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 Fellow, Pulitzer Prize & Tony Award-Winning Playwright

Hermitage Major Theater Award Recipients:
Madeleine George, 2021
Shariffa Ali, 2022

The Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA), presented annually by the Hermitage Artist Retreat, offers one of the largest non-profit theater commissions in the country. The HMTA was established in 2021 under the leadership of Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, made possible with generous support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation.

This annual prize recognizes a playwright or theater artist with a commission of $35,000 to create an original work of theater. In addition to the commission, the recipient of this annual award receives six weeks of residency at the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus to develop the new work, plus an inaugural reading or workshop in a leading arts and cultural center such as New York, London, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

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, this award 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.

HMTA winners are nominated and selected each year by a rotating jury of nationally recognized arts leaders in the field of theater. Please note that there is no open application process for this award, and the identity of the award committee each year shall remain confidential until the announcement of the recipient. Neither self-submissions nor outside nominations for the HMTA will be accepted by the Hermitage or members of the award committee.

The HMTA was established in 2021 with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation.

“This award will 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. 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 by offering developmental resources to these extraordinary artists and their new commissions along their journey.”
—Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO

“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.” 
—Flora Major, Founder and Trustee of the Kutya Major Foundation

Additionally, this award will offer the Gulf Coast community the chance to birth and introduce this new work of theater to the world, making a lasting impact on the broader artistic landscape, increasing the visibility of the Hermitage’s impact in other cultural centers, and emphasizing the global perspective of the bold new works being created on Manasota Key (Sarasota County, Florida).

Madeleine George, 2021 HMTA Recipient

Madeleine George’s plays include Hurricane Diane (Obie Award), The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize finalist; Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious Little, and The Zero Hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her plays have been performed in New York at Clubbed Thumb, Playwrights Horizons, and New York Theatre Workshop, and around the country at Perseverance Theater in Juneau, the Huntington in Boston, the Old Globe in San Diego, Shotgun Players in Berkeley, City Theater in Pittsburgh, Theater Wit in Chicago, and Two River Theater in New Jersey, among others. She’s a member/alum of New Dramatists’ Class of 2017, Clubbed Thumb Writers Group, the Lark Playwrights Workshop, the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Honors include the Princess Grace Award, a Manhattan Theater Club Playwriting Fellowship, a Lilly Award, and a Whiting Award for Drama. Madeleine holds a BA from Cornell University and an MFA from NYU.  She has taught at Barnard College, Bard College, NYU, Rutgers, the Universities of Michigan, Maryland, Arkansas, Indiana, and Minnesota, and Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, and Brown.  For many years she led free writing workshops around New York City, including Queensboro Correctional Facility; Hopper House, an alternative-to-incarceration program for women; a pre-trial intervention program run by the Brooklyn DA; Island Academy, the public school on Rikers Island; a senior citizens group in Fort Greene Park; and the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth. Since 2006, she has worked with the Bard Prison Initiative at Bard College, a degree-granting liberal arts program operating in seven New York State prisons. In 2022, Madeleine’s translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters premiered at Two River Theater, where she recently completed a six-year stint as the Mellon Playwright in Residence.  Her ten-episode audio adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For is forthcoming in 2023 from Audible Originals. Madeleine is a founding member of the Obie-Award-winning playwrights’ collective 13P. She’s written on shows for FX and HBO, and she is a writer/producer on the Hulu mystery-comedy Only Murders in the Building, nominated for WGA and Emmy Awards for Best Comedy.

Madeleine’s Hermitage Major Theater Award commission will have a developmental workshop in a major arts capital in 2023.

Doug WrightPulitzer Prize & Tony Award-winning playwright
Leigh Silverman, Tony Award-nominated and Obie Award-winning director
Liesl Tommy, Tony Award-nominated director of stage and screen

Shariffa Ali, 2022 HMTA Recipient

Shariffa Chelimo Ali, born in Kenya and raised in South Africa, is an international theater maker, creative leader, director, and academic committed to advancing radical change through the power of art and activism. As a filmmaker, Ali’s works 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). As a theater artist and academic, Ali has taught at NYU, Brooklyn College, Yale University, and Princeton University. Past theater productions include Eclipsed, Detroit ’67, Intimate Apparel, We Are Proud to Present, and an original new musical called We Were Everywhere. In 2022, Ali was named Elizabeth M. Swayzee Artist-in-Residence at Miami University, where she curated the inaugural Black Roots Festival in the spring of 2022. 

Shariffa’s Hermitage Major Theater Award commission will have a developmental workshop in a major arts capital in 2023.

Lynn Nottage – Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright
David Henry Hwang – Tony, Grammy, and Obie Award winner
Regina Taylor
– Golden Globe Award-winning actress, director, playwright, educator, and activist.