Adam Bock, Samuel D. Hunter Among Five Dramatists of Inaugural Writer's Room, From MTC and Ars Nova

By Kenneth Jones
December 18, 2012

The Writer's Room, a new collaboration between Manhattan Theatre Club and Ars Nova to "commission, develop and support playwrights in the process of creating new work for the stage," will be filled in its first year by playwrights Adam Bock and Justin Levine; Thomas Bradshaw; Samuel D. Hunter; and Sharyn Rothstein.



Each year, MTC and Ars Nova "will jointly select four playwrights or writing teams to receive Writer's Room Commissions," according to a joint statement by the New York City not-for-profits. "The commissioned writers will then come together to participate in a program designed to offer extensive developmental support. The Writer's Room will encourage artistic risk taking in an environment that is supportive and sustaining."

The multi-year partnership between MTC and Ars Nova draws "on each organization's strengths and areas of expertise to create a unique, collaborative developmental program for advancing new works from commission through production."

The Writer's Room is part of MTC's The Studio at Stage II, a new initiative of new works to encourage adventurous and new audiences.

Here are the dramatists at a glance:

Adam Bock is a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow. Recent productions of his plays include Phaedra at Shotgun Players (San Francisco) and A Small Fire at Playwrights Horizons. His musical adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novella, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, was produced by the Yale Repertory Theatre. His play The Receptionist received its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club (NYC) and the subsequent Los Angeles production featured Megan Mullally. His comedy The Drunken City was produced at Playwrights Horizons. His other works include The Thugs (Obie Award), Swimming in the Shallows (3 BATCC Awards, Clauder Award), Five Flights (Glickman Award), The Typographer's Dream, The Shaker Chair and Three Guys and a Brenda (Heideman Award). Bock is currently working on new play commissions for South Coast Repertory and Portland Center Stage. He is a New Dramatist member playwright.

Thomas Bradshaw's plays have been produced at regional theatres, in New York City and in Europe. In 2012, the Flea Theater produced his play Job; in 2011, his play Burning was produced by The New Group; and the Goodman Theatre produced his commissioned play, Mary. His play The Bereaved, produced by Partial Comfort, was named one of the Best Plays of 2009 by Time Out New York and was a New York Times Critic's Pick. The Bereaved was subsequently produced at The State Theater of Bielefeld in Germany and presented in Berlin. In 2008, two of his plays premiered in New York: Southern Promises, at Performance Space 122 in September, and Dawn, at The Flea Theater in November, and both were listed among the Best Performances of Stage and Screen for 2008 in The New Yorker. His plays Purity, Prophet, Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist and Cleansed were produced in New York. A German translation of Dawn was presented at Theater Bielefeld in Germany in October 2008 and published by Theater der Zeit in that same month. Bradshaw received his MFA from Mac Wellman's playwriting program and is Professor of Playwriting at Northwestern University. He has been featured as one of Time Out New York's ten playwrights to watch, as one of Paper Magazine's Beautiful People, and Best Provocative Playwright by the Village Voice. He has received fellowships from the Lark Play Development Center and Soho Rep (Streslin Fellow) and New York Theater Workshop. He was the Playwright in Residence at The Soho Theatre in London in February 2009, where he wrote The Ashes. He is currently working on commissions from the Goodman Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club and the Foundry Theatre as well as developing a television series for Harpo and HBO. He is the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2010 Prince Charitable Trust Prize, and the 2012 Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Samuel D. Hunter's recent plays include A Bright New Boise (2011 Obie Award for playwriting, 2011 Drama Desk nomination for Best Play; original production by Partial Comfort Productions in NYC, second production at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company); The Whale (recently at Playwrights Horizons, upcoming at Victory Gardens and South Coast Repertory, original production at the Denver Center); A Permanent Image (commissioned and produced by Boise Contemporary Theater); Jack's Precious Moment (Page 73 Productions at 59E59), Five Genocides (Clubbed Thumb at the Ohio Theater), Norway (Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis; Boise Contemporary Theater). He has active commissions from MTC/Sloan, LCT3, Seattle Rep, South Coast Rep, and Playwrights Horizons. Internationally, he has worked in the West Bank with Ashtar Theatre of Ramallah and Ayyam al-Masrah of Hebron. At Ashtar, he co-wrote The Era of Whales, which was performed in Ramallah and Istanbul. He received the 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, 2008-2009 PONY Fellowship from the Lark, two Lincoln Center Le Compte du Nuoy Awards and other awards. He is a core member of the Playwrights Center, a member of Partial Comfort Productions, is an alum of Ars Nova's Play Group, and will be a resident playwright at Arena Stage in 2013. A native of northern Idaho, he lives in New York City. He holds degrees in playwriting from NYU, The Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Juilliard.

Justin Levine's writing includes Bonfire Night (book, music, and lyrics), Tell Me Tomorrow (music and lyrics), Jump Jim Crow (music and lyrics), Naked Radio (music and lyrics), Death by Vaudeville (co-creator). His musical direction/orchestration credits includes Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Broadway and the Public), Murder Ballad (MTC), Here Lies Love (Public, by David Byrne), The Robber Bridegroom (Roundabout), Love's Labour's Lost (Public), Like Water For Chocolate (Sundance). BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Currently teaches at Playwrights Horizons Theater School. Visit justinlevineonline.com.

Sharyn Rothstein's plays include All The Days and The Invested, Queen Bee (Ars Nova Out Loud reading), March (workshopped at the Bay Area Playwright's Festival and a finalist for the Yale Drama Series Competition), Camp Monster (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Neglect (Ensemble Studio Theatre), For Abigail Who Drowns Men (New Georges workshop) and A Good Farmer (3Graces Theatre Co.), among others. Rothstein is a member of the 2011-2012 Ars Nova Play Group and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Her drama The Invested will be published next year in "New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2013" by Smith & Kraus. In addition to playwriting, Rothstein is currently working on an hour-long drama pilot for Bravo. She holds an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU and a Masters in Public Health from Hunter College, with a concentration in Urban Health.

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MTC — the resident New York City not-for-profit that produces new plays and musicals, international titles and modern classics on Broadway and off — is under the leadership of artistic director Lynne Meadow and executive producer Barry Grove. Since January 2011, Mandy Greenfield (artistic producer) has taken the lead in programming and execution at MTC's Off-Broadway homes (Stage I and Stage II at New York City Center). Visit manhattantheatreclub.com.

Ars Nova — "committed to developing and producing theatre, comedy, and music artists in the early stages of their professional careers, through its myriad of ongoing programs" — is led by artistic director Jason Eagan and managing director Jeremy Blocker. Visit ArsNovaNYC.com.