By Isaac Butler
The Lark is administering a brand new grant from the Jerome foundation that will pay out to winners something $40K over two years. The twist? It's for early-career writers and definition of early career is actually quite reasonable and generous:
The Jerome New York Fellowship is open to applicants who are New York City or Minnesota state residents as well as citizens or permanent residents of, and eligible to work in, the U.S. Fellows must commit to maintaining residency in New York throughout the fellowship period. Applicants must make a case for how they qualify as “emerging” playwrights, and how they would use the resources of the fellowship. Applicants may not have had more than two different works professionally produced at the time of application, i.e., works produced on professional Actors Equity contracts or the equivalent (Equity showcase/waiver productions are not included).
This is really exciting. The grant provides $25K in the first year and $15K in the second, giving writers actual space and time to write. What's more, early-career playwright grants are really risky from a funding perspective. You run a much higher chance of funding people who will eventually leave theatre, or who show promise they cannot make good on or who never reach a career height, despite their talents, that makes the grant look good on a report to board members. The Jerome Foundation and The Lark are to be commended for taking this risk and commiting to playwrights before it's clear when they'll be successful or not.
I have mixed feelings, I will admit, about the grant being based in and requiring residency in New York, where you already can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone writing a play. Living here in Minneapolis, I have seen first hand how a local communtiy of playwrights can be formed out of grant money and institutional support-- many writers move here for the Jerome and stay or develop roots here that last. At the same time, having a community of playwrights (including several with a national presense) and the wonder that is The Playwrights' Center and one of the more literate and culture-friendly populaces in the United States has not created or sustained a new play producing scene here in the Twin Cities, something Cory Hinkle documents in this HowlRound post. This is not unrelated to the point Dorothy Fotenberry makes about DC (which does have a New Play scene) in her interview with Adam Szymkowicz.
Still, this is good news, and to be celebrated.