Andy Sandberg, artistic director and CEO of the Hermitage Artists’ Retreatannounced on September 7, 2022 that the accomplished playwright and screenwriter Magdalene Georges, currently the writer of the hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” was recently selected as the 2021 recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA). This national jury-selected prize, established by the Hermitage last year with the generous support of the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest non-profit theater commissions in the country. George will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida) and a development studio in a major arts capital such as New York, Chicago or London in the fall of 2023.
Originally awarded in December 2021 to Radha Blank who is unable to fulfill the commission due to conflicting work commitments, the first award committee met again to enthusiastically endorse George – one of the four distinguished finalists named in the initial process – for this prestigious honour.
MAdeleine George’s pieces include Hurricane Diana (Obie Award)The (curious case of) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize Finalist; Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven homeless mammoths roam New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious littleand zero hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). Honors include a Whiting Award, the Princess Grace Award and a Lilly Award. His translation of Chekhov Three sisters premiered at the Two River Theater in 2022, and its audio adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s comic book Dykes to watch is forthcoming from Audible Originals. Madeleine is a founding member of the Obie Award-winning playwright collective 13P. She is currently the writer and producer of Hulu’s acclaimed mystery comedy Only murders in the buildingwith Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.
“I was surprised and thrilled to hear the news of the Hermitage Major Theater Award,” George said upon receiving the news from Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It is such an honor to join the impressive family of artists at the Hermitage, and I am delighted to have the resources and time to devote to my commissioned piece, which has been on my mind for some time and which I am eager to share with the world.
The Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA) was established in 2021 to reward a playwright or theater artist with a $35,000 commission to create an original and impactful new play. HMTA winners are nominated and selected by a panel of nationally recognized artistic leaders in theatre. The 2021 HMTA Award committee included Doug Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Prize-winning playwright, and former president of the Dramatists Guild of America; Leigh Silverman, Tony Award nominee and Obie Award-winning director; and Liesl Tommy, Tony Award nominee and Obie Award-winning director and director.
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“Madeleine George is a sharp and often hilarious commentator on American culture, skewering ‘sacred cows’ like gender, technology, academia and our patriarchal government and – in doing so – exposing the maddening inconsistencies of the human heart,” said declared the 2021 HMTA award. Committee member Doug Wright, who has since joined the Hermitage Board of Trustees.
Other distinguished finalists for the 2021 Hermitage Major Theater Award included Eisa Davis, an Obie Award-winning multidisciplinary theater director, and Luis Alfaro, an accomplished playwright and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow. Each received a residency and a Hermitage Fellowship, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000.
“Amid such a brilliant group of finalists, the award’s inaugural committee faced an incredibly difficult decision in determining a recipient for this award,” said Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of Hermitage. “Madeleine George is one of the most graceful and gifted talents in American theater, and we are honored to introduce her to the HMTA. The heart and humor of his writing are enhanced by his generous spirit and deep passion for theatre. I must also sing the praises of Luis Alfaro and Eisa Davis, two exceptional artists with bold voices and exciting ideas.
In addition to the $35,000 commission, the recipient of the annual HMTA will receive six weeks of residency at the historic seaside Hermitage campus to develop the new work, as well as a reading or workshop at an arts center and cultural background. Madeleine George’s commission is expected to receive a development workshop in the fall of 2023.
“The play I plan to work on is a Faust story that takes place in a bowling alley called The bad losersaid George of his plans for the commission. “It’s a comedy about power, domination and the death of the patriarchy, told through a bowling tournament in a small town.” In the spirit of the Hermitage’s commitment to the arts across multiple disciplines, recipients of the Hermitage Major Theater Award are encouraged to create a commission that directly or indirectly represents the role and impact of art – musical, literary, theatrical, visual, dance or otherwise – in our culture and society. As for how this will permeate George’s order, she explains that “one of the things I’m trying to do with this piece is to stage the transition from the hero narrative that we all know to a new type of narrative driven by collective action. I’m curious what kind of stories we can tell – especially comedic stories – that can help us unlearn the structures of domination that hold sway in mainstream Western culture.
This distinguished recognition of the Hermitage Major Theater Award is not an award for an existing work, but rather a commission that will serve as a catalyst and inspiration for a theater artist to create an original and impactful new play. In addition, the award aims to establish a connection between the Hermitage and Sarasota County, where the commission was born, and other leading arts and cultural centers around the world, including New York, London, Chicago and remarkable artistic capitals where great theater is frequently developed and presented. Theater maker and director Shariffa Ali received the HMTA in the spring of 2022, and her commission is also set to receive a development workshop in the fall of 2023.
“This award is designed to be transformative for its recipients, providing not only significant funding and recognition, but also invaluable time, space and inspiration at The Hermitage, as well as an opportunity for these innovative theater artists to workshop and develop their original ideas. “, said Andy Sandberg. Tony Award-winning director, screenwriter and producer, Sandberg took the reins of Artistic Director and CEO of The Hermitage at the start of 2020. This is an opportunity for The Hermitage to take the next step in supporting the artistic process by offering development resources to these extraordinary artists and their new commissions throughout their journey.
The Hermitage Major Theater Award is made possible by a generous multi-year gift to the Hermitage from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation.
“Anyone who values and appreciates the arts, across all disciplines, should invest in supporting artists in the early stages of their creative process – that’s what the Ermitage does so well,” noted Flora Major, Founder and administrator of the Kutya Major Foundation. . “I am so excited that the jury has chosen to award Madeleine with this award – she is as charming as she is talented! It is an honor to support truly wonderful people like Madeleine and Shariffa in bringing their visions to life, and I hope this initiative will inspire other art lovers to recognize and support the important work the Hermitage does. . Andy and his team are focused on celebrating what’s truly new and original, and down to earth.
In addition to this newly created commission, the Hermitage Artist Retreat annually awards the prestigious Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP), a $30,000 commission that alternates between the disciplines of music, theater and visual arts each year. Past theater winners include Aleshea Harris (2021), Martyna Majok (2018), Nilo Cruz (2015), John Guare (2012), and Craig Lucas (2009).
The Hermitage welcomes artists to its Gulf Coast Manasota Key campus for multi-week residencies, where diverse and accomplished artists from around the world and across multiple disciplines create and develop new works of theater, music, visual art, literature, dance, etc. As part of their residencies, Hermitage Fellows participate in free community programs, providing local audiences with a unique opportunity to engage with some of the world’s greatest artists and gain authentic insight into extraordinary projects and of artistic minds before their works disappear. in major theatres, galleries, concert halls and museums around the world. These free and innovative programs include performances, lectures, readings, interactive experiences, open studios, school programs, teacher workshops, and more, serving thousands of people in our community each year. The Hermitage is the only major arts organization in the Florida Gulf Coast region exclusively committed to supporting the development and creation of new work in all artistic disciplines.
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