New Play and Musical Development Initiative
Generating groundbreaking new work for the Festival
As a generative, “soup-to-nuts” producing institution with offices in Williamstown and New York City, Williamstown Theatre Festival is engaged year-round in the development of groundbreaking new work, much of which is produced at the Festival or at other major theatres.
WTF develops and incubates new work through the New Play and Musical Development Initiative’s programs, which include:
New Play and Musical Commissioning Program
Established in 2015, the New Play and Musical Commissioning Program annually commissions and develops three to six projects from playwrights, composers, and other generative artists from across the career spectrum. Each commission also includes at least one writing residency at the Festival. Our commission recipients include Big Dance Theatre, Fernanda Coppel, Nathan Alan Davis, Halley Feiffer, Meghan Kennedy, Justin Levine, Matthew Lopez, Marsha Norman, Zoe Sarnak, Benjamin Scheuer, Lucy Thurber, and Bess Wohl. The New Play and Musical Commissioning Program is made possible by generous support from James & Virginia Giddens, The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, and Andrew Martin-Weber.
The Boris Sagal Fellowship gives a director the opportunity to develop a new play from an early draft to a workshop production. Festival designers and members of our Non-Equity Acting Company join the team to create a robust and fertile development process which culminates in a public workshop production in the Directing Studio, the Festival’s blackbox theatre.
The Bill Foeller Fellowship provides a full scholarship, including a stipend for living expenses, to an emerging director who is a woman and/or an artist of color in the Directing Assistant corps. Joining the festival for the complete summer season, the director chosen will assist on one of our Main stage or Nikos stage productions and will direct two one-act plays in our Directing Studio.
The Fellowship Projects are fast-paced, artistically charged incubators for bold new work and the next generation of theatrical directors. Past Fellows have gone on to helm lauded productions in New York and around the country. The Projects’ alumni include May Adrales, Oliver Butler, Evan Cabnet, Carolyn Cantor, Davis McCallum, Patricia McGregor, Lila Neugebauer, and Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Past Fellowship projects, such as Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution, Samuel D. Hunter’s Pocatello, and Jason Kim’s The Model American have gone on to major regional, Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions.
The Playwright-in-Residence is both an artist and a member of the artistic staff, who works and lives at the Festival for the duration of the summer. He or she contributes not only by writing plays that will be seen in reading or workshop form and potentially on the Festival stages, but also by creating program dramaturgy for playbills and moderating post-show talkbacks. Playwrights-in-Residence have included Max Posner, Harrison David Rivers, and Michael R. Jackson.
Our weekly reading series offers the public the opportunity to hear new plays read by members of the Festival company. In addition, WTF partners with the Anna L. Weissberger Foundation to administer the prestigious L. Arnold Weissberger Award for Playwriting, which includes a $10,000 prize for the author, publication of the work by Samuel French, a Fridays@3 reading of the work, and the Jay Harris Commission for a new piece to be developed with the Festival.
Twelve playwrights, composers, and other generative artists are invited to spend a week at the Festival for an intensive work session on a project they are developing. This is not a solitary writer’s retreat in the Berkshires, but an active engagement designed to advance their work. In addition to providing valuable opportunities for focused, distraction-free work, residencies also provide artists with access to the many actors, directors, stage managers, and other collaborators who populate the Festival in the summer. Recent participants have included: PigPen Theatre Company, Martyna Majok, Jessica Dickey, Sharon and Michael Counts, Melissa James Gibson, Caroline V. McGraw, Nell Benjamin and Lawrence O’Keefe, Rachel Chavkin, Carson Krietzer, Jesse Lenat, Adam Rapp, and Karen O.
**The New Play and Musical Development Initiative is only possible due to the generous support of benefactors, whose donations fund all the programs you see above. Please consider making a gift to support the New Play and Musical Development Initiative today and help us develop the work of tomorrow!**
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