The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO), today released photos from the premiere presentations of newly commissioned works by Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali. George and Ali, the first two recipients of the $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA), had readings of their newly commissioned plays in New York at Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater just before Thanksgiving. Developed while in residence at the Hermitage in Sarasota County, Florida, these two new works are wholly original and coming to fruition less than two years after Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali learned of their selection for this distinguished national prize.
The Hermitage Major Theater Award, presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat and made possible with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, recognizes a playwright or theater artist with a commission of $35,000 to create an original full-length work for the stage, as well as providing an extended residency at the Hermitage’s beachfront campus Sarasota County, Florida, plus the chance to present the inaugural workshop presentation of the newly created play in a major arts capital such as New York, London, or Chicago.
Pulitzer Prize finalist and playwright Madeleine George,currently a writer on the hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” was selected as the first winner of the HMTA by an Award Committee comprised ofLeigh Silverman, Liesl Tommy, and Doug Wright. George presented the first full-length reading of her new play The Sore Loser to an invitation-only audience on Friday, November 17. The Sore Loser is a Faustian comedy set in a bowling alley. It’s a play about power, domination, and the death of the patriarchy – as told through a small-town bowling tournament. Casting for The Sore Loser included stage and screen talentsAdam Chanler-Berat (Next to Normal, “Gossip Girl”), Lynda Gravatt (The Bounty Hunter, Delivery Man), Allison Guinn (On the Town, “Only Murders in the Building”), Greg Hildreth (Frozen, Maestro), James Jackson Jr. (A Strange Loop, White Girl in Danger), Matthew Maher (Gone Baby Gone, Captain Marvel), T Mitsock (“Becoming Eve”), Shannon Tyo (The Compeuppance, “30 Rock”), and Joel Van Liew (“FBI”, Limitless). The reading was directed by Mack Brown.
Theater-maker and director Shariffa Ali was selected as the second recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award by Lynn Nottage, David Henry Hwang, and Regina Taylor. Ali shared an in-process presentation of her newly devised work Hero for an invitation-only audience on Monday, November 20, also at MCC Theater. Ali and two of her collaborators, Joanna Evans and Jason Maina, provided an overview and excerpts from this heartwarming and inspiring new play with music, set in a small South African town and inspired by the true story of Shariffa’s longtime friend and collaborator Vuyo Sotashe.
The Hermitage Major Theater Award was established in 2021 to recognize a playwright or theater artist with a substantial commission to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. This national jury-selected award, established by the Hermitage with generous support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest unrestricted nonprofit theater commissions in the country. George and Ali have each received a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage, plus developmental and financial support for these developmental readings in New York. The prize is intended to bridge the connection between the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida), where the commission is born, and other leading arts and culture centers around the world, including New York, London, Chicago, and notable arts capitals where great theater is frequently developed and presented.