Mildred Lewis, DeLanna Studi, and Hope Villanueva.
PORTLAND, ORE.: Advance Gender Equity in the Arts (AGE) has announced the recipients of its second annual AGE Legacy Playwright (ALP) grants, created by founder Jane Vogel Mantiri and led by AGE program director Andréa Morales. This year’s recipients are Mildred Lewis, DeLanna Studi, and Hope Villanueva, all three of them seasoned theatremakers who have received many accolades but for whom more than one professional production of their writing has been elusive. The annual ALP grants program provides each artist with an unrestricted $10,000 grant, with eight finalists each receiving $1,000 honorariums.
The ALP grants were conceived to refocus the theatre canon away from storytelling centered on cis white men by investing in the most vulnerable playwrights who have faced barriers because of gender, race, and age. This year AGE is partnering with the deNovo Initiative, which is dedicated to supporting storytellers who propel stories as catalysts for building empathy and changing hearts and minds, as an the grants’ official sponsor.
In March, AGE invited BIPOC playwrights of marginalized gender (including cis women, trans women, trans men, and non-binary people) over age 40 from across the country to apply for the ALP grants. Submissions included a letter of intent, a full-length play or musical, and a professional résumé. Applicants were also asked to answer questions describing career triumphs and challenges, and how they hope to impact the equity framework of the American theatre. A panel of professional BIPOC theatre artists, both Portland-based and nationwide, anonymously adjudicated the applicant’s submissions.
Mildred Lewis is a playwright, screenwriter, and director who began writing plays in 2014; she has since had only one full production, as well as several staged readings and publications. An associate artist with Rogue Artists Ensemble, she writes with PlayGround-LA, Towne Street Theatre, and the Road Theatre’s Under Construction project. She holds a micro-commission from the Lucille Lortel. In 2021, the Harlem9, Lucille Lortel, and National Black Theatre commissioned Ghosts Of Blackness. Louisiana Shoal, a Best of PlayGround pick, is in the 2023 Fade to Black Festival. Mildred is also in this year’s Orchard Project’s podcast lab. Her newest project, Juked, re-sets Sophocles’ Electra in 1950s Asheville, N.C.
DeLanna Studi is a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation with 30 years of experience as a performer, storyteller, playwright, and activist, who now serves as artistic director of Native Voices at the Autry. Her first play, And So We Walked: Along the Trail of Tears, which retells the journey she took when she retraced her family’s footsteps along the Trail of Tears with her father, has toured the U.S. and was the first American play chosen for the Journees Theatricales de Carthage in Tunisia, Africa. It made its Off-Broadway debut at Minetta Lane where it was recorded for Audible. Her new play I Is for Invisible is about the Not Afraid family as they search for justice for their missing loved ones.
Hope Villanueva is a current resident of the Washington, D.C., area where she is an AEA stage manager by day and playwright by night. She has been recognized two different years by the O’Neill Playwright’s Conference (2021 finalist and 2023 semi-finalist), and her work has been developed by Kennedy Center Page to Stage, Next Act! New Play Summit, NextStop Theatre, Ally Theatre Company, Black and Latino Playwrights’ Conference, Discovery New Play Festival, Kitchen Dog New Play Festival, and The Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. The Veils was produced by Ally Theatre Company as part of the DC Women’s Voices Festival in 2018, Brackish was produced at Wayward Artist in Los Angeles (2022) and Her Across the River was produced at Rapid Lemon in Baltimore (2022). The Head That Wears the Crown was a “Play That’s Filling Me Up” on The Subtext podcast. Most recently, Buzz, a play about women scientists hunting murder hornets, has been selected for the 2023 Valdez Theatre Conference in Alaska and was a finalist at Gulfshore Playhouse’s New Works Festival.
This year’s eight AGE grant finalists are Lee Cataluna, Ai Ebashi, Elizabeth (Lizz) Cruz Petersen, Michelle Tyrene Johnson, Monica Palacios, Nikki Brake-Sillá, Tisha Reichle-Aguilera, and Torie Wilkins.
AGE will amplify the three grant recipients as well as the eight finalists all year via newsletters and social media platforms. The AGE mission is to invest in theatremakers who have historically been denied opportunities because of gender, race, or age.
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