At the heart of Arena Stage’s commitment to American voices is a robust and growing play commissioning program. Committed to expanding, diversifying, and strengthening the cannon of American theater, many of our commissions have been produced at Arena Stage, at other theaters across the nation, and adapted to radio and television platforms. Examples include Charles Randolph Wright’s Cuttin’ Up, Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play a Cycle, and Karen Zacarias’ The Legacy of Light and Destiny of Desire.
Our current commissioned writers and composers include:
BOB BANGHART is a musician and composer who has performed throughout Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest since the mid-70s. He co-founded the Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Jazz and Classics, which are annual weeklong festivals in their 43rd and 30th years, respectively. He began composition work with the 1991 production of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (Perseverance Theatre), and has since worked on over a dozen theater productions and an opera. Recent works include Metamorphosis, directed by Dave Hunsaker, and the opera Hansel and Gretel, directed by Henning Hegland. He is currently commissioned by Arena Stage to adapt Alaskan author Eowyn Ivey’s book, The Snow Child, into a musical. Banghart lives in Juneau, Alaska with his wife Laura Lucas and dog Jasmine.
NATHAN ALAN DAVIS*’s play Nat Turner in Jerusalem received its world premiere at NYTW in the fall of 2016 and was a New York Magazine Critic’s Pick. In 2015, his play Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea received a Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citation and was produced in five cities in a NNPN Rolling World Premiere. His play The Wind and the Breeze received the 2016 Blue Ink Playwriting Award and was selected for Cygnet Theatre’s inaugural Finish Line Commission. Nathan is a theater lecturer at Princeton University, a Usual Suspect at NYTW and a 2016 graduate of Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. He received his M.F.A. from Indiana University and his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois.
EVE ENSLER* is the Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, performer and author of the Obie Award-winning play The Vagina Monologues, which has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve’s plays include Necessary Targets, O.P.C., The Good Body and Emotional Creature. Her books include Insecure At Last: A Political Memoir and the New York Times’ bestseller I Am An Emotional Creature. Her latest critically-acclaimed memoir is In the Body of the World, which she adapted, debuted and performed at American Repertory Theater directed by Diane Paulus. Her play Fruit Trilogy was performed at the Women of the World Festival and The West Yorkshire Playhouse. Eve is founder of V-Day, an almost 20-year-old global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over $100 million, and One Billion Rising, a global mass action campaign in over 200 countries. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.”
DAVID HENRY HWANG plays include M. Butterfly (1988 Tony Award for Best Play, 1989 Pulitzer Finalist), Yellow Face (2008 OBIE Award for Playwriting, 2008 Pulitzer Finalist), Golden Child (1997 OBIE Award, 1998 Tony Nomination for Best Play), FOB (1981 OBIE Award), and The Dance and the Railroad. He wrote libretti for the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice; Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (2002 revival, Tony Nomination for Best Book of a Musical); and Disney’s Tarzan, with songs by Phil Collins. His opera libretti include four collaborations with composer Philip Glass, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera), The Sound of a Voice, and the upcoming Icarus At The Edge of Time; as well as Bright Sheng’s The Silver River, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (2007 Grammy Awards for Best Opera and Best Classical Composition), Unsuk Chin’s Alice In Wonderland (Opernwelt 2007 World Premiere of the Year), and Howard Shore’s The Fly. Hwang penned the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate, and Possession (co-writer), and also co-wrote the song “Solo” with Prince. His newest play, Chinglish, will premiere in 2011 at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, co-produced with the Public Theater in New York. Hwang attended Stanford University and the Yale School of Drama and served by appointment of President Clinton on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
RAJIV JOSEPH*’s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama and was also awarded a grant for Outstanding New American Play by the National Endowment for the Arts. His play Guards at the Taj won a 2016 Obie Award for Best New American Play and 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play. His other plays include The North Pool, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Animals Out of Paper and The Lake Effect. He has been awarded artistic grants from the Whiting Foundation, United States Artists and The Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. He served for three years in the Peace Corps in Senegal and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
JACQUELINE E. LAWTON*’s plays include Intelligence; Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Love Brothers Serenade; Mad Breed; and Noms de Guerre. She has received commissions from Adventure Theatre-MTC, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House and Theater J. Her play Cinder Blocks was published in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press). A 2012 TCG Young Leader of Color, she is an alumna of the National New Play Network (NNPN), Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena and Center Stage’s Playwrights Collective. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. She received her M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow.
MARY KATHRYN NAGLE* is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She currently serves as the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. She is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. She has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. She has received commissions from Arena Stage, The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska, Portland Center Stage and Denver Center. Her other plays include Manahatta, Diamonds, Waaxe’s Law, Sliver of a Full Moon, My Father’s Bones, Miss Lead and Fairly Traceable.
AARON POSNER* is an award-winning playwright, director, teacher and former artistic director of two LORT theaters. His Helen Hayes Award-winning play, Stupid Fucking Bird, was one of the 10 most produced plays in the country in 2015. Other plays include Life Sucks and No Sisters (both re-inventions of Chekhov), District Merchants (inspired by The Merchant of Venice), Who Am I This Time? & Other Conundrums of Love (adapted from Kurt Vonnegut), The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev (adapted from Chaim Potok), Sometimes a Great Notion (adapted from Ken Kesey) and several more. He has directed more than 150 productions at major regional theaters across the country, including Arena Stage, and currently lives outside of D.C. with his wife, actress Erin Weaver, and his amazing daughter, Maisie.
SARAH RUHL*’s plays include Scenes from Court Life, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, The Oldest Boy, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, The Clean House, Orlando, Late: A Cowboy Song, Dear Elizabeth and Stage Kiss. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Tony Award nominee. Her plays have been produced on Broadway at the Lyceum by Lincoln Center and Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage and Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater. Her plays have been produced regionally across the country and internationally and have been translated into over 12 languages. She received her M.F.A. from Brown University where she studied with Paula Vogel. She has received the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, the Whiting Award, the Lilly Award, a PEN Award for mid-career playwrights and the MacArthur Genius Award. Her book of essays 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write was published by Faber and Faber last fall. She teaches at the Yale School of Drama and lives in Brooklyn with her family.
GEORGIA STITT is currently writing the original musicals Blue Ridge Sky (with Hunter Foster), Juliette et Romeo (for Let It Show Productions in Moscow) and an as-yet untitled oratorio for Tituss Burgess and Cynthia Erivo. Other shows include The Danger Year; Big Red Sun (Arlen Award winner with playwright John Jiler); Samantha Spade: Ace Detective (for TADA Youth Theater with Lisa Diana Shapiro); Mosaic; and The Water. She has released three albums of her music: This Ordinary Thursday: The Songs of Georgia Stitt, Alphabet City Cycle (featuring Kate Baldwin) and My Lifelong Love. Her choral piece with hope and virtue (using text from President Obama's 2009 inauguration speech) was featured on NPR, and her orchestral piece, Waiting for Wings, co-written with husband Jason Robert Brown, was commissioned and recorded by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Georgia is on the Board of Directors for The Lilly Awards Foundation. www.georgiastitt.com
JOHN STRAND*’s Arena Stage commissions include The Originalist, about the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; The Miser, an adaptation of the Moliére play set in Reagan-era America; Lovers and Executioners, winner of the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; and Tom Walker. Recent work includes the book and lyrics for Hat! A Vaudeville, a new musical with a score by composer Dennis McCarthy (South Coast Repertory); Lincolnesque, a dark comedy about politics and madness in D.C. (Old Globe); and Lorenzaccio, his adaptation of Alfred de Musset’s 1834 French classic (Shakespeare Theatre Company). Strand wrote the book for the musical The Highest Yellow, with a score by Michael John LaChiusa (Signature Theatre). Additional plays are The Diaries (Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); Otabenga (Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); Three Nights in Tehran, a comedy about the Iran-Contra affair (Signature Theatre); and The Cockburn Rituals (Woolly Mammoth). Strand spent 10 years in Paris, where he worked as a journalist and drama critic, writing in English and French, and directed New York Universitys Experimental Theater Wing in Paris. His novel Commieland was published by Kiwai Media, Paris in 2013. He is currently at work on a new musical for Arena Stage and on the film adaptation of The Originalist.
CHERYL L. WEST (Playwright)’s plays include Pullman Porter Blues, which premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Arena Stage and also played at Goodman Theatre. Her plays have been seen in England, on Broadway (Play On!), Off-Broadway and in numerous regional theaters around the country. She has written television and film projects for Disney, Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, TNT, HBO and CBS and is the Webby-nominated writer for the original web series Diary of a Single Mom. Cheryl is the recipient of the 2013 American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Play Award, Helen Hayes/Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, an international playwriting award for distinguished new plays, National Endowment Playwriting Award and Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Best Playwright Award.
*Playwrights commissioned through Power Plays initiative