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Gethsemane Herron, Aya Ogawa, and Rachel Jendrzejewski.

Playwrights’ Center Names McKnight Awardees

Aya Ogawa is the recipient of the McKnight National Residency & Commission, while Gethsemane Herron and Rachel Jendrzejewski are the new McKnight Fellows.

MINNEAPOLIS: Playwrights’ Center has announced two 2023-24 McKnight Fellows in Playwriting as well as the recipient of the McKnight National Residency & Commission. The McKnight Fellows will be Gethsemane Herron and Rachel Jendrzejewski; the McKnight National Residency & Commission recipient is Aya Ogawa.

“Aya is one of the most exciting writers today in the theatre field—I’ve been following their work for years,” said the center’s producing artistic director, Jeremy B. Cohen, in a statement, “and I’m thrilled we’ll get to support them in making their next great piece. Being able to nurture Rachel and Gethsemane’s next steps is so exciting for me, as they are both playwrights and theatremakers that the whole field is looking to in terms of their bodies of new work.”

Supported by the McKnight Foundation, the McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting recognizes and supports mid-career playwrights living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained body of work, commitment, and attributes of artistic merit. This fellowship includes a stipend, new play development resources, and travel funds.

The McKnight National Residency and Commission supports an established playwright from outside of
Minnesota who demonstrates a sustained body of work, commitment, and distinct artistic vision. The
recipient of the residency and commission will create a new play, receive play development
support, and have the opportunity to engage with local artists and Playwrights’ Center staff and fellows,
creating dialogue between Minnesota-based artists and those outside of the community.

“This fellowship is profoundly meaningful to me,” said Rachel Jedrzejewski in a statement. “It’s impossible to convey the vastness and layers around why, but maybe most notably, for the past five years—on top of the pandemic and everything else unfolding in the world—I’ve been reckoning with a cancer diagnosis that has completely upended my life. It’s been difficult to know how to think about art, and career, and the future in general. I’ve had to reimagine so much about how I live and work. Yet this fellowship reminds me that I’m still a writer, not just a cancer patient; that it’s okay to move at my own pace; that so much remains possible.”

Rachel Jendrzejewski is an experimental playwright who frequently collaborates with choreographers, musicians, and visual artists to explore new interdisciplinary and performative vocabularies. Her work has been developed and/or presented by Red Eye Theater, Walker Art Center, Hair+Nails Gallery, Weisman Art Museum, Joe’s Pub, MASS MoCA, and Tricklock Company, among others.

“This fellowship means unencumbered time to focus on my craft, but also my person,” said Gethsemane Herron in a statement. “It’s time to delve into home. Time to meet and befriend the incredible artisans of the Twin Cities. And of course, time to wake up, stretch my body, and bunker down with my reading, my writing—the work that calls me. I am so happy that Playwright’s Center gets to be my lily pad once more.”

Gethsemane Herron is a playwright from Washington, D.C. She has developed work with Ars Nova, The
Fire This Time Festival
, The Hearth, JAG Productions, The Liberation Theatre Company, Roundabout Theatre Company, and WP Theater. She was a 2020-22 member of Ars Nova’s Play Group, a member of the WP Lab, and a 2021-22 Jerome Fellow/2022-23 Many Voices Fellow at Playwrights’ Center. She is the winner of the Columbia@Roundabout Reading Series, the 45th Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival, and the 2022 recipient of the Helen Merrill Award.

“This residency and commission will allow me—or maybe force me—to prioritize my writing by carving out the time and space I need to work on my play Meat Suit: the shitshow of motherhood,” said Aya Ogawa in a statement. “I’ve been wanting to write about the devastating and euphoric experiences of motherhood for many years, but ironically, my responsibilities as a mom have gotten in the way. Now that my kids are a bit older and more capable, it’s time for me to center my own experiences as a parent and to uplift other mothers.”

Aya Ogawa is a Tokyo-born, Brooklyn-based writer, director, performer, and translator whose work
centers women and non-binary perspectives and uses the stage to explore cultural identity. They wrote,
directed, and performed in The Nosebleed, for which they were awarded an Obie Award. They have translated numerous plays by contemporary Japanese playwrights, including Toshiki Okada, Satoko Ichihara, and Yudai Kamisato.

The Playwrights’ Center is a nonprofit theatre organization based in Minneapolis focused on both supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to production at theatres across the country. The center seeks to sustain, develop, and advocate for playwrights and their work to realize their full artistic potential.

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