NEW YORK CITY: The Civilians has announced the members of its 2023-24 R&D Group, as well as the inaugural commissions for The Next Forever: New Stories for a Changing Planet. Now in its 13th season, the R&D Group brings together writers, composers, and directors over a period of nine months to develop new plays and musicals. Led by the Civilians’ resident dramaturg Phoebe Corde, the group meets twice a month online to discuss their creative processes and methodologies. Their work culminates in the Findings, a works-in-progress reading series scheduled for June 2024.
The 2023-24 R&D Group artists will be Michael Breslin, Dan Caffrey, Zachariah Ezer, Leonardo Gonzalez Dominguez, James La Bella, Elizagrace Madrone, Dominique Rider, and Cat Rodriguez. The group’s projects will include The Single Raindrop, Ezer and Rider’s play about the therapeutic potential of virtual reality for the elderly; The Tusk Hunters, Caffrey’s play exploring the morality of de-extinction and the toll that scientifically revolutionary ideas take on those who execute them; missing people/missing people…, Madrone’s theatrical eyeballing of California’s back-to-the-land movement; BIKINI, Rodriguez and Breslin’s riff on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary set in the world of competitive bikini bodybuilding; Melt.Punish, La Bella’s investigation of contemporary American attitudes on media and justice; and On the Edge of Preservation (the parking lot play), Dominguez’s reflection on how a community of immigrants thrived and died for the existence of a parking lot on the edge of a nature reserve. This year’s artists were selected from a competitive application process that included 168 submissions.
In partnership with Princeton University’s High Meadows Environmental Institute and Lewis Center for the Arts, the Civilians has selected the inaugural commissions for the The Next Forever, a commission-and-residency program for theatremakers. Two commissions will be awarded annually for theatremakers to create original works that engage environmental subject matter. Each commission comes with a series of public events and performances, an undergraduate class on narrative and the environment, and access to Princeton faculty working in relevant fields. This year’s commissions include Kareem Fahmy’s Riparian States, the story of how a new Nile dam has brought Egypt and Ethiopia to a geopolitical breaking point, and AriDy Nox’s Why Ya’ll Hate Earth So Bad?, an interactive reverse-ancestral play that centers a group of young descendants who bootleg virtual-reality technology to hold a seance with their ancestors.
“The planetary crisis is environmental, to be sure, but it’s also a crisis of imagination,” said Civilians artistic director Steve Cosson in a statement. “The Next Forever brings together bright minds from across disciplines to help equip the movement for environmental action. Through our partnership with HMEI, The Lewis Center and our first two commissioned artists, we’re championing the dynamic storytelling that we need to navigate our planet’s future. We are equally thrilled to support investigatory theatremaking through our signature R&D program, now in its 13th year. This year’s R&D group inspired us with their curiosity, the rigor of their inquisition, and the breadth of deeply personal stories and challenging questions posed in their project proposals.”
Founded in 2001, the Civilians is an investigative theatre company based in New York City. The company seeks to investigate our lived experience, interrogate the stories that shape our society, and awaken new thinking through the experience of live theatre. As of 2022, The Civilians had an approximate budget of $977,000.
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