ENGLEWOOD, FLA.: The Hermitage Artist Retreat has selected playwright and screenwriter Madeleine George as the recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA). Established by the Hermitage in 2021 with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, the HMTA is one of the largest nonprofit theatre commissions in the country. George will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a developmental workshop in a major arts capital such as New York, Chicago, or London in the fall of 2023.
“Amidst such a brilliant group of finalists, the inaugural award committee was faced with an incredibly difficult decision in determining a recipient for this award,” said Hermitage artistic director and CEO Andy Sandberg in a statement. “Madeleine George is one of the American theatre’s most gracious and gifted talents, and we’re honored to present her with the HMTA. The heart and humor in her writing is enhanced by her generous spirit and her deep passion for the theatre.”
The prize was originally awarded to Radha Blank in December 2021. With Blank unable to fulfill the commission due to conflicting professional commitments, the inaugural award committee reconvened to endorse George from out of four distinguished finalists.
Madeleine George is an American playwright, screenwriter, author, and founding member of the Obie-winning playwrights’ collective 13P. Her plays include Hurricane Diane (Obie Award), The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize finalist; Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious Little, and The Zero Hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). Honors include a Whiting Award, the Princess Grace Award, and a Lilly Award. Her translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters premiered at Two River Theater in 2022, and her audio adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For is forthcoming from Audible Originals. She is currently a writer and producer on Hulu’s acclaimed mystery-comedy Only Murders in the Building.
“I was surprised and thrilled to get the news about the Hermitage Major Theater Award,” said George in a statement. “It’s such an honor to be joining in the Hermitage’s awe-inspiring family of artists, and I’m excited to have resources and time to put towards my commissioned play, which has been on my mind for a while and which I’m eager to share with the world.”
George plans to use the commission to develop an adaptation of a Faust story called The Sore Loser, a comedy about power, domination, and the death of the patriarchy, as told through a small-town bowling tournament.
“One thing I’m trying to do with this play is to enact the transition from the hero narrative we’re all familiar with to a new kind of narrative driven by collective action. I’m curious about what kind of stories we can tell—particularly comic stories—that can help us unlearn the structures of domination that have a stranglehold on mainstream Western culture.”
The other finalists for the 2021 HMTA included Eisa Davis, an Obie-winning multi-disciplinary theatremaker, and Luis Alfaro, an accomplished playwright and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. Each has been awarded a Hermitage residency and fellowship, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000. Theatremaker and director Shariffa Ali was awarded the HMTA in the spring of 2022, and her commission is also expected to receive a developmental workshop in the fall of 2023.
The 2021 HMTA Award Committee included Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright and past president of the Dramatists Guild of America Doug Wright; Tony nominee and Obie-winning director Leigh Silverman; and Tony nominee and Obie-winning stage and screen director Liesl Tommy.
The Hermitage Artist Retreat is a non-profit multi-disciplinary residency retreat located on a beachfront campus in Manasota Key, Fla. Hermitage fellows have included 15 Pulitzer winners, poets laureate, MacArthur “Genius” Fellows, and multiple Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar winners and nominees. Each year the Hermitage awards the $30,000 Hermitage Greenfield Prize for a new work of art, the newly announced $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award for an original theatre commission, and the Aspen Music Festival’s Hermitage Prize in Composition. As of 2020, the Hermitage had a budget of approximately $693,000.
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