The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are pleased to announce six $50,000 grants for the creation and production of six major new contemporary plays by young California playwrights.

Half of each award will be given as a commission fee to the playwright. The remaining $25,000 will go to the performing arts organization for expenses related to the costs of presenting the world premiere.  These new works will be commissioned and premiered by Bay Area performing arts organizations and created by California playwrights of great promise who were age 35 or younger at the time of application.

These grants are part of a three-year $900,000 initiative by the Gerbode and Hewlett Foundations to support Bay Area performing artists and arts organizations at a time when funding for individual artists difficult to come by.  In 2005 the initiative funded six $50,000 commissions for emerging choreographers. In 2007 the initiative will fund commissions for emerging young composers.  Details on the 2007 commissioning initiative will be announced in spring of 2007.

The six recipients of the 2006 Emerging Playwright Awards are (in alphabetical order):

American Conservatory Theatre/ Deontay Wilson: San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre will commission from actor-playwright Deontay Wilson a sequel to his recent play “American Limbo.” An African American adaptation of Dante’s “Inferno,” the script will be researched by Wilson on a cross-country trip to diverse black communities;

Asian American Theatre Workshop/ Aurorae Khoo: The Asian American Theatre Workshop will commission and premiere a new play by Aurorae Khoo (a Santa Monica-based dramatist and TV producer-writer) about the army base relationship that develops between an Asian-American woman and a young African American soldier about to be shipped out to Iraq;

Encore Theatre/ Peter Sinn Nachtrieb:
The San Francisco-based writer Peter Sinn Nachtrieb will be commissioned by the local Encore Theatre to create a new “darkly comic mystery” play on the theme of “privacy, exhibitionism and voyeurism in contemporary America;”

San Francisco Playhouse/ Tim Barsky:
The multi-talented Tim Barsky, who is a writer, flutist, actor and youth worker, will be commissioned by San Francisco Playhouse to craft and premiere “Track in a Box,” a new multi-media theatrical work;

Shotgun Players/ Marcus Gardley: The Berkeley troupe Shotgun Players will commission and present the world premiere of a new play about the Richmond Shipyards in the World War II era, by Oakland native and New Dramatists member Marcus Gardley; and

Youth Speaks/ Marc Bamuthi Joseph: The San Francisco arts organization Youth Speaks will commission and debut a new theatrical work blending hip-hop theatre, dance, music and film by noted local writer-choreographer-performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph.

All of the above commissioned works will have their world premieres in the Bay Area, between September 2008 and June 2010.

Gerbode Foundation President Tom Layton comments, “With these commissioning grants, gifted young dramatists writing in a variety of styles will receive the encouragement and backing to develop their craft.  This kind of large grant to arts groups, to sponsor up-and-coming playwrights, is rare these days.  Fortunately, the Bay Area has been a supportive home to many important playwrights at early stages of their career, including Sam Shepard, Anna Deavere Smith, Philip Kan Gotanda and David Henry Hwang, and we would like to see that tradition continue.”

“The grants reflect Hewlett’s strong commitment to supporting new work and new work by young artists,” said Moy Eng, director of the performing arts program at the Hewlett Foundation.  “It’s a particular delight to help nurture new voices.  With the rest of the play-going public, we look forward to seeing what this gift of time might bring.”

The Gerbode and Hewlett Foundations were assisted in making these grants by an advisory panel composed of the following nationally respected theater professionals: John Dillon, Director of the Theatre Program at Sarah Lawrence College; Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director of the Milagro Theatre in Portland, Oregon; Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director of the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference; and Tim Bond, Associate Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

About The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation is interested in programs and projects offering potential for significant impact. The primary geographical focus is on the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii. The Foundation’s interests generally fall under the categories of arts and culture, environment, reproductive rights and health, citizen participation, building communities, inclusiveness, strength of the philanthropic process and the nonprofit sector, and Foundation-initiated special projects.

About the Special Awards Program
For nearly 20 years, The Gerbode Foundation has made innovative grants through its Special Awards Program to San Francisco Bay Area arts institutions to commission new works from gifted individual artists: playwrights (including Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angels in America”), choreographers (such as Alonzo King and Margaret Jenkins), composers (John Adams, Paul Dresher, and Lou Harrison among them), as well as visual artists, poets, and multi-media artists.

In a time of cultural shifts and fiscal insecurity in the arts, these coveted, nationally respected awards have helped underwrite culturally and aesthetically diverse, acclaimed new works by prominent artists, and artists who are up-and-coming. The grants have supported artists at critical junctures in their careers, enabled nonprofit local arts organizations to develop and premiere substantial new works, and enriched Bay Area audiences, readers, and viewers by giving them first access to ambitious, original creations.

About The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The Hewlett Foundation makes grants to solve some of the most difficult social and environmental problems facing society. The Performing Arts Program is founded on the premise that the experience, understanding, and appreciation of artistic expression give value, meaning, and enjoyment to people’s lives.  Its mission is to support artistic expression and its enjoyment through grantmaking aimed at supporting high quality arts organizations.  Since 1966, the Hewlett Foundation has awarded nearly 1,500 grants totaling $135 million to performing arts organizations in the Bay Area.  Both the scale of funding and the singular nature of multiyear general operating support have made the Hewlett Foundation a key investor in the cultural life of the Bay Area.