The $4,500 grant from Sundance is part of a support partnership between the Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival, which is aiding in the development of Lemon's work. The UTR support is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Anderson began work on ToasT as part of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program's Playwrights Retreat at Ucross in 2011.
According to Sundance, "ToasT is about Willie Green, also known as 'Dolomite,' the famous folklore hero from the old Black Narratives. In the play, convicted murderer Dolomite has spent the last 27 years in prison with his cellmates and other folklore heroes like Jesse James, Hobo Ben, Voodoo Queen, Shine the Stoker, Stackolee and Hard Rock. As rumors of an impending riot within the prison spread, Dolomite and his cellmates must decide whether to join the riot or resist, in hopes of a promised parole date and the chance to taste freedom. The title of the play refers to an art form of reciting poetry based on characters and situations driven from the Black experience."
"UTR realized the importance of supporting this artist and his project, and their initial funds enabled Andersen to participate in the retreat where ToasT was born," Sundance Institute Theatre Program artistic director Philip Himberg said in a statement. "We're pleased to deepen our relationship with UTR through this commission. The model we’re exploring here, of collaborating with a like-minded organization to further the development of special projects, holds enormous potential for our program, moving forward, and is yet another example of how we support artists throughout the different stages of their creative process."
Andersen's County of Kings was presented at the Public Theater in October 2009. It was previously developed as part of the Public's Under the Radar Festival. His play Slanguage was staged at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2001. Andersen was a regular on Russell Simmons' "Def Poetry" on HBO and appeared in Spike Lee's "Inside Man," "Miracle at St. Anna" and "The Soloist." Andersen was an original cast member in the Tony Award-winning presentation of Def Poetry Jam. As previously reported, the Sundance Institute is now accepting submissions for the 2012 Theatre Lab, which will see the organization's return to its Utah home at the newly renovated Sundance Resort in July.