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Announcing the 2016-17 Van Lier New Voices Fellows

Lark News
C.A. Johnson and Donja R. Love

The Lark is thrilled to announce that playwrights C.A. Johnson and Donja R. Love have been selected as the recipients of the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship for the 2016-17 season.  This year long residency is designed to help address the lack of inclusion of early career playwrights of color in the theater field. Specifically, the Fellowship supports writers of color under 30 and includes a cash award of $15,000, plus a $3,000 health insurance allowance, as well as access to a wide range of Lark resources, including artistic program participation, financial literacy training, office and rehearsal space, and staff support. The 2016-17 cycle marks this Fellowship’s third year at The Lark. Past fellows include Reginald Douglas (director: Nikkole Salter’s Lines in the Dust at Luna Stage), Anna Moench (Hunger), Christopher Oscar Peña (awe/struck), and Susan Soon He Stanton (The Things Are Against Us). The Van Lier New Voices Fellowship program is a critical component in The Lark’s acclaimed portfolio of fellowships, designed to engage a diverse community of extraordinary playwrights who collectively reflect and write about the vibrancy of our world.

During their residency at The Lark, Johnson and Love will be part of a community of artists at various career levels from across the country and around the world. The voices of the 2016-17 Fellows will be invaluable additions to this community. Each of the writers has created work infused with both intensity and sensitivity, and thoughtfully approaches identity as the multifaceted matter it is.

“We were overwhelmed with the ferocity of vision in so many of this year’s applications. The quantity and quality of extraordinary writing from young playwrights of color in New York is significant and demands attention. We’re so thrilled to have C.A. and Donja as the first wave in The Lark’s retooled Van Lier New Voices Fellowship program,” said Director of Artistic Programs Lloyd Suh. “They are both working through urgent and vital questions about our cultural past, present, and future, in very personal and unexpected ways, and are ready to make significant and lasting contributions to the field.

C.A. has an amazing theatrical imagination, and tackles really big ideas in such a brilliant way; her plays are at once bold and ambitious, but also intimate and personal. Donja writes with incredible bravery, addressing a legacy of extraordinary pain with incredible tenderness and a vibrant and sincere vision for the future.  They have such distinctive voices, and such urgent passions. The Lark is so excited to work with The New York Community Trust in supporting these critical new voices.”

Johnson, 26, is a Queens based artist originally from a suburb of New Orleans, who thanks a rich family history for its influence on the stories she tells. She is the recipient of the 2010 James Baldwin Fund Prize for Multi-cultural Playwriting for her play One-Way Ticket to Solid Ground, and a finalist for the 2016 Goldberg Play Prize at NYU for her play By and By. On what is most exciting to her about receiving the Fellowship, Johnson said, “The Van Lier grants me the chance to write new work, revisit old work, and make new connections in New York City on firm financial footing. Pairing this foundation with the mighty resources The Lark has to offer, I imagine the coming year will be full of hard work, great conversation, and, hopefully, a few surprises along the way!”

Love, 29 at the time of application, is a Philadelphia native writing plays that explore Queerness at pivotal moments in Black History. He is the 2011 Philadelphia Adult Grand Slam Poetry Champion, and 2010 recipient of the Life Media Award for Best New Play runner-up (The Dead N---- Poem). On what receiving the Van Lier means to him, Love said, “Every emerging playwright wants someone to believe in their writing, to believe in them. I've found that with The Lark. I've found a community, a home. I'm so excited to have a space to grow - and to use this fellowship to create work that will hopefully help heal and love this world back together again."

Though this is Fellowship’s third year at The Lark, The Edgar and Sally Van Lier Fund at The New York Community Trust has been underwriting similar fellowships since 1991 at other New York City organizations including New Dramatists, Second Stage Theatre, and Asian American Arts Alliance. Ms. Van Lier, the visionary behind the fund, was born into a Hungarian immigrant family at the turn of the century and struggled to launch a career in show business. She got her break in 1923 when she won a beauty contest and was subsequently cast in Florence Ziegfeld’s Follies and in his production of Showboat. In later life, the Van Liers—who had no children of their own—took great delight in introducing young people to the arts and providing assistance to those who aspired to careers in the theater but couldn’t afford training on their own. To read more about the fund’s history, please visit their website.