The Public Theater announced the honor June 20 during its annual summer gala, which honored Ms. Papp, a longtime board member and widow of late Public Theater founder, Joseph Papp. The Gail Merrifield Papp Fellowship will recognize and support the work of a playwright annually.
The yearlong fellowship will provide Diaz with an artistic home at the Public, where he will be co-commissioned, along with the Dallas Theater Center, to pen two new plays.
"I've always written plays with the hope somewhere in the back of my mind that someday they'd find a home at The Public," Diaz said in a statement. "The fact that I'll now join in that great Public tradition while specifically honoring the legacy of the Papp family is, not to put too fine a point on it, mind-blowing. Add in the incredible forward-thinking approach and architecture of the Dallas Theater Center, and I could not ask for a more inspiring and humble playground in which to create."
Diaz's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was among the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalists; he was also awarded the 2011 New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award June 20.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was produced Off-Broadway by Second Stage Theatre in spring 2010. It received the Lucille Lortel Award, an Obie Award, a Drama Desk nomination, and was named among the best plays of 2009-2010 in "The Best Plays Theater Yearbook." The 2009 Victory Gardens Theater/Teatro Vista/Theatre With a View production received Chicago's Jeff Awards including Best Production and Best New Work. Diaz's plays also include Welcome to Arroyo’s and #therevolution. He is a Playwright-in-Residence at Teatro Vista; a recipient of the Jerome Fellowship, the Future Aesthetics Artist Regrant, and New Dramatists' Van Lier Fellowship. He is currently working on commissions for the Goodman/Teatro Vista and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Papp, who has been a figure in the downtown theatre since its founding, also served as the leader of the Public's literary department from 1965-1991. She was also instrumental in the development of such productions as The Normal Heart and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, as well as the publication of Kenneth Turan's tome "Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told."