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February 2010

To All of the Friends of the American Theatre Wing

Even with one month already complete, I want to take the opportunity to wish each and every reader of this newsletter a happy new year. The Wing continues to pursue its decades-long mission of finding new ways to support emerging artists and administrators in theatre, and to help create ever more opportunities for students, audiences and even professionals to hear about the making of theatre from those inside the process. I hope you'll take the opportunity to share your thoughts, opinions, praise and critiques with us. As our universe has grown, thanks to a panoply of Internet resources, we are truly reaching beyond Broadway, beyond New York and even beyond North America to serve the seemingly unquenchable interest of all of those who love theatre. We hope you'll support us in our efforts as we introduce new resources and initiatives in the coming year -- and share them with you first via this newsletter. I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Warm regards,

Howard Sherman
Executive Director

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ATW Sparks National Reveries of Theatregoing

Tina Howe and Diana Son discuss the plays that changed their lives on Working In The TheatreWhile we've written before about The Wing's new book, "The Play That Changed My Life," one aspect of the book turned out to be a bit of a surprise for us. While the premise of the book was to pose its title as a question to noteworthy playwrights, and share their responses, we ended up provoking many more people to ask the same question of others - and of themselves.

In advance of the book, ATW ran an on-line contest asking members of the public to write in about the plays that changed their lives (read all the responses), and that idea flourished upon the book's publication. Reporters from at least four major newspapers asked the question of their readers: Frank Rizzo in The Hartford Courant, Elizabeth Maupin in the Orlando Sentinel, Dominic Papatola at the [St. Paul] Pioneer Press and, resulting with more than 300 respondents from his query alone, Erik Piepenburg at the New York Times' on-line site. The Huntington Theatre in Boston also posed the question to their audience members on their website.

Reporters and bloggers opted to share their own personal recollections, perhaps most notable among them being Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and inveterate blogger and Twitterer; with his reminiscence of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.

For influential blogger and tweeter Steve Loucks, who writes as "Steve on Broadway", the shows that transported him were the London production of Annie and Julie Harris in The Belle of Amherst; for the blogger known as "The Resident Artist", the plays were Rent and columbinus; "Visible Soul" blogger Zack Calhoon cites a stage version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Zev Valancy of "On Chicago Theatre" was moved by Six Characters in Search of an Author; and a fairly new convert to theatre, the single-named Esther who blogs under the title "Gratuitous Violins," was wowed by Kevin Spacey in A Moon for the Misbegotten.

The book title even prompted thoughts from one arts professional who had been seeing less theatre than she was accustomed to of late, Lex Leifheit, executive director of SOMArts in San Francisco (and former colleague of ATW executive director Howard Sherman), writing online on The Art Agenda.

It has been very gratifying to see and read how theatre influences so many lives, and how by asking the right question, the American Theatre Wing unleashed memories across the country. Theatre is a collective experience every time a play is enacted, but for the past few weeks, we've taken that collective experience beyond the walls of any one theatre, and made it a national dialogue. And there's been an added bonus to all of this conversation: "The Play That Changed My Life," published less than two months ago, is already into its second printing, an achievement of which The Wing can truly be proud.

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Established Artists Recognize Rising Talent with 2010 Larson Grants

2010 Larson Grant recipientsThe American Theatre Wing is proud to announce the recipients of the 2010 Jonathan Larson ® Grants :

Selected from a broad pool of applicants, after rigorous review by a team of more than two dozen readers drawn largely from the ranks of prior Larson Grant recipients, the final selections were made by a distinguished panel of musical theatre experts: producer Robyn Goodman (tick, tick...BOOM!, Avenue Q), composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal and High Fidelity, as well as a 2004 Larson Grant Recipient), director Kathleen Marshall (Grease, The Pajama Game), and composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell).

Speaking about the role the Larson Grants played in his professional development, Tom Kitt commented, "Jonathan's work has enriched my life in countless ways and I will always strive to celebrate his life's work through my own contributions to the musical theatre. In addition, the grant changed my life in 2004 when it recognized a very raw piece entitled Feeling Electric. That gift gave Brian Yorkey and myself the confidence to keep working on that piece at a time when we weren't sure we could. Now, five years later, under its new title, Next to Normal continues to serve as an important example of how Jonathan's many gifts have changed lives. I couldn't be more proud to work with the Jonathan Larson Grants as a reminder of how important it is to nurture young artists and to fight for their voices to be heard."

In his early career, Jonathan Larson was supported and nurtured by the creative community of the theatre. It was this support that ultimately allowed him to write RENT. The American Theatre Wing is proud to honor Jonathan's memory by identifying emerging artists whose talent and dedication mirrors Jonathan's own.

165 applications, from both individuals and writing teams, contained thousands of lyric sheets, scripts and CDs representing some of the most exciting new writing for musical theatre today. Every submission was read and listened to by at least two readers. The applications with the highest initial scores moved on to the expert panel for final consideration. From start to finish, the process of choosing the recipients took nearly six months.

2010 marks the second year the American Theatre Wing has administered the Larson Grants, following 11 years of their presentation by the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation. Lerman, Maté and Kooman & Dimond will be celebrated at an invitation-only event on March 9, 2010 in Manhattan, where musical numbers by the 2010 recipients will be performed to introduce the work to the creative community of New York theatre.

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More News From The Wing

  • Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was the guest for the 250th Downstage Center interview. He discusses a wide range of topics, including whether, as many have asserted, he actually dislikes giving interviews and why - listen now.

  • Looking to break into New York Theatre? Learn from the best, nail the audition, build your network, own the city and stand out in the crowd. ATW's 2010 SpringboardNYC program will take place from June 7 through June 18th. Limited to 36 students from around the country, students will work on their feet with New York theatre professionals and learn the business from the inside out. Applications currently being accepted on-line. Visit our website for details and information. Scholarships available.

  • SAVE THE DATE: American Theatre Wing's Annual Spring Gala to be held on Monday, June 7, 2010 at Cipriani 42nd Street. For more information, please call 212-765-0606 x302 or email.

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What They Said

Stephen Sondheim Stephen Sondheim, on ATW's Downstage Center, January 2010.

"I've written virtually no two shows alike and no two scores alike, so they come with built in variety."

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American Theatre Wing