Kennedy Center sets 8 for grants

WASHINGTON — The Kennedy Center will dole out more than $125,000 to five theaters and eight playwrights in the latest round of grants under its Fund for New American Plays program.

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington provided a sad but ironic backdrop to the annual grant awards luncheon, now in its 15th year, as plays about war and terrorism were, by coincidence, prominent among the awardees. The difficulty of writing plays in the post-attack era was expressed by playwright Horton Foote during an address to the recipients.

The awards include three production grants to support playwrights ($10,000 each) and theaters that will produce their new works (up to $25,000). They include “Asher’s Command,” a play by Boston-based writer Marilyn Felt about a friendship between an Arab mechanic and a Jewish military commander in Israel’s West Bank. The J. Howard Wood Theater in Sanibel, Fla., will produce.

‘Lockerbie’ legacy

Playwright Deborah B. Brevoort penned “The Women of Lockerbie,” a play about a real-life campaign by women in Lockerbie, Scotland, to wash all clothing found from the wreckage of Pan Am 103, which was destroyed in a terrorist attack. It will be produced by Women’s Project and Prods. in New York City. Jennifer Maisel has written “The Last Seder,” about the importance of the Seder ritual to one family. The Organic Theater Co. in Evanston, Ill., will produce.

The awards were presented by Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser. They include a new category of development grants created to underwrite readings and workshops of plays in development. Two playwrights and participating theaters were awarded in this category: Stephen Belber’s “Drifting Elegant” at New York City’s Directors Co. and Heather Woodbury’s “Tale of Two Cities: An American Joyride on Multiple Tracks” at the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival.

Stevens kudos

In addition, three playwrights received the Roger L. Stevens Award for promising new works: Victor Lodato for “The Eviction,” submitted by the Magic Theater of San Francisco; Louis Sachar for “Holes,” submitted by the Seattle Children’s Theater; and Dael Orlandersmith for “Yellowman,” submitted by the McCarter Theater of Princeton, N.J.

The Center’s Fund for New American Plays is supported by Countrywide Home Loans Inc. and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. The fund has awarded nearly $4 million since its creation. Past recipients include Tony Kushner for “Angels in America,” Robert Schenkkan for “The Kentucky Cycle” and Wendy Wasserstein for “The Heidi Chronicles.”

Prompted in part by the commercial success of some recipients, the Center now takes a small subsidiary rights position in future mountings of production grant award winners. “The amount is relatively insignificant (about 2.5%), but it adds tremendous prestige to the play,” said one grateful recipient.

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