The Kesselring awards, presented by the National Arts Club, support the work of playwrights who have yet to achieve national recognition.
Founded in 1980 by the late Charlotte Kesselring — the widow of Arsenic and Old Lace playwright Joseph Kesselring —previous winners include Mark Schultz, David Auburn, Melissa James Gibson, Tony Kushner, Nicky Silver, Anna Deavere Smith, David Lindsay-Abaire, Jose Rivera, Heather McDonald, Philip Kan Gotanda, Kira Obolensky, Tracey Scott Wilson, Marion McClinton and Jordan Harris. In 2005 the Kesselring Fund was enhanced with a contribution by the estate of Dr. Paul F. Cranefield Jr.
In a statement Ari Edelson, artistic director of the Kesselring panel, said, "The National Arts Club is one of the premiere institutional supporters and champions of the arts in NY, and this year the panel was honored to have the Club's support in awarding not just one lead award but two. Over twenty of America's premiere theatres participated in this process and the final selection panel is the only review entity that is truly made up of peer artists, producers and critics. The four playwrights highlighted by this year's awards represent a true cross-section of the bold ways American theatre is moving forward, and we are positive we have chosen four writers we will be hearing from for decades to come."
O. Aldon James, Jr., president of the National Arts Club, added, "In these tough economic times, The National Arts Club was excited to make sure the esteemed Kesselring Fellowships took a lead in ensuring we treasure our best artists. By giving out two lead awards, we hope we can rebuke the trend of those who are pulling back their arts funding and programming and encourage bold voices like these to show us light in difficult times."
The Kesselring Fellows, according to press notes, receive "a large honorarium and additional development support for a project of their chosing, in addition to a committed residency and workshop at the Orchard Project in upstate NY. The tenure of the Fellow will be marked by a reading of a play of their choice at the start of the fellowship and a reading of the new play at the end of the year. The Fellow can also use the year and resources to work on another commission. . . . the Honorees are each presented with an honorarium, a presented reading of a play of their choice, and the opportunity to develop work with The Exchange and the Orchard Project over the course of the following year. All four playwrights will also be included in other literary and artistic events at the National Arts Club over the course of the year. In total, the Kesselring Fellow receives $7,500 of direct support and $14,000 of indirect support through development, and each Honoree receives $1,500 in direct support and an additional $2,000 in indirect support through development." David Adjmi's plays include Stunning (which will be seen at LCT 3 in the spring), Marie Antoinette, Caligula, Elective Affinities and Strange Attractors.
Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo will be produced this May at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. His other productions include Huck & Holden, All This Intimacy and Animals Out of Paper and The Leopard and the Fox.
Jenny Schwartz's God's Ear played the Vineyard Theatre and received a Susan Smith Blackburn Special Commendation. She is also the author of Cause for Alarm and is currently working on Somewhere Fun, which is a commission from Soho Theatre, London & Soho Rep, NY.
Tarell Alvin McCraney's plays include The Brother/Sister Plays: The Brothers Size and In the Red and Brown Water as well as The Breach and Wig Out!; the latter was seen earlier this season at the Vineyard.