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

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.

The inaugural recipient of the 2021 Hermitage Major Theater award is playwright and director Radha Blank. 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 performance around the world.

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).