By Andrew Gans
13 Feb 2009
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."
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.