatists Guild, has announced the inaugural recipients of the New Vision Fellowship, a year-long professional development program aimed at supporting Black trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) playwrights. This year’s recipients are Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko (he/they) and Ayla Xuan Chi Sullivan (they/them), each of whom will be awarded $5,000 to develop a play, musical, or performance experience of their design and choosing.
“We, the POC TGNC playwrights of American theatre, are the future, the new normal, and the ever-present constant of our country’s storytelling cosmos,” said playwright Roger Q. Mason (they/them), who will helm the program, in a statement. “Nick Mwaluko and Ayla Sullivan are shining stars of our craft, and the New Visions Fellowship is honored to help them find the distinction and opportunity they rightfully deserve in our profession.”
As part of the program, National Queer Theater will host professional readings of the plays at the end of the program. Mwaluko and Sullivan will also have the opportunity to participate in professional development sessions, and will receive a five-year complimentary membership to the Dramatists Guild, which includes access to contracts, business advice, and career services.
“What excites me the most about this fellowship is that Black and transgender creativity is at the forefront and heart of New Visions,” said Sullivan in a statement. “I never want my Blackness and my transness to be a fun fact about me: My identity is not a product to be bartered or questioned, it is integral to my creative life because my specific experience as a Black and transgender person is inherently creative when I have to navigate how to ensure the expression and protection of my livelihood. To truly have that welcomed and celebrated in a professional landscape is a gift of resistance. ”
In addition to Mason as the program’s primary mentor for the fellows, master classes will be lead by Tony winner Lisa Kron and Pulitzer winner Doug Wright, among other artists. Finalists for the 2021 New Vision Fellowship included Storm Thomas, Chantal Vorobei Thieves (she/her), and Alexander Paris (they/them). Honorable mentions include Brei Brandy (they/them), Nay Harris (they/them), Jahquale Mazyck (he/they), Jae W.B. (they/she), Chamari White-Mink (they/them), Taylor Steele (she/her), and Linda LA (she/her).
“I believe in the power of queer storytelling to liberate all of humanity,” said Mwaluko. “To tell the full queer Black truth; to birth justice from queer realities. The New Visions Fellowship marries the power of queer Black storytelling to theatrical performance and, in so doing, champions the two greatest loves of my life.”
Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko’s plays include Silence Is A Sound, about intimate partner abuse within Black trans femininity; the comedy Cock Tales for Christmas; 37, a Black lesbian duet; S.T.A.R: Marsha P. Johnson; the queer fantasia Waafrika 123 (National Queer Theater); QTPOC trans masculine THEY/THEM/THEIRS; the queer apocalyptic Homeless in the AfterLife; Blueprint for an African Lesbian; SH/Ero; Asymmetrical We; Brotherly Love; Trailer Park Tundra; Once a Man Always a Man; Mama Afrika; Queering MacBeth; Life Is About the Kill; That Day God Visits You; Ata; To Dyke Trans; Gayze; Good Grief; and Pence at the Border,among others. Residencies include the nationally recognized Resident Playwright Initiative with Playwrights’ Foundation (San Francisco 2019-2023); Resilience and Development Writers’ Lab with Crowded Fire Theater Company in San Francisco (2017-2018); New York City’s EWG (Emerging Writers’ Group) at the Public Theater, sponsored by Time Warner Co.; New York City’s Groundbreakers Group, Djerassi Artist Residency in Northern California, Freedom Train Productions, Ragged Wing Ensemble, and more. Mwaluko, a 2018 finalist for Africa’s Gerald Kraak Award, graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University for undergrad, completed an MFA at Columbia as a Point Scholar, the nation’s largest LGBTQIA scholarship fund, and was awarded a Columbia University Fellowship for theatre at the same time. Mwaluko attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop thanks to a Norman Felton Fellowship. XXY Queer Africa: More Invisible, a companion essay to WAAFRIKA 1-2-3 was published in Juked and included in Best American Essays 2020. Another essay, A Letter to My Gay Black Brother, was recently nominated for a Pushcart Award (results pending).
Ayla Xuan Chi Sullivan is a Black and Vietnamese nonbinary interdisciplinary arts practitioner. An actor, a playwright, a director, a poet, an educator, and a co-founder of Shift 23 Media, they create and question the nature of performance through their desire to dismantle and disengage with the white supremacist commitment to the hierarchy of humanity. Sullivan’s work is often referred to as “love poems addressed to people in our community we are conditioned to forget”: Black, Indigenous, Asian, queer, and trans people of color, those experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and anyone who is (or has been) caged. In short, their politics begin and end with the liberation of all Black people. Currently in Columbia University’s playwriting class of 2022, Sullivan is a budding new playwright of the Denver Metro Area. Their most recent production, Last Stop, was a semi-autobiographical, immersive nail salon experience at Denver’s Buntport Theatre. They also are the creator and star of You, Me, and the FAFSA (currently being taught in the television courses at Emerson College) and the short film D.A.M.E. They have also written librettos with composer Jack Frerer for the Arapahoe Philharmonic and the Albany Symphony. From 2016 to 2019, Sullivan served the Denver Metro Area as the second Denver Youth Poet Laureate. Their term-ending Legacy Project brought Know Your Rights content to the youth of Denver by blending poetry with resources for police interactions.
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