The grants, totaling $280,000, will help support theatre companies and their development of new plays. Administered by Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage, the program will provide $90,000 each to two non-profits for the full production of a new play. Five additional theatre companies will receive $20,000 each to provide workshops, readings and artistic support to developing works that are aiming for full productions in future seasons. New Jersey's McCarter Theatre and Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group will receive $90,000 each as part of the NEA's Outstanding New American Play selections. The funding will nurture the Center Theatre Group's full production of Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo in 2009, while Tarell Alvin McCraney's trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays, will be produced at the McCarter in spring 2009.
The five NEA Distinguished New Play Development Projects, who will receive $20,000 each in support of new plays that are still in developmental stages, include California Shakespeare Theater for Pastures of Heaven by Octavio Solis; The Children's Theatre Company for Happy End to Everything by Lloyd Suh; The Foundry Theatre for Detour/South Bronx by Claudia Rankine; Lark Play Development Center for Agnes Under the Big Top, A Fairy Tale by Aditi Brennan Kapil; and Rude Mechanicals for I've Never Been So Happy by Kirk Lynn.
The selected works mark the inaugural productions of the NEA's New Play Development Program, which was founded in December 2007. Arena Stage intends to hold a 2010 festival presentation of all seven plays included in the program.