Mellon Foundation Grant Gives Voice to Seven Plays in New Series at Public Theater

News   Mellon Foundation Grant Gives Voice to Seven Plays in New Series at Public Theater
A $2.7 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fuel a new-works series conceived and presented by The Public Theater in association with LAByrinth Theater Company between February and June. Year-round stagings are part of the plan.

PUBLIC LAB, as it is to be known, will be launched Feb. 4-23 with Mom, How Did You Meet The Beatles? by Adam P. Kennedy and Adrienne Kennedy and continue every month through the end of June. Six works will be seen between February and June, in three-week runs within the Public's home on Lafayette in Manhattan. Tickets are now on sale.

The series will include a staging of the late John Belluso's unfinished work, The Poor Itch.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's five-year grant is one of the largest grants ever received by the Public Theater and will be used, in part, "to allow audiences to see these important new plays for only $10, cheaper than the price of a movie ticket," The Public announced Jan. 22.

The plays "will be minimally designed and have short rehearsal periods."

According to The Public, "PUBLIC LAB is designed to respond to new work immediately, and present fresh, raw and relevant plays that embrace The Public's history as a theatre receptive to the big issues, the public issues of our time. In so doing, this innovative program creates a new model for the ways in which The Public engages with our artists and audience. This important initiative will give writers the essential opportunity to realize their work in collaboration with director, designers and actors through production and most importantly, to see their work in front of an audience." The playwrights selected for the inaugural season of PUBLIC LAB will be Adam P. Kennedy and Adrienne Kennedy; John Belluso; Steven Cosson and Michael Friedman; Naomi Wallace; Tracey Scott Wilson; Rebecca Cohen; and Scott Hudson.

In PUBLIC LAB's inaugural year, LAByrinth will present two works in the six months of programming. As the PUBLIC LAB expands to year-long programming, LAByrinth will collaborate on more productions each year.

"LAByrinth has always had a distinctive play development process and we're delighted in our fifth year of residence at The Public to share that process with our hosts," stated LAByrinth co-artistic director John Gould Rubin. "What the fruits of this deeper union will look like we can't yet say, but given the heat of excitement, we know it'll be hot."

"It is thrilling to bring this important new initiative to fruition at the Public," stated Public associate artistic director Mandy Hackett. "Not only is it a critical step for playwrights but it's also exciting to create a new way audiences can experience and engage in new work at our theatre."

The works in the first PUBLIC LAB series will be:

  • Mom, How Did You Meet the Beatles? (Feb. 4-23) by Adam P. Kennedy and Adrienne Kennedy, directed by Peter DuBois. "Playwright Adrienne Kennedy chronicles her search for fame and fortune in 1960s London, where she encountered Laurence Olivier, James Baldwin, Ricki Huston, various British writers and, of course, The Beatles. The Public is proud to welcome back one of our greatest living playwrights, Adrienne Kennedy, who has been a force in the American theatre since the early 1960s and whose many works including Cities in Bezique and A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White premiered at The Public."
  • The Poor Itch (March 7-23) by John Belluso, directed by Lisa Peterson. "Ian is back from the war in Iraq without the use of his legs but with a full-blown case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a year's supply of OxyContin. Now, he has to face the person he has become after the war. Left unfinished by the late playwright John Belluso, director Lisa Peterson and a company of designers and actors fuse together the final drafts of the script to create a thrilling, highly theatrical interpretation of the writer's final work."
  • The Civilians' Paris Commune (April 4-20) by Steven Cosson and Michael Friedman, directed by Steven Cosson. "In 1871, working class Parisians overthrew the French government, declared Paris autonomous and launched an attempt to radically reinvent society. In this musical play, a versatile company of performers bring this explosive event to life. Since its founding in 2001 by artistic director Steven Cosson, the award-winning company The Civilians has created several original shows including the Off-Broadway hits (I am) Nobody's Lunch and Gone Missing."
  • The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East (April 25-May 11) by Naomi Wallace, directed by Jo Bonney. "With stories set in three different locations in the Middle, Wallace's muscular and poetic writing finds beauty in the grotesque and explores political tensions by grounding them in the human issues of love, life, and death. Internationally-acclaimed playwright Naomi Wallace is best known for her deeply political plays, including One Flea Spare (The Public Theater) and The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, and is the recipient the MacArthur 'Genius' Fellowship."
  • The Good Negro (May 16-June 1) by Tracey Scott Wilson, directed by Liesl Tommy. "In a constantly shifting landscape, a trio of emerging black leaders tries to conquer their individual demons. The local KKK fights for its old way of life and everyday black men and women must overcome their fears, all under the ever-watchful eye of the FBI. Tracey Scott Wilson recently won the prestigious 2007 Weissberger award for this play."
  • Penalties & Interest (June 10-28) by Rebecca Cohen, directed by John Gould Rubin. "The insular existence of office life is a petri dish for contemporary society, in which Lollie, Lyle and Amy try to keep their heads above water, and their boss, Dick, bobs up when they least expect it. A LAByrinth Theater Company presentation."
  • Sweet Storm (June 28-29) by Scott Hudson, directed by Padriac Lillis. "Rain, clouds and a heavy wind blow love, revelation and honesty into the lives of two tree-bound newlyweds. A LAByrinth Theater Company presentation." PUBLIC LAB will begin performances on Feb. 4 and continue every month through June 30. The performance schedule is Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 3 PM and 7 PM. Check individual shows for additional and unavailable performances.

    The Public Theater is located at 425 Lafayette Street. All tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, call (212) 967-7555 or visit


    LAByrinth Theater Company (artistic director John Ortiz; co-artistic director Philip Seymour Hoffman; co-artistic director and executive director John Gould Rubin) "is a multicultural collective of over 100 artists, founded in 1992, that produces new plays reflecting the many voices in our New York City community. These plays were first presented behind closed doors at the Company's annual retreat, the Summer Intensive…and then mounted readings of them at the 2006 Barn Series festival. Now, these bare-bone productions mark the next stage in LAByrinth's unique play development process, taking the collaboration between the playwright, director, designers and audiences, to the next level."

    The Public Theater (artistic director Oskar Eustis; executive director Mara Manus) "was founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 as the Shakespeare Workshop and is now one of the nation's preeminent cultural institutions, producing new plays, musicals, productions of Shakespeare, and other classics at its headquarters on Lafayette Street and at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The Public's mandate to create a theatre for all New Yorkers continues to this day on stage and through its extensive outreach and education programs. Each year, over 250,000 people attend Public Theater-related productions and events at six downtown stages, including Joe's Pub, and Shakespeare in the Park. The Public has won 40 Tony Awards, 141 Obies, 39 Drama Desk Awards, 23 Lucille Lortel Awards and four Pulitzer Prizes."

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