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Playwright Aniello Fontano.

Aniello Fontano Receives Clifford Odets Ensemble Commission

The annual commission partners an emerging playwright, director, and Method-trained actors to develop an ensemble play.

NEW YORK CITY: The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and the Lee Strasberg Creative Center have selected playwright and screenwriter Aniello Fontano to be the recipient of the 2023 Clifford Odets Ensemble Play Commission. Started in 2012, this annual initiative commissions an emerging playwright to develop a fully original work for college-age students. The commission, produced by the Creative Center and supported by the Institute, will culminate in a production at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre Dec. 7-9, directed by Ben Villegas Randle and featuring a cast of graduating NYU Tisch School of the Arts drama students.

“Lee’s dedication to the American theatre permeated all aspects of his life, and is at the very foundation of the Institute’s mission,” said Anna Strasberg in a statement. “Supporting emerging talents—not just the next generation of actors, but playwrights and directors—ensures a vibrant future for the American theatre. We look forward to another decade fostering young artists and watching Lee’s vision come alive.”

The commission expands on the legacy of the Group Theatre, the work of Lee Strasberg, and playwright Clifford Odets, whose plays for this ensemble transformed the American theatre. By partnering emerging playwrights, directors, and Method-trained actors, this commission aims to create an incubating space for the development of true ensemble plays in New York City, and to develop the next generation of collaborating artists. More than a dozen playwrights have been supported through this initiative including Lucy Thurber, Lila Feinberg, Crystal Skillman, Sarah Gancher, Frank Winters, Calamity West, and Dylan Guerra, among others.

Aniello Fontano is a playwright, screenwriter, and educator originally from Little Italy in Chicago. He received his B.A. in directing and design from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his MFA in dramatic writing at the University of New Mexico. Prior to the current Writers Guild of America strike, he was writing for a show in development at Netflix and developing a project with writer/producer christopher oscar peña and actor/director Ty Molbak. Beyond his work as a writer, he is a board member of Prop Theater in Chicago, a volunteer with BUILD Chicago, an art department lead person in IATSE Chicago Local 476, a writers room assistant in IATSE Los Angeles Local 871, and a member of SAG-AFTRA. He continues to be mentored by director Jude Weng.

Established in 1969, the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute is an acting school that specializes in teaching Strasberg’s Method. The curriculum seeks to provide students with a craft that helps them create a reality and respond truthfully in imaginary circumstances. The Lee Strasberg Creative Center is a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Lee Strasberg ‘s legacy through the development of outreach programs, the preservation of archival materials, the incubation of young artists, and the fostering of a community of alumni and professionals devoted to Lee Strasberg’s work.

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