Katori Hall, Annie Baker and Will Eno Among Playwrights Picked for Residency at NYC's Signature

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19 Sep 2011

Katori Hall
Katori Hall

New York City's Signature Theatre Company announced playwrights Annie Baker, Will Eno, Katori Hall, Kenneth Lonergan and Regina Taylor as writers in the theatre's new Residency Five initiative, part of the expanded programming that will be presented at the new Signature Center starting in spring 2012.

Residency Five makes the writers resident playwrights with the company and guarantees each of them three full world-premiere productions over a five-year residency.

"This is the first program of its kind in the American theatre," according to Signature. "Going far beyond the traditional commissioning or workshop models, Residency Five will enable a diverse community of playwrights to build bodies of work. Residency Five playwrights receive a significant cash award, full health benefits, a stipend to attend theatre, access to Signature's resources and staff, and like all of Signature's playwrights, a place at the center of the artistic process."

Signature's new Frank Gehry-designed home at 480 W. 42nd Street, near 10th Avenue, opens in February 2012.

As previously announced, Signature will launch the new venue with Athol Fugard as its inaugural Residency One playwright. Residency One "is Signature's core one-year Playwright-in-Residence program that produces a series of plays from the body of work of one accomplished writer." This has been the Signature's "signature" initiative since its founding.



Throughout the 2012 season, Signature will explore the works of Fugard, the South African playwright, director and actor, who was honored with a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2011 Tony Awards.

Signature's founding artistic director James Houghton said in a Sept. 19 statement, "We are thrilled to be underway with Residency Five. It has always been Signature's intention to support new and mid-career playwrights as they build a body of work. Annie Baker, Will Eno, Katori Hall, Kenneth Lonergan and Regina Taylor are the ideal first group of writers. Each is an accomplished and fascinating storyteller who has left an indelible mark on the American theatre landscape. We can't wait to have them with us at Signature Center and welcome them into this ever growing community of writers."

In addition to the Residency One and Residency Five programs, Signature will also expand the company's Legacy Program, which "is a homecoming for past Signature Playwrights-in-Residence with a production of a premiere or signature play."

In its three programs at Signature Center, the Company will produce up to nine shows a year, embracing up to 11 playwrights each season.

The full programming for Signature Theatre Company's inaugural season at Signature Center will be announced in the coming weeks.

Here are the Signature Residence Five playwrights at a glance, in biographies provided by the company:

Annie Baker grew up in Amherst, MA. Her full-length plays include Circle Mirror Transformation (Playwrights Horizons, OBIE Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The Aliens (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, OBIE Award for Best New American Play), Body Awareness (Atlantic Theater Company, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright) and Nocturama. Her work has also been produced and developed at the Bush Theatre in London, New York Theatre Workshop, MCC Theater, Soho Repertory, The Orchard Project, Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Ars Nova, Huntington Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Z-Space/Theatre Artaud, Magic Theatre, The Cape Cod Theatre Project, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Utah and Ucross, Wyoming. Ms. Baker is a member of New Dramatists, MCC's Playwrights Coalition and EST, and an alumna of Youngblood, Ars Nova's Play Group and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Recent honors include a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nomination, a Lilly Award, a Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship, and a MacDowell fellowship. An anthology of her work, The Vermont Plays, is forthcoming from TCG in 2011. MFA, Mac Wellman's playwriting program at Brooklyn College.

Will Eno's critically acclaimed Middletown (Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play, 2010) received its world premiere in winter 2010 at the Vineyard Theatre, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll and was subsequently produced in June 2011 at Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago. His play Tragedy: a tragedy received its U.S. premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2008 and his collection of short plays entitled Oh, The Humanity and other exclamations world-premiered at The Flea Theater starring Marisa Tomei and Brian Hutchison. Will's internationally heralded play Thom Pain (based on nothing) had a successful year long run at the DR2 in New York, produced by Bob Boyett and Daryl Roth; following a sold out run at the 2004 International Edinburgh Festival (Fringe First Award and the Herald Angel Award) and a subsequent transfer to the Soho Theatre in London. The play is now being produced across the United States, as well as Brazil, Italy, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Israel, Mexico and other countries. Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Will's play The Flu Season received the 2004 Oppenheimer Award for the best debut production in New York by an American playwright. Will's plays have been produced y the Gate Theatre, the SOHO Theatre and BBC Radio, in London; the Rude Mechanicals Theater Company and Naked Angels, in New York. His plays are published by Oberon Books and TCG; and have appeared in Harper's, The Antioch Review, The Quarterly and Best Ten-Minute Plays for Two Actors. Will has been commissioned by the National Theatre, London and Yale Repertory Theatre. He is a Helen Merrill Playwriting Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, an Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellow, and was awarded the first-ever Marian Seldes/Garson Kanin Fellowship by the Theater Hall of Fame, as well as the Alfred Hodder Fellowship at Princeton. Will Eno lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Katori Hall's plays include The Mountaintop, which was produced to great acclaim at London's Theatre 503 and transfered to Trafalgar Studios in London's West End, earning her an Olivier Award for Best New Play. The play opens on Broadway on Oct. 13 at the Jacobs Theatre. Other plays include Hoodoo Love, which was produced Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre, Remembrance, Hurt Village, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, WHADDABLOODCLOT!?!?, The Hope Well and Pussy Valley. Her awards include a Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Lark Play Development Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, Kate Neal Kinley Fellowship, two Lecompte du Nouy Prizes from Lincoln Center, Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, NYFA Fellowship, and the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award. Hall was shortlisted for the London Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award and received the Otis Guernsey New Voices Playwriting Award from the William Inge Theatre Festival. She is currently based in Washington, DC, where she is proud to be an Arena Stage resident playwright supported by the American Voices New Play Institute. She was inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers in April 2011.

Kenneth Lonergan has been represented in New York by The Waverly Gallery (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Promenade, 2001 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), This Is Our Youth (New Group, Second Stage, Drama Desk Best Play nominee, Encore Magazine Taking Off Award) and Lobby Hero (nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and two Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play and the John Gassner Playwriting Award). His work has also been performed in New York at Naked Angels, Second Stage, The Atlantic Theater Company and H.B. Playwrights Foundation; in Los Angeles at The Coast Theatre and the Act I One Act Play Festival; and in London at The Royal Court Theatre and The Battersea Playhouse. His film "You Can Count on Me," which he wrote and directed, shared the Sundance 2000 Grand Jury prize and won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and the NY Film Critics Circle, L.A. Film Critics Circle, Writers Guild of America and National Board of Review awards for Best Screenplay of 2001, two AFI awards for Best Film and Best New Writer and The Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Regina Taylor's credits as playwright include Oo-Bla-Dee, for which she won the American Critics' Association new play award, Drowning Crow, The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, A Night in Tunisia, Escape from Paradise, Watermelon Rinds and Inside the Belly of the Beast. Taylor's critically acclaimed Crowns was the most performed musical in the country in 2006. It is the winner of four Washington, DC, Helen Hayes awards including Taylor's win for Best Direction as well as Best Regional Musical. Her recent plays include Magnolia, which premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in March 2009 and The Trinity River Plays, which premiered at Dallas Theater Center in November, 2010 and the Goodman Theatre in January, 2011. Taylor is best known to television audiences for her role as Lilly Harper in the series "I'll Fly Away," for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series, an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Taylor starred in the CBS hit drama "The Unit" alongside Dennis Haysbert, for which she took home the NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Drama." Regina made her professional acting debut on CBS in the movie "Crisis at Central High" and other television credits include the series "The Education of Max Bickford," "Feds" as well as television movies "Strange Justice” playing Anita Hill, earning her a Peabody Award and Gracie Award, "In From the Night," "Cora Unashamed," "The Third Twin," "Hostile Waters," "Children of the Dust," "I'll Fly Away: Then and Now," "Howard Beach: Making a Case for Murder," "Concealed Enemies" and "Nurse." Her film credits include The Negotiator, Courage Under Fire, A Family Thing, The Keeper, Clockers, Losing Isaiah, Jersey Girl and Lean on Me. In addition to her film and television work, Taylor holds the honor as being the first Black woman to play William Shakespeare's Juliet in Broadway's Romeo and Juliet. Her other theatre credits include As You Like It, Macbeth, Machinal, A Map of The World, The Illusion and Jar the Floor. In addition, she won the L.A. Dramalogue Award for her performance in The Tempest. Taylor is a member and Artistic Associate of the Goodman Theatre. She received the Hope Abelson Award from Northwestern in 2010. She received an honorary doctorate from DePaul University. She was raised in Dallas, Texas and still calls it home.

More information on Signature Center and Signature Theatre Company's expanded programming can be found at www.signaturecenter.org.