NEW YORK CITY: The National Arts Club (NAC) has awarded Brooklyn-based playwright Matthew Freeman the 2021 Kesselring Prize. The $25,000 award has been given annually by the NAC since 1980 to an outstanding playwright, and includes a two-week residency and a one-year membership at the historic National Arts Club. Freeman will accept the prize during a ceremony featuring readings of his work on Dec. 2.
“As live performances return and theaters reopen their doors, it is our pleasure to continue our support of the theatre community,” said Alice Palmisano, president of the NAC in a statement. “There is no better place to start than with the playwrights behind the work. We congratulate Matthew and look forward to celebrating his creativity later this year.”
Each year, the NAC asks nonprofit theatres across the U.S. to nominate an emerging playwright. The nominee pool then goes to the Kesselring jury, who select the winner. The current jury comprises Tony-winning playwright John Guare, Pulitzer-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Lincoln Center Theater dramaturg Anne Cattaneo, recipient of the 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship in Theater Arts. Michael Parva, artistic director of the Directors Company in NYC, has worked as the Kesselring Prize artistic director since its inception.
“We are happy to award the 2021 Kesselring prize to Matthew Freeman for his deeply felt and beautifully realized play Silver Spring,” said Guare in a statement.
Freeman was nominated by New Dramatists, where he is a resident playwright, for Silver Spring, his autobiographical exploration of grief and family.
“It feels somehow significant to receive a prize dedicated to an emerging playwright at a time when emerging is a word that applies to all of us in theatre,” said Freeman in a statement. “I’m deeply grateful to the National Arts Club for this honor. I’m also thankful for the many artists who helped bring this play into the world, and especially to Emily Morse and New Dramatists for providing the greatest resource of all: community.”
In addition to his current residency at New Dramatists, Freeman was a MacDowell Colony Fellow. His work has been staged at the Brick Theater, the Access Theater (with Blue Coyote Theater Group), House of Yes, FPAC/The Assemblage in Boston, St. Mark’s Church (Incubator Arts Project), Dixon Place, East 4th Street Theater, and 80WSE Gallery. Freeman’s plays and monologues have been published by Samuel French, Applause, Smith & Kraus, NYTE, and Playscripts. Plays include Silver Spring, The Sea The Mountains The Forest The City The Plain, That Which Isn’t, When is a Clock, The Listeners, The Most Wonderful Love, The Death of King Arthur, and Brandywine Distillery Fire. His audio projects have been a part of the HearNow Festival, Atlanta Fringe Radio and the Active Listening podcast. Freeman’s podcasts include Places I Have Heard Voices and Predictions.
The Kesselring Prize was established by Charlotte Kesselring, widow of the playwright Joseph Kesselring (Arsenic and Old Lace), to support emerging writers and provide them with support towards development of new work. Recent recipients include Mona Mansour (2020), Inda Craig Galvàn (2019), James Ijames (2018), Lauren Yee (2017), Lindsey Ferrentino (2016), and Lucas Hnath (2015). Other past prize winners are Rajiv Joseph, Anna Deavere Smith, Tracy Scott Wilson, Deb Margolin, Nicky Silver, and Melissa James Gibson.
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