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Sofía Rocha wins 2022 Hermitage Prize in Composition

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) and the Aspen Music Festival and School (Aspen, Colorado) announce that Sofía Rocha, a composition student at AMFS, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Hermitage Prize in Composition. Rocha is the ninth recipient of this annual award, which includes a residency at the Hermitage, along with a $1,000 cash stipend. Rocha was selected by a jury that includes Robert Spano, Music Director of the AMFS and the Atlanta Symphony and a past member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council; Alan Fletcher, AMFS President and CEO; and the composition faculty of the AMFS, including Hermitage Fellow Christopher Theofanidis

Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg presented the award to Rocha at the Aspen Music Festival’s Benedict Tent, alongside Fletcher, Spano, Theofanidis, and award-winning composer and Hermitage Fellow Nico Muhly. This unique initiative, launched in 2013 and now celebrating its tenth year, reflects an invaluable partnership between AMFS and the Hermitage, designed to champion new and original works and to recognize exceptional talent in the field of contemporary classical music. The idea for the prize was first conceived when Robert Spano was in residence at the Hermitage and shared with his colleagues in Aspen how beneficial the retreat had been for him and his work. The Hermitage Prize in Composition was created to offer the same experience to young, talented composers just beginning their professional careers. 

Sofía Rocha is originally from Boulder, Colorado and grew up in Naples, Florida. Rocha writes music of uncompromising emotional intensity while exploring cognition, randomness, rhythm, and counterpoint within post-tonal frameworks. She writes for all manner of performing forces: instrumental, vocal, and electronic. Recent and upcoming projects include newly commissioned works for the 2022 Aspen Music Festival as a Composition Fellow, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Fifth House Ensemble as a Fromm Foundation Fellow at the 2020 Fresh Inc. Festival. Rocha’s first orchestral work, Replier, was chosen as the winner of the 2020 New England Philharmonic annual call-for-scores and premiered in May of 2022. Rocha has also received honors from ASCAP, OM/NI Composition Competition, and Tenebrae New Music Ensemble. Rocha is also an avid trombonist and conductor, having performed with numerous symphony orchestras, wind ensembles, and jazz groups. 

Hermitage Announces New Members of National Curatorial Council

Each year, the organization’s esteemed Curatorial Council selects artists of extraordinary ability across multiple disciplines for Hermitage Fellowships. The Hermitage Curatorial Council is comprised of visionary leaders connected to some the most renowned cultural institutions in the world.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat recently announced its 2022-2023 Curatorial Council, comprised of distinguished national arts leaders spanning the fields of theater, music, visual art, literature, and arts education. The newest additions to the Council include award-winning visual and multimedia artist Sanford BiggersNew York Times bestselling author Cathy Park Hong, Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun. Sanford Biggers and Du Yun are also Hermitage alumni, with Biggers winning the Hermitage Greenfield Prize in 2010 – the first awarded in the discipline of visual art.

“We are honored to welcome these visionary leaders to the Hermitage Curatorial Council,” says Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “Sanford Biggers, Cathy Park Hong, Rajiv Joseph, and Du Yun are forward-thinking creative minds with a finger on the pulse, each highly regarded for their unique contributions to their respective fields. The members of this esteemed Curatorial Council share a collective passion for the development and creation of new work from bold and diverse voices, and we are incredibly fortunate to have them in the Hermitage family. With their breadth of experience, their vast networks, and their insightful ability to identify extraordinary talent, we know that the selection of our Fellows could not be in better hands.”

Sanford Biggers was awarded the Hermitage Greenfield Prize in 2010. His work is an interplay of narrative, perspective, and history that speaks to current social, political, and economic happenings while also examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often-overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. Appointed the 2021-2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor and Scholar in the MIT Department of Architecture, he is also a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, a recipient of the Rome Prize in Visual Art, and the 2018 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award.  

Cathy Park Hong’s New York Times bestselling book of creative nonfiction, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography, and earned her recognition on TIME’s “100 Most Influential People of 2021” list. She is also the author of poetry collections Engine EmpireDance Dance Revolution, chosen by Adrienne Rich for the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Translating Mo’um. Hong is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She is a full professor at Rutgers-Newark University.

Rajiv Joseph’s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama and also awarded a grant for Outstanding New American Play by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has twice won the Obie Award for Best New American Play, first in 2016 with Guards at the Taj (also a 2016 Lortel Winner for Best Play) and in 2021 for Describe the Night. Other plays include ArchdukeGruesome Playground InjuriesAnimals Out of PaperThe Lake EffectThe North PoolMr. Wolf, and King James. He is also a member of Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

Du Yun was born and raised in Shanghai, China, and works at the intersection of opera, orchestral, theater, cabaret, musical, oral tradition, public performances, electronics, visual arts, and noise. Known for her “relentless originality and unflinching social conscience” (The New Yorker), Du Yun’s second opera, Angel’s Bone (libretto by Royce Vavrek), won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Composition category for her work Air Glow. Her collaborative opera Sweet Land with Raven Chacon (for opera company The Industry) was named the 2021 Best New Opera by the North America Critics Association. Du Yun is a past Hermitage Fellow.

The full National Curatorial Council for the 2022-2023 season, comprised of 13 accomplished and diverse nominating members from across the country, includes: 

Sanford Biggers (visual art), Celebrated Visual and Multimedia Artist, Guggenheim Fellow, Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner

Eric Booth (arts education)International Arts Learning Consultant with Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, LA Philharmonic, Juilliard, and more

Christopher Burney (theater and film), Artistic Director of New York Stage and Film

Daniel Byers (visual art)Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University 

Claire Chase (music) Flutist, Avery Fisher Prize Winner, and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow

Jennifer Clement (literature)President, PEN International 

Kimberly Drew (visual art), Writer, Independent Curator, and Art Influencer

Nataki Garrett (theater), Artistic Director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Cathy Park Hong (literature), Award-Winning Author and Time’s “100 Most Influential People of 2021”

Rajiv Joseph (theater), Award-Winning Playwright and Screenwriter; Member of Steppenwolf Theater, Chicago

Mitchell Jackson (literature), Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

Terrance McKnight (music) Evening Host of WNYC/WQXR Radio

Du Yun (music)Pulitzer Prize-Winning and Grammy Award-Nominated Composer

Hermitage Welcomes Four New Members to Board of Trustees

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that Sondra BillerStephanie JonesLiz Richardson, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Hermitage alumnus Doug Wright have been elected to the Hermitage Board of Trustees. These newest additions to the Hermitage Board follow a successful season that has included over 50 live programs and events, dozens of new and expanded arts and education collaborations in the community, another record-breaking fiscal year, a dramatic expansion of the Hermitage team, and the launch of a new national commission in theater. 

“We are incredibly excited to be welcoming these four distinguished individuals to the Hermitage Board as we enter our 20th anniversary season,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “These are some of the Hermitage’s most vibrant champions, and their passion for the mission and future of the organization is truly inspiring. Their experience, intelligence, and thoughtful creativity will be invaluable to the organization’s continued growth and success.”

Robyn Citrin will continue in her second year as President of the Hermitage Board, with David Greenserving as Vice President, Steve Adler as Treasurer, Ellen Berman as Secretary, and Carole Crosby as Chair of Governance.  

“It is truly an honor to welcome Doug, Liz, Sondra, and Stephanie to our Board,” says Hermitage Board President Robyn Citrin. “Andy’s vision for the Hermitage is truly inspiring, and along with the extraordinary team that he has assembled, they are elevating the organization to new heights and putting the Hermitage on the national map. I look forward to working with these new trustees to ensure a bright future for the organization, creating a lasting impact in our community and our culture.”

Doug Wright is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright. He is a Hermitage alumnus and served as a juror for the inaugural Hermitage Major Theater Award in 2021. His plays and musicals include I Am My Own Wife (Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize in Drama), Quills (subsequently adapted by Wright as a screenplay), Grey Gardens, The Little Mermaid, War Paint, and Hands on a Hardbody, among others. He has served on the boards of New York Theatre Workshop, Yaddo, and the Dramatists Guild, where he served as President for many years. He lives in New York with his partner, songwriter David Clement.

Stephanie Jones is a native of Richmond, Virginia. Having worked in corporate recruiting for over 20 years, she is currently the Director of Experienced Talent Acquisition for Kroll, a global professional services firm that specializes in helping organizations anticipate and exceed the complex demands surrounding risk, governance, operations, and growth. Stephanie has been in the Gulf Coast region for three years, living with her husband Gene in Venice, who serves as President and CEO of the YMCA of Southwest Florida.

Sondra Biller’s career began as a registered nurse in Austin, Texas. She holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in public administration. She also has a certificate from the School of Business’ Management Institute at the University of North Carolina. Biller has worked at the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, where she held positions as a nurse educator clinician and nurse manager for a new acute rehabilitation unit. Upon moving to Chicago, she worked in health care marketing for assisted living and rehabilitation facilities. Her volunteer service has included serving as a tour guide at the Chicago History Museum and a disaster responder for the American Red Cross. Sondra and her husband Gerald moved to Sarasota in 2012, where they have been active members of the arts community. She served as Co-Chair of the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner.

Liz Richardson is a passionate advocate for the arts, education, and conservation. She began her career in the healthcare industry, starting as a clinical speech pathologist and then moving into management as a program evaluation director, followed by establishing a healthcare quality management consulting practice. In the non-profit world, Richardson has been a vigorous public education advocate, serving as President of the Board of the Newton Schools Foundation for multiple years. She has also served as a volunteer and board member for “Understanding Our Differences,” an award-winning national disability awareness and acceptance program. Along with other Boston area women, she began the non-profit “Women Working for Oceans,” increasing awareness of and participation in ocean conservation. She has also been active for many years as a board member of Boston’s “Invest to Elect,” a non-profit dedicated to electing women to positions of federal leadership. She and her husband Duncan now spend half of their year in Florida as residents of Manasota Key.

The Hermitage’s board officers for the 2022-2023 season are: Robyn Citrin, President; David Green, Vice President; Steve Adler, Treasurer; and Ellen Berman, Secretary. The Hermitage Board of Trustees also includes Sondra Biller*, Christine Boone, Maryann Casey, Carole Crosby, Marletta Darnall, Leslie Edwards, Stephanie Jones*, Tina Shao Napoli, Michael Pender, Charlotte Perret, Liz Richardson*, Edward M. Swan, Jr., Nelda Thompson, Mary Lou Winnick, Doug Wright*, and Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO (ex-officio). *Indicates New Trustee

Hermitage and Sarasota Opera to present “Music’s Masterpieces”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces a new program presented in partnership with Sarasota Opera featuring the work of Hermitage Fellow Hilan Warshaw, a filmmaker and musician whose work focuses on the lives and works of some of music’s most influential figures. The film screening and discussion will take place on Friday, August 26 at 6pm at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple AveRegistration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.org

Hermitage Fellow Hilan Warshaw‘s films explore the lives and minds of great composers, delving into the often controversial passions and experiences that informed some of music’s most influential masterpieces. Blending documentary, narrative film techniques, and his own musical background as a violinist and conductor, Warshaw’s internationally broadcast films shine a new light on musical and operatic creators including Wagner, Schoenberg, Berg, Bach, and Mahler. He is currently the video director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s on-demand Classical Series. For this program on August 26, Warshaw shares excerpts from his films and discusses the close relationship between the art forms of cinema and music. 

“We are excited to partner with Sarasota Opera as we introduce Hilan Warshaw to the many classical music appreciators in our region,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are proud to support new musical voices and multidisciplinary artists, and Hilan’s extraordinary talent as a filmmaker in the field of classical music seemed like the perfect opportunity to collaborate with our friends at the Opera as he shares his gifts for cinematic and musical storytelling with our community.” 

Please note: Unlike most Hermitage programs, this event will be held indoors at the Sarasota Opera House. Capacity for this event may be limited to accommodate safe social distancing, so early reservations are recommended. Admission is free with a $5 per person registration fee. Face masks are strongly encouraged at check-in; the Hermitage and/or Sarasota Opera reserves the right to add additional health and safety protocols for this event as deemed necessary.

Hermitage Announces Dates for 2022-2023 Benefit Events as Part of 20th Anniversary Season

Kicking off the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s 20th Anniversary Season, the Hermitage’s annual Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration will be held on Saturday, November 12, 2022, from 11:30am to 2pm. Now in its 14th year, this signature event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s renowned artist residency program. The Artful Lobster is the only Hermitage benefit to take place on the grounds of the historic Gulf front campus – outdoors beneath a large tent – located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. Michael’s On East offers a luscious lobster feast, with performances from renowned Hermitage Fellows. 

The 15th Anniversary of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner will be held on Sunday, April 16, 2023, from 6pm to 8:30pm outdoors on the grounds of The Ringling Museum in Sarasota and catered by Michael’s On East. This elegant dinner heralds the jury-selected recipient of this prestigious prize, which will be awarded in the discipline of visual art in 2023. The $30,000 Hermitage Greenfield Prize is an annual commission awarded by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, and rotates among music, theater, and visual art. The 2023 prize winner’s newly commissioned work will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in the spring of 2025. 

2022-2023 Dates for “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat’s popular series, “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens,” continues into its third year with a multi-program series as part of the 2022-2023 season. The outdoor series – a collaboration between the Hermitage and Selby Gardens – features performances and explorations of works-in-progress by Hermitage artists-in-residence and alumni. All “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” events are currently scheduled to take place at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus. The first of these events is “The Latest from Terry Guest,” where playwright and Hermitage Fellow Terry Guest will share selections from and discuss one of his exciting new projects on Friday, August 19 at 6:30 p.m., behind Payne Mansion at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus, 1534 Mound St., Sarasota. Admission is free, but registration is required ($5/person) at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

Confirmed event dates for this third season of “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” include:
• Friday, Aug. 19, 6:30 p.m. “The Latest from Terry Guest”
• Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, 5:00 p.m.
• Thursday, March 16, 2023, 6:30 p.m.
• Thursday, May 18, 2023, 6:30 p.m.
Additional dates may be added.

Each program will feature a celebrated Hermitage artist (or artists) to be announced. Last year’s “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” featured the works of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Michael R. Jackson, Kleban Prize winner César Alvarez, world-renowned violinist and member of Beyonce’s band Lady Jess, interdisciplinary performance artist Ni’Ja Whitson, opera singer Thea Lobo, as well as celebrated mime and storyteller Bill Bowers. The 2021-2022 season also saw Selby Gardens host the launch of the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series with celebrated harpist Ashley Jackson. “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” began in the 2020-2021 season and featured MacArthur ‘Genius’ and Avery Fisher Prize winner Claire Chase, composer and santur player Amir El-Saffar, musical theater composer Rona Siddiqui, and distinguished cellist Dorothy Lawson of ETHEL. 

“As we continue to expand our Hermitage programming throughout the region and find safe ways to gather in person, we are thrilled to once again welcome audiences to share a unique and magical evening with Hermitage artists against the beauitul backdrop of Selby Gardens,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We look forward to our continuing partnership with Selby Gardens on this popular series, and welcoming new audiences to experience a ‘sneak peek’ into these extraordinary artists’ creative process.” Sandberg also notes that safety and comfort remain a top priority, so as with the Hermitage beach programs on Manasota Key, seating will be outdoors and socially distanced.

Hermitage Launches Sarasota “Cross Arts Collaborative” in Support of Local Arts Institutions

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce the launch of the new Sarasota Cross Arts Collaborative, made possiblewith generous support from the Koski Family Foundation. This new initiative is designed to give frequent performers and company members from leading Sarasota arts organizations a chance to expand their artistic practice from ‘performer’ to ‘creator.’

Each year, the Hermitage will award Cross Arts Collaborative residencies to artists from two selected partner institutions. This new program is designed to inspire and encourage generative work created by some of the best and brightest in our vibrant performing arts community. Artists are invited by their respective organizations to submit proposals for consideration; finalists are then submitted to the Hermitage for consideration, and recipients are selected in consultation with past and current members of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council. Recipients receive two weeks of uninterrupted time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat each summer to develop a new generative project, and the work is then shared with the Sarasota community in a free public program the following fall. 

In the inaugural season of the Hermitage Cross Arts Collaborative, this distinguished honor has been awarded to Tsebiyah Mishael Derry, a frequent collaborator with Florida Studio Theatre, and Derric Gobourne, Jr, a performer with deep roots at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Considering the initial season features partnerships with two theater organizations, the final selection of artists was overseen by Emily Mann, an Emeritus member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council and the Tony Award-winning longtime Artistic Director of the McCarter Theater (Princeton, New Jersey). Mann noted how engrossing the applications were and the worthiness of each reviewed by the Council. A free public program showcasing the work Derry and Gobourne is planned for the fall of 2022; details will be announced at a later time.

While the Hermitage’s nationally renowned residency program brings leading artists from across the country and around the world to create work on its beachfront Manasota Key campus, the Hermitage also seeks to enrich the incredible and growing arts scene in Sarasota, as showcased by performing arts institutions such as Florida Studio Theatre and Westcoast Back Theatre Troupe. 

“We want to offer this one-of-a-kind opportunity to some of the leading artists in Sarasota, by creating space for a talented performer to focus on being a generative artist,”said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We know there are actors, dancers, musicians, and performing artists working amidst our circle of frequent collaborators who have passion projects waiting in the wings. This could be an actor writing a play between production contracts, a cellist composing a symphony after rehearsals, a dancer yearning to expand into the choreographer’s space – or someone looking to work across an entirely new genre. This residency is designed for an artist who is hungry to expand their creative practice and explore a new ‘hat’ within the arts and entertainment space.” Sandberg added that this new Cross Arts Collaborative initiative would not be possible without the generous support of the Koski Family Foundation, longtime supporters and champions of the Hermitage.

“We are proud of our long history of collaboration with the Hermitage and the collective impact we have on the Sarasota community,” said Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “The Cross Arts Collaborative is an exciting new way to gather resources in service of the artists who consider Westcoast Black Theater Troupe their creative home.” The selected artist from Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Derric Gobourne Jr., plans to use the time to develop a new music short film. Of this opportunity, Jacobs added that “Derric has been a member of our creative family for many years and it has been a joy to witness his growth as an artist; I believe this residency will open up new creative possibilities for him and allow him to rise to the next level.”

Tsebiyah Mishael Derry, the selected artist from Florida Studio Theatre will use the time to create an experimental theatrical work weaving together her own poetry, songs, and more. “Every time we partner with the Hermitage, the result is a unique look into the creative process of making theater through the eyes of a leading artist in the field,” said Florida Studio Theatre Founder and Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “I’m so pleased we are able to collaborate once more to provide this opportunity to Tsebiyah who is quickly making a name for herself as one of those leading artists. We are honored to call her an FST creative family member and cannot wait to see what this dedicated time and space to delve into her richly varied artistry will produce.” 

After their time in residence, the Hermitage will collaborate with the selected partner institutions to bring a public program to the Sarasota community to highlight Derric and Tsebiyah’s work. 

Hermitage 2022 STARs Announced

Five Florida public school arts teachers will spend part of their summer on Manasota Key while working on their own artistic endeavors. They are the winners of the 2022 State Teachers Artist Residency program (STARs) – now in its twelfth year – presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE). This year’s recipients were selected from dozens of impressive applicants, and the five teachers selected from across the State of Florida include three visual arts educators, a band leader and music theory teacher, and for the first time in the STARs program, a dance instructor. The five receive a residency at the nationally renowned Hermitage Artist Retreat, where they can focus on their own work and craft as creative artists. These five teaching artists will present a hands-on, family-friendly showcase of their work on Friday, July 15 at 2pm. This special event will be held outdoors at the Hermitage’s beachfront campus on Manasota Key; entrance at 6660 Manasota Key Road, Englewood, FL 34223. The program is presented in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. In addition to the students attending from the Boys & Girls Clubs, this Hermitage community program will be free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. Due to capacity limitations and safety protocols, registration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

“These exceptional educators are also talented artists and creative minds in their own right,” says Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “During the academic year, their attention is devoted entirely to their students, and this has been a particularly challenging time for educators throughout our nation. The STARs program offers five distinguished teachers from across the State of Florida the opportunity to experience what leading artists from around the world have come to the Hermitage for – to focus on their craft, their art, and their creative process. Over the years, the STARs have created some truly stunning works of art, music, theater, and literature during their time at the Hermitage. Many teaching artist alumni have shared that this program enables them to return to their students with a new fire and passion for arts education.”

The five recipients of this honor, selected among dozens of impressive applicants, include: Brooke Adkins, a dance instructor at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange; Charles Eady, a visual arts instructor at Belleview High School in Belleview; Jessie Leasure, an art instructor at D.S. Parrott Middle School in Brooksville; Jennifer Rodriguez, a ceramics instructor at the J.M. Tate Senior High School in Cantonment; and Zoe Stayman, a music instructor at the LaVilla School of the Arts in Jacksonville. 

Florida arts educators apply for the Hermitage summer residencies through FAAE. Applications are open to all Florida music, theater, visual art, dance, and creative writing teachers. Since the start of the program in 2011, 57 teachers have represented nearly 30 Florida counties. These distinguished residencies culminate with a free community program, this year hosted in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. 

“We’re excited to be partnering with the Hermitage to offer this special opportunity to our incredible Club members,” said Bill Sadlo, President/CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. “The Hermitage aims to inspire creative minds to achieve their greatest potential, and we’re excited to share this special summer program with our BGCSDC youth and families.”

The STARs program is one of the only Hermitage residency programs open to application; arts educators from public schools throughout the State of Florida are eligible. For more information about the Hermitage STARs program and how to apply, Florida arts educators are encouraged to visit www.FAAE.org.

“We look forward to seeing what this latest group of STARs will create,” says Sandberg. “It is an honor to celebrate Florida’s leading arts educators, and we are grateful to the Florida Alliance for Arts Education for their continued partnership. We are also looking forward to collaborating for the first time with the Boys & Girls Clubs as we share the STARs talents with the members of our community and the next generation.”

Theater Maker and Director Shariffa Ali Is the 2022 Recipient of the $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA)

This award will alter the course of my life; it is a true game changer.”
—Shariffa Ali, 2022 Hermitage Major Theater Award Winner

Accomplished theater artist and director Shariffa Ali has been selected as the 2022 recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA). This national jury-selected prize, newly established by the Hermitage last year with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest non-profit theater commissions in the country. Ali will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida) and a developmental workshop in a major arts capital such as New York, Chicago, or London in the fall of 2023. Ali’s past theatrical productions as a director include Eclipsed, Detroit ’67, Intimate Apparel, We Are Proud to Present, and the original musical We Were Everywhere. She has worked as an arts administrator at The Public Theater and The New Group, and she has taught at New York University, Brooklyn College, Yale University, and Princeton University. She is the second recipient of the HMTA, which was first awarded in 2021 to playwright and filmmaker Radha Blank.

“It is surreal and the most gratifying and pleasant surprise to be honored in this way by artists whose work has been a compass in my own upbringing as a theater maker,” said Shariffa Ali on receiving the Hermitage Major Theater Award. “The fact that they support my art and wish to carve out space for myself and my collaborator Vuyo Sotashe with this project is a huge honor. It is extremely surprising, humbling, and life-affirming. This award will alter the course of my life; it is a true game changer.”

The Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA) was established in 2021 to recognize a playwright or theater artist with a $35,000 commission to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. HMTA winners are nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders in the field of theater. The 2022 HMTA Award Committee included Lynn Nottage, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and past Hermitage Fellow; David Henry Hwang, Tony, Grammy, and Obie Award winner; and Regina Taylor, Golden Globe Award-winning actress, director, playwright, educator, activist, and past Hermitage Fellow.

“It is thrilling to be able to uplift and support the work of Shariffa Ali, said 2022 HMTA Award Committee member Lynn Nottage. “She, like her fellow finalists Jonathan McCrory, Vanessa German, and José Rivera, is a groundbreaking artist whose work continues to push the boundaries of storytelling in inventive and inspiring ways.”

“Shariffa is a brave and brilliant theater maker – sensitive and bold in her craft, challenging and subversive in her choices,” added fellow juror Regina Taylor. “The Hermitage Major Theater Award is a change maker, and I’m excited about what Shariffa will create and share with us in this next year ahead.”

“I am thrilled to help give a groundbreaking artist the time and resources to bring their vision to life,” remarked David Henry Hwang. “All of our finalists are game-changing innovators, so this was a very tough decision. Ultimately, Shariffa’s idea proved clear, compelling, necessary, and irresistible. I hope to see all our finalists’ projects realized and am grateful to the Hermitage for giving each a residency so they can advance their work!”

Three distinguished finalists for the 2022 Hermitage Major Theater Award include Vanessa German, a citizen artist working across sculpture, performance, communal rituals, immersive installation, and photography; Jonathan McCrory, an Obie Award-winning director and producer; and José Rivera, an Obie Award winner and Oscar-nominated writer. Each will receive a Hermitage residency, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000.

“Amidst these four brilliant finalists, Shariffa Ali revealed herself to be a passionate theater artist who impressed the 2022 Award Committee with her compelling and inspired vision,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Shariffa proudly defines herself as a ‘theater maker,’ and the project she has proposed will allow to her to delve into her many talents as a creator, director, and storyteller. I must thank our extraordinary dream-team of an Award Committee – Lynn Nottage, David Henry Hwang, and Regina Taylor – for their thoughtfulness, leadership, and care throughout this process. I also want to congratulate Vanessa German, Jonathan McCrory, and José Rivera, each of whom are exceptional artists with bold voices and thrilling ideas. We are excited to welcome all four of these extraordinary talents into the Hermitage family.”

Born in Kenya and raised in South Africa, Shariffa Chelimo Ali is an international theater maker, creative leader, director, and educator committed to advancing radical change through the power of art and activism. In addition to her theater credits, Ali’s films have been featured at acclaimed film/VR festivals and institutions throughout the world, including Sundance Film Festival (USA); Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (South Africa); Brooklyn Film Festival (USA); Pan African Film Festival (USA); Electric Africa VR festival (South Africa) and DOK Neuland (Germany). In 2022, Ali was named the Elizabeth M. Swayzee Artist-in-Residence at Miami University, where she curated the inaugural Black Roots Festival in the spring of 2022. Ali has been a director and arts administrator at The Public Theater and The New Group, both in New York. She has directed and lectured at Yale University, NYU, Brooklyn College, and Princeton University, where she is currently a faculty member at the Lewis Center for the Arts. Shariffa.com 

In describing her intended HMTA commission, Ali writes: “Despite the homophobia and transphobia inherent in small-town South Africa, a middle school choir, their principal, and their parents make an agreement to disguise the town’s most talented and beloved singer Vuyo (he/they) as a girl in order to have him sing as a female soloist in a national choir competition. As Vuyo increasingly feels at home in this new role as a female soloist, they begin a journey that will see them come to reckon with identity, community, and finding a voice of truth.” Vuyo is a friend and collaborator of this year’s HMTA recipient, so Ali is particularly passionate about capturing the heart and soul of her friend’s true story through this commission. “It is my hope that Vuyo’s remarkable story and lessons of healing and forging community can be a healing force for us all.”

In addition to the $35,000 commission, the recipient of the annual HMTA will receive six weeks of residency at the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus to develop the new work, as well as a reading or workshop in a leading arts and cultural center. This year’s commission is expected to receive its development workshop in the fall of 2023. 

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, or otherwise – in our culture and society. 

As to how this will infuse Ali’s commission, she explains that “we will witness how being part of an ensemble-based arts activity like a choir can alter the course of one’s destiny. Choirs serve as a place of belonging and community and provide people with opportunities to travel and grow in ways that one would not ordinarily be able to achieve. Through this true story, we learn how the arts can lead to discovery and adventure which ultimately lead to finding one’s voice.”

This distinguished Hermitage Major Theater Award recognition is not an award for an existing work, but rather it is designed as a commission that shall serve as a catalyst and inspiration to a theater artist to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. Further, the prize is intended to bridge the connection between the Hermitage and Sarasota County, where the commission is born, and other leading arts and culture centers around the world, including New York, London, Chicago, and other leading arts capitals where great theater is frequently developed and presented.

 “This award is designed to be transformational for its recipients, providing not only significant funds 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. An acclaimed director, writer, and Tony Award-winning producer, Sandberg took the helm as Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage in early 2020. “In addition to introducing a new work of theater to the American canon each year, this is an exciting opportunity for the Hermitage to take a further step in supporting the artistic process as we offer developmental resources to these extraordinary artists and their new commissions along their journey.” 

The Hermitage Major Theater Award is made possible with 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, needs to invest in supporting artists in the earliest stages of their creative process — this is what the Hermitage does so well,” remarked Flora Major, founder and trustee of the Kutya Major Foundation. “I am so excited by the Award Committee’s selection of Shariffa. She is a passionate shining star who I know will make us all proud, and we are truly honored to have had such incredible artists like David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage, and Regina Taylor guiding this nomination and selection process,” added Major. “I hope this initiative will inspire others who are passionate about the arts to recognize and support the important work that the Hermitage is doing to support what is new and original at the true ground floor.”

The inaugural Hermitage Major Theater Award was presented in 2021 to theater artist and filmmaker Radha Blank, who received critical acclaim for her film The Forty-Year-Old Version, available on Netflix. Blank’s HMTA commission is currently in development with a workshop anticipated later this year in New York.

June Programs Announced

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces new community programs in June with Hermitage Fellows spanning music, visual art, and theater. These programs are presented at outdoor venues throughout Sarasota County as part of the Hermitage’s partnerships with local organizations, including Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the Van Wezel Foundation, and Art Center Sarasota.

First, the season’s final installment of the popular “Unscripted” series, “Sparking Creativity,” features Hermitage Fellow and theater-maker Nandita Shenoy in a virtual program on Thursday, June 2 at 5pm ET. Lauded playwright and actor Shenoy will offer insight into process and share examples of her work that have resulted from her creative journey. Prior to the program, registered attendees will be given a prompt so that audience members can try this process out for themselves. The interactive “Unscripted” series is presented in a collaboration with the Van Wezel Foundation, and previous “Unscripted” programs have featured Hermitage Fellows Claire Chase, Eric Booth, Reggie Harris, Ann Patterson, Christopher Theofanidis, Melissa Studdard, Patrick Harlin, Hannah Hasan, and most recently Daniel Gumbiner. Register here

Next, the Hermitage’s June programs continue with the previously announced “Soulful Strings: An Evening of Harp Music” with celebrated musician and composer Ashley Jackson. This is the inaugural event in the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage, made possible with a generous gift from the Ruby E. and Carole Crosby Foundation. “Soulful Strings” will be presented on Tuesday June 7 at 8pm at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Downtown). Register here.

Finally, the Hermitage will partner with Art Center Sarasota to present “Visual Art: New Ways of Seeing,” featuring Hermitage Fellows Aram Han Sifuentes and Amanda Williams (pictured), live on the Hermitage Beach. This event will take place at 6:30pm on Friday, June 17. Register here.

“The Hermitage’s June programming speaks to the expansive diversity and creative range of our renowned Hermitage Fellows, who are all brilliant talents in their respective musical and artistic fields,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “By continuing our programming into the summer months, we also want to celebrate and recognize that there is a growing year-round community of arts appreciators here in our Gulf Coast region.”

Hermitage programs like these are free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee.