Playwrights’ Center & Venturous Theater Fund announce 2023–25 Venturous Playwright Fellowships, redesigned fellowship program

Playwrights’ Center and Venturous Theater Fund proudly announce the 2023–25 Venturous Playwright Fellows: Harmon dot aut, with their play Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting (in partnership with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble and the Contemporary American Theater Festival); L M Feldman, with her play Another Kind of Silence (in partnership with City Theatre CompanyCurious Theatre Company, and The VORTEX); and Jessica Huang, with her play Mother of Exiles (in partnership with Florida Studio Theatre).

The slate of fellows announced today is the first under the auspices of a redesigned Venturous Playwright Fellowship. The selection process commenced with Playwrights’ Center asking 50 prominent playwrights to nominate scripts that exhibit the characteristics of a venturous play—formally adventurous, epic in scope, and full of bold ideas. The list of nominated plays—the Playwrights’ Center Venturous List—was shared widely with producing theaters across the country, and is released publicly today. Nominated playwrights and interested theaters partnered to submit applications, from which these three fellows were selected by independent panels of theater artists and industry leaders. 

Venturous Playwright Fellows receive two years of support ($25,000 per year, for a total of $50,000 of direct support to each playwright) and over $15,000 in developmental and holistic artist support. Their partner theaters commit to producing their plays within the next three years and are eligible to receive production subsidies of up to $75,000 from the Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation (subject to approval).

“Centering artists is a core value of Playwrights’ Center, and this redesigned fellowship program is a heartfelt expression of that value. We are thrilled to provide meaningful financial support to playwrights in an industry where it is increasingly difficult to make a living, give them resources to develop ambitious plays, and ensure that their work is seen in fully-realized productions,” says Playwrights’ Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen

For Jessica Huang, receiving a fellowship specifically designed to support a play like hers offers validation of her work: “I’ve been dying to share this play with the world, and have been so afraid that the venturous aspects of it—the content, cast size, heightened theatricality—would be a barrier. It is beyond affirming that those are exactly the elements of this play that are being celebrated.”

Likewise, Huang’s partner theater, Florida Studio Theatre (Sarasota, FL), sees its work being affirmed by this fellowship. “As a theater with new work at its core, we’re grateful for being acknowledged by Playwrights’ Center and Venturous Theater Fund. Our mission is to present theater that challenges with as much gusto as it entertains and to create a public forum for the issues of our day that will foster positive change in our community and beyond, so we’re specifically excited to support Jessica Huang’s Mother of Exiles,” says Richard Hopkins, the theater’s Producing Artistic Director. “We’re excited for her story of family and climate change, which takes place in Miami, to come home to Florida.” 

L M Feldman also recognizes the challenge that her work can present, sharing “I make work that’s hard to produce in the confines of the conventional American-regional-theater new-play-production model. I write in the language of SPACE. Of MOTION. Of EMBODIED language. I write large-scale, theatrically sumptuous plays with two intermissions, or two languages, or an acrobatic movement vocabulary, or a cast of 13. And like most artist ruffians, I struggle to find homes for my work. As a Venturous Playwright Fellow, I’m feeling heartened and newly inspired to find a wider cohort of producing collaborators who, like me, crave the dynamic, the poetic, and the breathtakingly theatrical.”

Feldman’s play will be produced across the country, as City Theatre Company (Pittsburgh), Curious Theatre Company (Denver), and The VORTEX (Austin) collaborate to bring it to their stages. “We are beyond thrilled to bring L M Feldman’s gloriously inventive Another Kind of Silence to life through support from the Venturous Playwright Fellowship and Playwrights’ Center,” state the theaters. “L’s play is a bi-cultural narrative that weaves together ASL and English in a celebratory exploration of queer love, longing, and language and exemplifies the boundary pushing work the fellowship was designed to support.”

Harmon dot aut enthusiastically expresses what it means to receive this fellowship: “What does the Venturous program mean to me? Production! New plays and musicals and an opera I have in mind and this (dis)ability ballet I’ve been thinking about for years and oh, the films I’ve got over here to make and that immersive sensory tech theater project and I’ve got fractals in my head full of ideas. I am full of gratitude. I feel honored to be a peer of every amazing writer nominated for the Venturous Fellow, uh, Themship.” 

The Spectrum Theatre Ensemble (Providence, RI) and the Contemporary American Theater Festival (Shepherdstown, WV) exhibit the same enthusiasm in a shared statement: “We are thrilled to partner and produce the powerful and ground-breaking play Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting by Harmon dot aut. We look forward to bringing this play to life, sharing the queer, neurodivergent experience with our audiences, and honoring Harmon’s exquisite vision.”

“Venturous-ness has been a deeply ingrained part of this process,” offers Playwrights’ Center interim Associate Artistic Director Pirronne Yousefzadeh, who oversees the program, “from redesigning the program to guarantee that these plays receive full productions to the incredible diversity of venturousness represented in the nominated plays and even amongst Harmon’s, L’s, and Jessica’s gorgeous scripts. I am ecstatic to get to spend two years with these incredible artists and cannot wait to see what will undoubtedly be thrilling productions of these important works.”  

“The Venturous Playwright Fellowship is designed to advance bold, experimental, fearless plays to production through a process that provides creative and financial support for playwrights and centers artists in decisions about how grant money flows through the theater ecosystem,” said Venturous Theater Fund Program Director Ben Pesner. “We are honored to be supporting Harmon dot aut, L M Feldman, and Jessica Huang, their work, and the theaters across the U.S. that have committed to bringing these remarkable plays to the stage. We thank the 50 playwright nominators for their generosity in championing the work of their peers; the theaters who took the time to learn about the nominated plays and writers, creating new relationships with these talented artists and deepening existing ones; the selection committee; and each of the nominated writers for sharing their work. We also salute the staff and leadership of Playwrights’ Center for reimagining this program in its fourth cycle, and for their deep, ongoing commitment to supporting playwrights in achieving their full creative potential.” 

Playwrights’ Center and Venturous Theater Fund also release the inaugural Playwrights’ Center Venturous List, the full list of plays considered for this fellowship, each one nominated by a playwright. Of the importance of this list, Playwrights’ Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen offers, “Producing new work has always been challenging for theaters, which face especially difficult financial circumstances today. These pressures are indirectly felt by playwrights when conceiving new work, so I’m delighted that we’ve identified 50 new plays that exhibit an epic, theatrical scope, and found so many theaters eager to embrace such audacious work. We encourage the theater community to join us in supporting challenging, adventurous, and epic theatrical work.” In addition to supporting the Venturous Playwright Fellowship, Venturous Theater Fund offers Venturous Capital Grants directly to theaters in support of productions of venturous plays such as these.

2023–25 VENTUROUS PLAYWRIGHT FELLOWS

Harmon dot aut
Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting 
partnered with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble and Contemporary American Theater Festival

L M Feldman
Another Kind of Silence 
partnered with City Theatre CompanyCurious Theatre, and The VORTEX

Jessica Huang
Mother of Exiles
partnered with Florida Studio Theatre

PLAYWRIGHT BIOGRAPHIES

Harmon dot aut (they/she)

Amazigh/MENA

Autistic+/(Dis)abled

Resident playwright at Spectrum Theatre Ensemble.

An excerpt from Harmon’s play, Space, appears in the anthology WE/US: Monologues for Gender Minority Characters – Smith & Kraus, March 2023.

Selected works:

Naming Things & Space (STE 2022); Minden (The Tank NYC, Director: Meghan Finn); No Land to Land In (Dixon Place, Director: Craig Lucas); Goodbye, Kansas, a new musical (book, lyrics, co-composer – KC Fringe Fest); Disability Romp Ballet (book. Lyrics, co-composer – Folly Theatre, KCMO); True Blood, the musical (book – workshop – Director: Pam McKinnon). Visionary Playwright Award, Theatre Masters, NYC. Fellow at Hermitage Artists Retreat. Co-director of the NeuroDocumentary, The Fuck You Spark, currently in production.

Instagram: @hemlaghkenautism
Website:  redpencilsandgravy.com

L M Feldman is a queer, feminist, GNC playwright who writes theatrically audacious, physically kinetic, ensemble-driven plays that are both epic and intimate. So far her plays include S P A C E * THRIVE, OR WHAT YOU WILL * ANOTHER KIND OF SILENCE * SCRIBE, OR THE SISTERS MILTON, OR ELEGY FOR THE UNWRITTEN * A PEOPLE * TROPICAL SECRETS, OR ALL THE FLUTES IN THE SEA * THE EGG-LAYERS * GRACE, OR THE ART OF CLIMBING * and a new play about circus, healing, and middle-age athletes. An alum of the Yale School of Drama and the New England Center for Circus Arts, L has been nominated for the Herb Alpert Prize, Wasserstein Prize, ATCA/Steinberg Award, NY Innovative Theatre Award, Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award, and twice for the Blackburn Prize.

Instagram: @elemfeld
Website: laurenfeldman.com

Jessica Huang is a playwright and librettist whose plays include: The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin (History Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, San Francisco Playhouse, New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Season, Barry and Bernice Stavis Award), Mother of Exiles (Rosa Parks Playwriting Award, Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award) and Transmissions in Advance of the Second Great Dying (EMOS Ecodrama prize). Her audioplay Song of the Northwoods is available on Audible. She is developing an original television show with WBTV. She has commissions with Manhattan Theatre Club, Timeline Theater, History Theatre and Theater Mu. Jessica is a MacDowell Fellow, Hermitage Fellow and three-time Playwrights’ Center fellow, and has been a member of Ars Nova Play Group, Civilians R&D Group and Page 73’s Interstate 73. She is a graduate of the Playwrights Program at Juilliard. 

Website: jessica-huang.com