Commissions granted from ASK gift

WASHINGTON — Woolly Mammoth Theater Co. has commissioned playwrights Angus MacLachlan and Craig Wright to create new works that it will develop and produce under a grant from Los Angeles-based ASK Theater Projects.

The commissions were inked with help from a $100,000 gift from ASK Theater Projects’ New Plays/New Ways program, a 2-year-old effort to encourage established regional theaters to develop new works.

Woolly is one of four theaters participating in the program’s first round of three-year grants. The others are Seattle’s Contemporary Theater, the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis and the McCarter Theater Co. in Princeton, N.J.

Woolly will implement an unusual three-pronged commissioning process that includes upfront payments to the writers, followed by additional funds and support to develop their scripts through workshops and readings.

It then will produce the finished scripts. The same formula was used by Woolly for the first of the three plays it will produce under the ASK Theater grant, Neena Beber’s “Jump/Cut,” which debuts here next month.

MacLachlan (“The Dead Eye Boy”) will write a play called “The Radiant Abyss” about three ambitious and morally ambiguous characters pursuing the American Dream. Wright is a scripter for HBO’s “Six Feet Under” whose play about 9/11, “Recent Tragic Events,” was a hit at Woolly last spring. He’ll write “Grace,” a wry comedy about an evangelical Christian and his wife.

Woolly’s partnership with ASK furthers its pursuit of a “national conversation” about new play development, artistic director Howard Shalwitz said. It is also a charter member in the National Play Network, a group of 17 theaters seeking to extend the production lives of original works created by small theaters.

Within that org Woolly commissioned playwright David Bucci to write the play “Possum Carcass.” It also has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to co-commission a new musical with Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. “Horse Opera” will be written by Quincy Long and Chris Jeffries.

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