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Ray Yamanouchi Receives First Dee Silver M.D. Commission

The Cygnet Theatre commission awards the playwright $10,000 and an unrestricted time limit to create a new play.

SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: Cygnet Theatre has announced that playwright Ray Yamanouchi will receive the inaugural Dee Silver M.D. Commission. The commission includes a $10,000 award and an unrestricted time for the creation of a new play that responds to our present times with hope and healing. The goal of this new annual commission, named after longtime Cygnet supporter and award funder Dee Silver, is to fund a play that directly engages with the present moment with an illuminating perspective.

“We are grateful to Dee Silver for ensuring that the national theatrical cannon is filled with stories that create bridges of empathy,” said associate Cygnet artistic director Rob Lutfy in a statement. “The commission does not require the playwright to give definite answers or happy endings, but rather to take the messiness of humanity and examine it for the purpose of nurturing our growth and starting conversations around healing.”

Ray Yamanouchi.

Due to the open-ended nature of the commission, free public readings of the new play will be announced in the future.

“Writing plays is how I attempt to make sense of an often upsetting and unjust world,” said Yamanouchi in a statement. “This commission offers me the institutional support and resources to explore these ideas to the fullest extent.”

The commission comprises three development sessions. The first leg, which has already been completed, is in partnership with the New Harmony Project, allowing the playwright a week of retreat to write with a literary team and group of playwrights. During this leg, Yamanouchi spent seven days in rural Indiana with 225 writers and artists. Next, Yamanouchi will head to Minneapolis for a week-long workshop with a director, dramaturg, and actors in order to delve deeper into the play. The Playwrights’ Center is matching the development cost of the week-long residency dollar for dollar. Finally, Yamanouchi’s play will receive a workshop at Cygnet Theatre and a reading in front of an audience. The ultimate goal of the commission is to produce a world premiere of the new work at Cygnet in the near future.

“My hope is that through this commission and under the guidance of both Cygnet and Rob’s powerful creative influence, this play adds an uplifting and propitious perspective of the human condition to the legacy of American theatre,” said Silver in a statement. “This moment in time, these partners, and this playwright are ideal elements coming together to create a forward-looking, wholehearted new work.”

Ray Yamanouchi is a Flushing-born, Long Island-raised, and Astoria-based playwright. He received a B.A. in film and theatre from CUNY Hunter College. His plays include Tha Chink-Mart (PlayPenn 2018), Impact (semi-finalist, National Playwrights Conference 2017), and The American Tradition (New Light New Voices Award 2018). He has developed work with WT Theatre, Leviathan Lab, The Blank Theatre, Rising Circle Theater Collective, Mission to (dit)Mars (Propulsion Lab), Ars Nova (Play Group), and Playwrights’ Center (Core Writer). He is a commissioned playwright with Ars Nova and the co-creator of RE:, a NYC theatre talk show (

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