2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Weekend – April 8-10 – Features Full Line-Up of Events

Events celebrating music and the Hermitage Greenfield Prize – April 8-10 – include a live conversation with acclaimed playwright and 2021 winner Aleshea Harris, a virtual talk with celebrated composer and 2022 recipient Angélica Negrón, and a live panel discussion with Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jurors Terrance McKnight (WXQR Radio) and Gary Padmore (New York Philharmonic), with Nate Jacobs (Founding Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe)

The 14th annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration Weekend culminates in the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner: “A Celebration of Music,” featuring a live performance of the work of 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize-Winning composer Angélica Negrón by Grammy Award-Winning cellist Nick Photinos, plus a special guest performance by Tony Award-Winning Hermitage Fellow Gavin Creel.

These events and the annual gala dinner are presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as Lead Community Sponsor. Limited seats are available for this nearly sold-out gala dinner. Click here for tables and sponsorships or contact Development Director Amy Wallace at or Development@HermitageArtistRetreat.org or (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2 

This year’s weekend of events begins on Friday, April 8 with “A Theater Maker’s Year: What ‘Went Down’” (6pm at New College of Florida) with 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Aleshea Harris. Then, on Saturday, April 9, the Hermitage presents two events, one virtual and one live: Angélica Negrón: The Journey, The Work, The Inspiration” (3pm, virtual event) features the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner, whose innovative music compositions have been described as “playful and inventive” by The New York Times. That evening, Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jurors Terrance McKnight, host of WQXR New York Public Radio, and Gary Padmore, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the New York Philharmonic, are joined by Sarasota’s own Nate Jacobs, Founder and Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, for a panel discussion entitled “Artistic License: Whose Story Is It?” (6pm on the Hermitage Beach). Click here to register.

National Water Dance with Sarasota Contemporary Dance on the Hermitage Beach

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) are partnering for the biennial National Water Dance (NWD) event, with new work inspired by gratitude for water and the urgent need to preserve local water resources as part of this year’s NWD theme, “Dancing Out of Time,” on Saturday, April 23 at 3:30pm. Click here to register.

This performance by the SCD company of professional dancers on the Hermitage Beach (Manasota Key) will be broadcast simultaneously with performance groups from across the country and all around the world, with an introduction by Dr. Emily Heffernan, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at New College of Florida.

“Sarasota Contemporary Dance is thrilled to partner with the Hermitage Artist Retreat on lands originally occupied by the Calusa people to perform in the National Water Dance awareness campaign,” said SCD Artistic Director Leymis Bolaños. “Partnering with National Water Dance and founder Dale Andree since the start of National Water Dance more than ten years ago, SCD is honored to continue this long-standing partnership to bring awareness to the socio-environmental issues concerning climate change and the sanctity of our waters.” 

“In addition to being a leading arts incubator for bold and original new works, the Hermitage is deeply committed to ecological preservation and restoration,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “To that end, we are honored that this new creative work from Sarasota Contemporary Dance has been inspired by our historic, beachfront campus on Manasota Key as we partner to raise awareness for National Water Dance. We look forward to sharing this performance with the local community and participating in National Water Dance to highlight the importance of preserving our ecological resources.” 

“Musical Storytelling” with Tony Award Winner Jeanine Tesori

Tony Award-winning stage and film composer Jeanine Tesori will present a free Hermitage community program, “Musical Storytelling: A Conversation with Jeanine Tesori,” at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Friday, March 25 at 6pm. 

Click here to register for upcoming Hermitage programs.

Tesori has written four Tony Award-nominated scores for Broadway, including Twelfth Night (Lincoln Center); Thoroughly Modern Millie; Caroline, or Change; and Shrek the Musical. She won a Tony Award for Fun Home and recently served as supervising vocal producer on Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of West Side Story

Her newest musical, Kimberly Akimbo, opened to critical acclaim Off-Broadway earlier this season and has just announced that it will be transferring to Broadway this fall. She has also twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, for her musicals Fun Home (written with Lisa Kron) and Soft Power (written with David Henry Hwang).

“We are honored to welcome Jeanine Tesori to host this special program for our Gulf Coast community,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, who will be moderating the conversation. “I had a ‘very Tesori weekend’ when I last returned to New York, seeing a matinee of her beautiful musical Kimberly Akimbo, followed by an evening screening of West Side Story. Jeanine is one of the most influential theater artists of our time. She is a brilliant composer, passionate theater-maker, and inspiring educator with a list of impressive accolades throughout her career. This promises to be an exciting conversation on the Hermitage Beach and an exciting opportunity for the members of our community to meet one of the true musical theater greats.”

Winner of the Tony, Drama Desk, and Obie Awards, and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Tesori has also composed the music for The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of Brecht’s Mother Courage, starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, as well as the film adaptation of Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Her opera commissions include Met/LCT Opera/Theater and Glimmerglass Opera. She is on the council of the Dramatists Guild and teaches musical theater composition at Yale University. She has collaborated with numerous previous Hermitage Fellows throughout her distinguished career.

Jeanine Tesori’s Hermitage Residency is generously sponsored by Carole Crosby & Larry Wickless.

2022 Kleban Prize Winner César Alvarez to Present “Reimagining the Musical”

A 2022 Hermitage Fellow and the most recent recipient of the prestigious Kleban Prize for “Most Promising Musical Theater Lyricist,” songwriter and theater-maker César Alvarez will present a free community program — “Reimagining the Musical: Past, Present, & Futurity” — on Wednesday, March 23 at 6pm at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Downtown Sarasota Campus). Alvarez will share an informal hour of songs and stories about magic, domesticity, ghosts, and the way the universe works.

Events in this series frequently reach capacity quickly, so early reservations are strongly encouraged. Click here to register.

Alvarez (they/them/theirs) is a composer, lyricist, playwright, and performance maker whose genre-bending work engages the contemporary moment through worlds, ranging from a young girl who encounters a cosmic variety hour at the edge of life in The Elementary SpaceTime Show to a Civil War-era machine that creates peace in Futurity (Soho Rep / Ars Nova). Futurity was the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding New Musical. With a background as a jazz saxophonist, band leader, and sound artist, Alvarez’s work draws upon theater, music, performance art, and social practice. A 2018–2020 Princeton Arts Fellow and recipient of the Jonathan Larson Award, Alvarez is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth College with a B.Mus. from Oberlin Conservatory and an MFA from Bard College.

“As we continue our ongoing partnership with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, we are excited to introduce Sarasota audiences to Hermitage Fellow, musical artist, and theater-maker César Alvarez,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “I had the pleasure of seeing César’s musical Futurity in its acclaimed Off-Broadway run, and look forward to hearing more from this leading voice in the worlds of musical theater and performance art. They bring a truly unique approach to storytelling, and Selby Gardens provides a unique backdrop for experiencing bold and innovative new work.”

 

“Ocean Body” Commission by Helga Davis Premieres in March, Plus Martyna Majok and Aleshea Harris Return to Sarasota

Three recent Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) winners – Martyna Majok (2018), Helga Davis (2019), and Aleshea Harris (2021) return to Sarasota this spring to present their work and speak about their creative process.

First, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and 2018 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Martyna Majok presents “Building a Play: Exploring the Playwright-Director Collaboration.” This will be a conversation on the Hermitage Beach, moderated by Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok and her collaborator on the HGP commission, director Caitlin Sullivan – Friday, March 4th at 5:30pm. Last year, Majok offered Hermitage audiences an early virtual preview of her commission, featuring Tony nominee Marin Ireland. Here, Majok shares the continuation of the play’s journey.

Next up, the Hermitage, in collaboration with EnsembleNewSRQ and New College of Florida, presents the live Sarasota premiere of “Ocean Body,” the commissioned work from 2019 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner and composer, vocalist, and performance artist Helga Davis, along with her collaborators Shara Nova and Mark DeChiazza on Saturday, March 19th at 6pm. Davis and her creative colleagues shared a virtual sneak peek of her work last year; this is the further culmination of their work, presented live at the Hermitage. This will also be available virtually to allow greater accessibility to a wider audience.

Then in April, to kick off a weekend of events celebrating the Hermitage Greenfield Prize, award-winning playwright, author of What to Send Up When It Goes Down, and 2021 HGP recipient Aleshea Harris presents “A Theater Maker’s Year: What ‘Went Down’” on Friday, April 8th at 6pm. Harris’ commission is expected in 2023. Meanwhile, she has had an extraordinary season of plays premiering in New York, London, and more.

“We are thrilled to welcome back these three distinguished artists and recent Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients,” said Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO. “Martyna, Helga, and Aleshea are passionate and visionary creators who give us hope for the future, and their innovative works exemplify the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society.”

These community events in March and April lead us into this year’s Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration, culminating with the annual HGP Dinner on April 10th, recognizing 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner, composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica NegrónThe Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration is presented in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as Lead Community Sponsor. Co-Chairs for this event will be Carole Crosby and Sondra Biller. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social-distancing practices, and additional health and safety measures are anticipated for this event. Click here for more information on available tables and sponsorships.

Hermitage and Van Wezel Foundation Announce “UNSCRIPTED 2.0”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Van Wezel Foundation present the first program in the “UNSCRIPTED 2.0” series with poet, storyteller, and master teaching artist Hannah Hasan on Wednesday, February 16th at 5:30pm, outdoors and socially distanced on the lawn of the Van Wezel Hall. 

UNSCRIPTED is a unique collaboration between the Van Wezel Foundation and the Hermitage Artist Retreat in which audiences share an interactive encounter with an award-winning Hermitage artist, inviting audiences to be an active part of the experience by responding to a prompt as part of the programTo register for UNSCRIPTED, visit artsUNSCRIPTED.org.

“We are looking forward to re-launching the UNSCRIPTED series in partnership with the Van Wezel Foundation, building on last year’s virtual experiences and expanding our continued collaborations and community programming throughout the region,” notes Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat. “We are excited to revive this interactive series with 2022 Hermitage Fellow, storyteller, and master teaching artist Hannah Hasan, who will share her talents as an arts educator and invite audiences to actively take part in creating a story.”

UNSCRIPTED 2.0 attendees will be invited to interact with Hasan and learn more about her unique approach to creating narrative that centers ‘home’ and belonging in community. Drawing from her own experiences as a demonstration, Hasan will also lead participants through the process of unearthing and sharing their own stories, beginning with a prompt that all audience members will be asked to prepare prior to the event. 

“What is special about this series with the Hermitage is that the audience will come along for the journey and play an active role in the process,” said Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation. “As we build the vision for a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, our goal is to establish even more cultural partnerships that provide these interactive experiences with the arts.”

Hermitage Fellow Hannah Hasan is an award-winning spoken word poet, speaker, and storyteller who believes that our stories can set us free. With themes that center home, social justice, racial justice, women’s rights, and more, Hasan is often commissioned to write and perform, present keynote addresses, and facilitate workshops for events, conferences, and meetings. She has been engaged to write, perform, speak, and facilitate by numerous government agencies, non-profit organizations and charities, colleges and universities, start-ups, small businesses, and large corporations such as The Arts for Biden National Campaign, The Office of Community Services, Coffee Cup People, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, Verizon, Levine Museum of the New South, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Promise Neighborhoods of Lehigh Valley, Brown University, Davidson College, the City University of New York Journalism School, and many others. Hasan has a specialized talent for creating safe and brave spaces for audiences. She has been awarded grants, fellowships, awards, and accolades for her work from organizations like The Arts and Science Council, Mobilize.Org, The Knight Foundation, Citizen’s University, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and more. She also serves on multiple community advisory boards for organizations such as The Charlotte Symphony, Levine Museum of The New South, and The Charlotte Observer. For a complete bio, visit HannahHasan.com 

 

 

Composer Angélica Negrón Wins 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, has selected innovative composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón as the winner of the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, given this year in the artistic discipline of music. Negrón will receive a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a $30,000 commission for a new work, which will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in 2024.

On Monday, January 10th, Angélica Negrón received the news of her recognition via Zoom. 

Jury Chair Terrance McKnight stated, “Angélica Negrón’s music places value in the softest, most vulnerable, and most frequently overlooked instruments in the room. In her scores, even the robots find a pulse. Her compositional insight is the heartbeat of true democracy, and I am thrilled to introduce her to the Hermitage community.”

Born in Puerto Rico, Negrón writes original music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics, as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. She is a founding member of the tropical electronic band Balún, and her music has been performed at the Kennedy Center and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial. Negrón has composed scores for the New York Botanical Gardens (Chorus of the Forest, 2019) and for Opera Philadelphia (The Island We Made, 2020), as well as the documentary films Landfall (2020) and Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016). Additional commissions and premieres of her compositions include works for the LA Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic Project 19 initiative.

“Amidst an extraordinary selection of finalists, Angélica Negrón stood out as an innovative and forward-thinking composer who impressed this year’s jury with her inventive and inspired approach to musical composition,” said Hermitage Artistic Director Andy Sandberg. “Her dedication to her craft embodies the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society. We thank our distinguished jurors for their passion and dedication, and we congratulate all of our brilliant finalists, whom we look forward to welcoming at the Hermitage. We look forward to recognizing Angélica’s work in Sarasota at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner in April, and subsequently hosting her as a Hermitage Fellow and sharing the first public presentation of her composition in Sarasota in 2024.”

Negrón will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 10th, at 6pm at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social-distancing practices, and additional health and safety measures are anticipated for this event. For more information about this event, click here.

Read more about the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize here.

Hermitage February Program Features Broadway Producer Tom Kirdahy

The Hermitage Artist Retreat brings the next installment of its “Artists & Thinkers” series to Longboat Key with “Theater Today: Process & Production,” a conversation with Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Tom Kirdahy (Hadestown; The Inheritance; Little Shop of Horrors).

A champion of new work and a resident of Longboat Key, Kirdahy will speak with fellow Tony Award winner and Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg about the inextricable link between theatrical development and production, and the multi-year creative journey from an idea to production. Following a successful event in 2021 hosted on the Hermitage Beach – part of the Hermitage “Artists & Thinkers” series – Kirdahy and Sandberg will continue their candid conversation in the town of Longboat Key, outdoors on Friday, February 25th at 5:30pm, at the Town Center of Longboat Key, 501 Bay Isles Road, Longboat Key, FL 34228. Click here to register.

“I am truly looking forward to continuing this dialogue with my friend and colleague Tom Kirdahy,” said Sandberg. “Tom is a thoughtful and accomplished producer who has shepherded some truly extraordinary plays and musicals to the stage, even amidst the most challenging of circumstances. Moreover, Tom is a true champion of artists and the creative process. He understands and appreciates the importance of early development and collaboration in guiding new work from the page to the stage, and we’re honored to have him in the Hermitage family!”

Kirdahy is a Tony and Olivier Award-winning producer whose projects have spanned Broadway, Off-Broadway, and the West End, as well as national and international tours. Select New York/London credits: Hadestown (8 Tony Awards, including Best New Musical), The Inheritance (Tony Award for Best Play; 11 Tony nominations), Little Shop of Horrors (Drama Desk Award, Best Musical Revival), Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2 Tony nominations, including Best Revival). Additional Tony nominations: The Visit, Mothers and Sons, After Midnight, Ragtime, and Master Class. He is the recipient of the Robert Whitehead Award for Outstanding Achievement in Commercial Theater Producing. Kirdahy serves on the Broadway League Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As an attorney, he spent nearly two decades providing free legal services to people living with HIV/AIDS and served for many years on the Executive Committee of the NYC LGBT Center. Graduate Studies: New York University School of Law, NYU CAS.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright and Hermitage Fellow Paula Vogel Presents “Pen to Paper” as Part of “Hermitage @ Booker” Series

Hermitage Fellow, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright, and American Theater Hall of Fame Honoree Paula Vogel returns to the Hermitage to present a community program as part of the “Hermitage @ Booker” series, a collaborative partnership with Booker High School’s Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) program, which launched in December 2021 with Hermitage Fellow and jazz musician Luke Stewart. The “Hermitage @ Booker” series features outdoor public programs intended for adults, as well as high-school and college students in the community.

“Pen to Paper with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Paula Vogel” takes place on Friday, February 11th at 5pm (ET), in the outdoor courtyard at Booker High School where Vogel will lead a writing ‘bake-off’ in which the audience will collectively create and design a short play through writing prompts and exercises.

“We are honored to welcome legendary playwright Paula Vogel back to the Hermitage, where she will be sharing her extraordinary talent as a writer and experience as an educator with the members of our Sarasota community. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Dr. Rachel Shelley and the Booker VPA faculty as we build meaningful connections between some of the nation’s leading artists and our community,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We look forward to introducing more area residents and students to the bold new works and creative journeys of acclaimed Hermitage Fellows from around the world.”

Vogel has taught playwriting for thirty years at Brown University and at the Yale School of Drama. Her plays include How I Learned to Drive, The Long Christmas Ride Home, The Mineola Twins, The Baltimore Waltz, Hot ‘N’ Throbbing, Desdemona, And Baby Makes Seven, The Oldest Profession, A Civil War Christmas, Don Juan Comes Home From Iraq, and Indecent. Vogel has been developing her playwriting memoir How To Bake A Play as part of her Hermitage Residency.

The Hermitage’s 2022 outdoor programs are free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. “Pen to Paper” is intended for adults, college students, and high-school students. Due to capacity limitations and social distancing, registration is required. Click to register.

Writer and Director Radha Blank Is the Inaugural Recipient of the $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA)

“In a theatrical landscape hobbled by COVID, the Hermitage has done something heroic; they have instituted a brand new, financially generous commission for a playwright of demonstrable achievement to draft a new work. It is one of the premier commissions of its kind and could not come at a more auspicious, even urgent time.”
—Doug Wright, Hermitage Major Theater Award Committee

Playwright and director Radha Blank has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award. This national jury-selected prize, newly established by the Hermitage earlier this year with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest non-profit theater commissions in the country. Blank will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida) and a developmental workshop in New York. Blank’s critically acclaimed debut feature film, The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix), was awarded the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Vanguard Award and the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award. Blank’s play Seed received a Helen Merrill Award, and she has written for the television series Empire (Fox) and Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (Netflix). Blank is also known to many audiences as RadhaMUSprime, performing her unique brand of hip-hop comedy around the world.

“I am thrilled to receive this kind of support from the theater-making community, and honored to be the first recipient of this awesome award,” said Radha Blank on receiving the Hermitage Major Theater Award. “This recognition is very affirming. This commission answers the question: how can I continue to do my work and not jump into a system that is constantly asking me to conform and change who I am? Having a destination and an actual place and community to create is a gift. I don’t take it lightly. I really appreciate this.”

The Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA) was established this year 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 inaugural HMTA Award Committee included Doug Wright, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, and past 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 stage and screen director.

“The theater needs Radha’s voice more than ever, especially in the current cultural moment,” said HMTA juror Doug Wright, a past Hermitage Fellow himself.

“Radha has passion and heart, and she crosses so many different genres and traverses so many different mediums,” remarked HMTA juror Leigh Silverman. “At this moment in the theater, we’re all coming out of a time of being frozen in amber. The idea of this award from the Hermitage – and what this offers – is hope, as well as a sense of community, time, and space.

“This is a pure gift of support for Radha and her writing, with no strings attached,” added HMTA juror Liesl Tommy. “It’s an opportunity for Radha to be free in this moment, which is why these kinds of commissions are so important to us as artists.”

Three finalists for the 2021 Hermitage Major Theater Award include Luis Alfaro, an accomplished playwright and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow; Eisa Davis, an Obie Award-winning multi-disciplinary theater-maker; and Madeleine George, an Obie Award-winning playwright. Each will receive a Hermitage residency, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000.

“Amidst an extraordinary and competitive field of finalists, Radha Blank stood out as an innovative and exciting artist who impressed the award committee with her passionate and inspired vision,” said Andy Sandberg. “While many audiences have come to know Radha through her work on film, our hope is that this opportunity recognizes, inspires, and embraces Radha as an exciting and important voice in the American theater. We thank our brilliant award committee Doug Wright, Leigh Silverman, and Liesl Tommy for their leadership and thoughtfulness, and we congratulate all of our finalists. Luis Alfaro, Eisa Davis, and Madeleine George are exceptional artists of the theater, with bold voices and thrilling ideas. We are excited to welcome all four of these extraordinary talents into the Hermitage family.”

In 2020, Blank was named as one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” and hailed as “a brilliant filmmaker” by The New York Times. Her debut feature film, The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix) was the recipient of multiple prestigious awards and nominations, including recognition for Blank’s writing, directing, and performance. Blank was nominated for the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director and a BAFTA Award for Leading Actress. The Forty-Year-Old Version most recently received its New York City 35mm debut at the Paris Theater, where Blank made history as the first Black woman director showcased in the cinema house’s 75-year history. When not writing for the stage and screen, Blank performs as RadhaMUSprime, whose brand of hip-hop comedy has sold out shows from New York to Norway.

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, in addition to a reading or workshop in a leading arts and cultural center. This year’s commission is expected to receive a development workshop in New York in the fall of 2022.

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. This distinguished 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, and Chicago – 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-makers to workshop and develop their original ideas,” said Andy Sandberg at a Hermitage announcement event. A 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 artistic development 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 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 hope this new initiative will inspire others who are passionate about the arts to recognize and support the important work that the Hermitage is doing.”

In addition to this newly created commission, the Hermitage Artist Retreat annually awards the prestigious jury-selected Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP), a $30,000 commission that rotates each year between the disciplines of music, theater, and visual art. Past recipients in theater have included Aleshea Harris (2021), Martyna Majok (2018), Nilo Cruz (2015), John Guare (2012), and Craig Lucas (2009).