March 1, 2013 at 3:11 PM
Last year, Playwrights Theatre began the New Jersey Emerging Women Playwrights Project (NJEWP) as part of its larger ongoing effort to provide meaningful support to playwrights through an authentic development process that focuses on the specific and individual needs of the writer.
This year’s participating playwrights include EM Lewis, Ellen Claire Porter and Yasmine Beverly Rana. Like the first round writers, each will have three private readings of their plays, and a final reading during the Forum Series in December 2013.
New Jersey has an abundance of talented and committed women playwrights, but there are very few opportunities for these artists to form relationships with organizations that will make a long-term commitment to developing both their work and their presence in the community. The NJEWP will put into place a process that will identify writers, provide a long-term writer-driven development process, and provide connections for the writer to other writers, informed audiences, and the larger theatrical community, both in New Jersey and nationwide.
The first round of women playwrights included: Lia Romeo, Dania Ramos, Carrie Louise Nutt and Dominique Cieri. Over the course of twelve months, the writers each had four readings of their plays, three private reading that were scheduled by the writer and a final public reading. Final readings of all of these women’s plays were held during Playwrights Theatre’s Forum Reading Series in December 2012. The pilot project had the funding of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Puffin Foundation. Bios and program descriptions can be found on Playwrights Theatre’s website.
“This program had it’s real beginning when one of the first-round writers, Carrie Louise Nutt, pointed out to me that my notion that women playwrights were getting work done on a regular basis, was misguided,” said John Pietrowski, Artistic Director of Playwrights Theatre. “So we set about, in our own small way, to rectify that. It has been an exciting year, the four first round writers have brought their works a long way. In the beginning, some of the plays were near to being complete, others were merely scribbled scenes on lined paper. After the four readings, over 14 months, we had some complete plays.”
“I have high expectations for this program. At the end of this year, we will have assisted seven New Jersey playwrights, and I hope to have 16-20 in three years. We are also in discussions at present with another theatre company in the state to extend the length of the program to a second year, so the writers can continue with their play or even start a new one. My dream is to have a number of theatres in the state participating in some way.”
About the Playwrights:
EM Lewis is an award-winning playwright. She's from Oregon, spent quite a few years in Los Angeles, and now lives and writes in Princeton, New Jersey. Her work has been produced around the world including productions at the Guthrie and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), and published by Samuel French.
Lewis received a 2012 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and was the 2010-2011 Hodder Fellow in Playwriting at Princeton University. She won the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for her playSong of Extinctionand the 2008 Francesca Primus Prize for an emerging woman theater artist forHeads, both from the American Theater Critics Association.
In 2012, Lewis taught and mentored young playwrights in the New Voices Program in Richmond, Virginia and reprised her role as host playwright at the Ashland New Plays Festival. She had college productions of her plays Song of Extinction and Heads. She received her first commission, to write a history play for Premiere Stages in New Jersey. She finished a new play called If I Did This (semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award), that was workshopped at Passage Theater and received a staged reading from Flux Theater Ensemble in New York City. And her play Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday had its world premiere at HotCity Theater in St. Louis in September.
Lewis is now working on an intimate two-hander set in her home state of Oregon, and an epic play set in Antarctica called Magellanica: A New and Accurate Map of the World. More information can be found on her website: www.emlewisplaywright.com
Claire Porter, www.cportables.com, comes to playwriting as a choreographer and performer who choreographs movement and choreographs words. She has performed her work, Claire Porter / PORTABLES, in India, Germany, Holland, England, Latvia, Korea and in the New York City at DTW, Danspace St. Mark’s Church, PS 122, Joe’s Pub, The Kitchen, The Joyce Theater, Joyce SOHO, 92nd St. Y, Town Hall, The Bottom Line, The NY Horticulture Society, Liberty Science Center, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center. PORTABLES has also showcased at American Dance Festival, Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy, Bates Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Florida Dance Festival, Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth Theater DC, Tampa Bay Off Center Theater, Duncan Theater Palm Beach FL, Center Stage Raleigh NC, The Southern Theater Minneapolis MN, The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, and others. Porter performed at the opening of the Peter Eisenman Building at the University of Cincinnati, was the hostesscomedienne-scene changer for the Minnesota Composers Forum's New Music Concert, performed for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s 2009 GALA, set a solo on Kansas City Ballet and performs her Namely, Muscles, recipient of the NYC Fringe Festival 2010’s Overall Excellence Award, at festivals, conferences, theaters, medical schools and universities. Porter has received several NEA Choreography Fellowships, NJSCA Choreography Fellowships, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Awards, Live Music for Dance Award and Commissions from DTW’s First Light Project, The 92nd St Y Harkness Dance Festival, Art Matters, Meet The Composer, VOGUE Magazine, University Dance Companies, and Domino’s Pizza Company. Porter has an MA in Dance from Ohio State, a BA in Mathematics, is a Laban Movement Analyst, and is represented by PENTACLE/DanceWorks NYC.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana,Yasmine Rana is a playwright, drama therapist, and educator whose plays have been developed and produced in the United States and abroad. Yasmine has collaborated with theaters and festivals including La MaMa, Theater for the New City’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, Epic Theatre Festival at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, Washington and Lee University’s Theatre in the Academe Symposium, Romania’s Fest Art In Cluj, The Looking Glass Theatre, Johns Hopkins University Theatre, Brooklyn College’s GI60 Festival, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Birmingham Repertory Theatre (U.K), Second Stage Theatre’s DestiNation America Festival, The Austin Woman’s Film, Television, and Theater Festival, The Mae West Fest in Seattle, Pulse Ensemble Theatre, 12 Miles West Theatre, The Jewel Box Theatre in Los Angeles, and the San Diego Human Rights Festival. Her plays have been published in journals and anthologies including The Alabama Literary Review, The Best Women’s Monologues and the Best Stage Scenes (Smith and Kraus Publishers), Blackbird, The Kenyon Review, TDR The Drama Review, and The Contemporary European Idea. Yasmine’s plays have been translated and published in Romania as the volume Cinci Piese de Teatru. Seagull Books’ In Performance series published The War Zone is My Bed and Other Plays in 2011. Recent projects include a reading and launch of Yasmine’s book at Tara Arts in London, a production of Blood Sky at the New Stage Performing Arts Center in the Berkshires, and Spare Tyre Theatre with New Diorama Theatre in London presenting excerpts from the Seagull volume to celebrate International Women's Month.
Fellowships include a Paulette Goddard Fellowship from New York University and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship in Playwriting from the Sewanee Writers Conference at the University of the South. As a drama therapist, Yasmine has worked with refugees in Bosnia, The Republic of Georgia, and Switzerland where she implemented an arts and education program for Bosnian youth. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Additional education includes a Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, with clinical certificates in Creative Arts Therapies and International Trauma Studies. Yasmine’s work with the arts and traumatized populations has been presented internationally at conferences and workshops. She has contributed to textbooks and arts journals.The Weekly Telegraph in the United Kingdom published an article on Yasmine’s work with English language learning, the arts, and displaced populations. Yasmine is also a performer and has presented the solo version of The War Zone is My Bed in London’s Institute of Contemporary Art and The Roundhouse, through the Accidental Theatre Festival.