Mosaic Theater Company and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have announced the illustrious recipient of their National Playwright Residency Program Grant—Veteran DC playwright, director, and Helen Hayes Award winner Psalmayene 24.
In collaboration with HowlRound Theatre Commons at Emerson College, the two organizations created this grant to provide three years of salary, benefits, and a flexible research and development fund for a diverse group of American playwrights at selected theaters around the country. More than a standard residency, this initiative is a way of reimagining what theatrical institutions might look like with a full-time working artist deeply embedded in key areas of institutional management and advancement. The scope of the residency is ambitious, with a focus on the playwright’s creative output through commissioned projects.
“My intention is to impact this community through the National Playwright Residency Program by creating plays that act as a reflective prism meant to reveal and illuminate the soul of the community.”
The residency will begin July 1. Projects on deck include Dear Mapel, based on Psalmayene 24’s letters (actual and imagined) to the deceased father he hardly knew; a hip-hop theatrical portrait of DC Mayor Marion Barry; The Street Corridor Initiative, an interview-based piece focusing on two rival public transport vessels; and Freedom Strike, a piece about a performance artist, and the cost of freedom on the Black body. Psalmayene 24 will also return to the work that initiated his literary relationship with Mosaic, Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son, a reimagining of the meeting between author Richard Wright and essayist James Baldwin. He will rework this piece—nominated for a 2020 Charles MacArthur/Helen Hayes Outstanding New Play Award—into a more streamlined version for interactive performances as part of Mosaic on the Move.
Psalmayene 24 comments, “In many respects, I am a native son of the community that Mosaic Theater serves. Having grown up in Brooklyn, New York, and now having lived in the Washington, DC, area for more than half of my life—over 25 years—I proudly call DC my home. I came of age, as a man and an artist, in DC. I wrote my first play in DC. I met my wife in DC. So, as my adopted hometown, I feel a strong connection to many of the theaters in the DC area—especially Mosaic. True to its name, Mosaic is a theater with a wonderfully diverse audience. As someone who grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn during a time when it was a beacon of multiculturalism, I feel most at home in communities where diversity reigns supreme. (And when I say diversity, I mean diversity of all types: race, class, religion, sexual orientation, etc.). As an artist who sees myself as an integral member of the community that Mosaic serves, it is my belief that I am well qualified to represent authentic creative impulses that reflect the spirit of this community. My intention is to impact this community through the National Playwright Residency Program by creating plays that act as a reflective prism meant to reveal and illuminate the soul of the community. There is a validation that occurs when people see a play that speaks to their particular experience. Plays have the ability to feed parts of the human spirit that we didn’t know were malnourished. When plays voice the humanity of a specific community, these plays have the potential to sing in harmony with universal yearnings that connect us all.”
RELATED CONVERSATIONS WITH PSALMAYENE 24
Director and Playwright Psalmayene 24 Discusses ‘Native Son’ and ‘Les Deux Noirs’
Refinding the Soul of ‘Word Becomes Flesh’ at Theater Alliance: A Q&A With Director Psalmayene 24
‘Unpacking Racism’: A Q&A with Psalmayene 24, Director of Forum Theatre’s ‘The Shipment’
Psalmayene 24 is an award-winning playwright, director, and actor. Psalm—as his colleagues call him—is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Playwright-in-Residence at Mosaic Theater and the Artist-in-Residence at Studio Theatre. His play Les Deux Noirs received a nomination for the 2020 Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical, and his play The Frederick Douglass Project was the recipient of six 2019 Helen Hayes Award nominations. Psalm is the recipient of the Imagination Award from Imagination Stage, and he has received grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Maryland State Arts Council, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Boomerang Fund for Artists Inc. He is also a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.
Mosaic Theater Company of DC is committed to making transformational, socially relevant art, producing plays by authors on the front lines of conflict zones, and building a fusion community to address some of the most pressing issues of our times. Dedicated to making theater a model of diversity and inclusion at every strata, on stage and off, Mosaic invests in the new, keeping abreast of changing and challenging times, and ensuring that theater is a responsive gathering space. They complement productions with comprehensive engagement through free pre- and post-show programming, and offer an annual intercultural festival, along with a Voices From a Changing Middle East series, and educational initiatives, including the touring Mosaic on the Move. Tax-deductible donations can be made at the Mosaic Theater Company website.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks to strengthen, promote, and defend the
centrality of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse, fair, and democratic societies. To this end, core programs support exemplary
and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture. The Foundation makes grants in four core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, Arts
and Cultural Heritage, Scholarly Communications, and International Higher Education and Strategic Projects. For more information visit The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website.
The creation of Howlround was a direct response to: 1) research that suggested artists were increasingly distant from the center of theatermaking within not-for-profit institutional infrastructure, and 2) the new possibilities created by technology to influence theater practice. They saw too many voices left off stages and left unrepresented inside of institutions…not recognized for their substantial contribution to our past and present. They set about to create a group of tools that would amplify voices and issues chronically underrepresented and unheard in the theater. An organizing principle is the “commons”—a social structure that invites open participation around shared values. HowlRound is a knowledge commons that encourages freely sharing intellectual and artistic resources and expertise. Their strong belief is that the power of live theater connects us across difference, puts us in proximity of one another, and strengthens our tether to our commonalities. Tax-deductible donations can be made at the Howlround website.