NEW YORK CITY: The Playwrights Realm has announced its 2021 International Theatermakers Award recipients in partnership with law firm Dyer Harris LLP. The recipients are playwright and performer Nkenna Akunna; costume designer Dina El-Aziz; actor and writer Isra Elsalihie; playwright, director, and scenographer Abhishek Majumdar; and composer Tidtaya Sinutoke (ฑิตยา สินุธก).
“After a successful first edition in which all five winners were granted their O-1B visas, we were very excited to support a new cohort of international theatremakers,” said Playwrights Realm producing director Roberta Pereira in a statement. “Their contribution to our industry is vital, and as an immigrant myself, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge it in the Realm’s values-centric initiatives. Hopefully the American theatre will follow this lead and create more welcoming space for international artists in the field!”
The award recognizes the critical contributions of artists from around the world to the American theatre, and the barriers they face to work in our country. It seeks to expand the participation of international theatremakers who are underrepresented, to bring clarity and comfort to people caught up in the American immigration system, and to contribute to expanding the plurality of voices on American stages. It also offers free legal assistance to apply for an O-1B artist visa from the immigration-focused law firm Dyer Harris LLP.
Nkenna Akunna is an Igbo playwright and performer from London. Her work has been staged in the U.K. and U.S. Nkenna is currently a final year MFA candidate in playwriting at Brown University, and is co-director of Skin Deep, a collective that makes space for Black creatives and creatives of color through cultural production.
Dina El-Aziz is a British-Egyptian costume designer based in New York. Dina has worked on numerous film and theatre productions in NYC and across the U.S., including Portland Center Stage, Northern Stage, the Guthrie, the Old Globe, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Geva Theatre.
Isra Elsalihie is an award-winning actor and writer of Iraqi-Swedish descent, who boasts numerous film, TV, and theatre credits, including Noura (Johanna McKeon/Old Globe), The Invaders (London Film Festival), Arresting God (Sundance Lab), Red Balloon (Jessica Blank/the Lark), Anne Frank in the Gaza Strip (Shaun Peknic/PCTF Outstanding Supporting Actress award), What Would You Do? (ABC Network), The Good Man (NJ Agwuna and Anne Bogart), and voiceover work for the Emmy winning series Super Wings.
Abhishek Majumdar is an award-winning playwright, theatre director and scenographer. He is the artistic director of Nalanda Arts Studio Bangalore and visiting associate professor at New York University in Abu Dhabi. He is currently developing new work for Nalanda Arts Studio, Royal Court Theatre, Bloombury, Tibet Theatre, PlayCo New York, and New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Center, among other places.
Tidtaya Sinutoke (ฑิตยา สินุธก) is a Thailand born, NYC-based composer whose credits include Half The Sky (the 5th Avenue Theatre’s First Draft Commission & 20/21 Digital Season), Sunwatcher (the Civilians R&D Group, Ancram Opera House, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms Festival), and Dear Mr. C (NYFA’s City Artist Corps Grants).
The five honorees were selected from a pool of 30 applications, representing 19 countries and 5 continents. They were scored on artistic merit, artistic promise, and contribution. At least one theatremaker must be a playwright; three of this year’s five winners are playwrights.
This year’s international panel of judges were lighting designer Omar Madkour; writer and Playwrights Realm marketing manager Francisco Mendoza; poet, playwright, and screenwriter Darrel Alejandro Holnes; and playwright, director, songwriter, educator, and actor Jessica Wu.
The program also offers a series of free digital panels geared towards artists and arts organizations at large on U.S. artist visa and green card application processes for international artists. These panels seek to demystify these processes and expand the comfort and knowledge of international artists and American theatermakers wanting to work with them.
The International Theatermakers Award was introduced by The Playwrights Realm in 2020 as one of many programs providing support amid the ongoing pandemic. In their 15th Anniversary Restart Season (2021-2022), the Realm seeks to further open the organization’s services to international artists, including opening up their Scratchpad Series to artists outside the United States.
The Playwrights Realm, led by founding artistic director Katherine Kovner and producing director Roberta Pereira, is devoted to supporting emerging playwrights throughout their careers, helping them to hone their craft, fully realize their vision, and build meaningful artistic careers.
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