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The Lark Names Zora Howard and Edison Ventura Mata Diaz as 2020-21 Van Lier New Voices Fellows

Lark News
Headshots of Zora Howard and Edison Ventura Mata Diaz
(Left: Zora Howard - photo by Jason Zeren, Right: Edison Ventura Mata Diaz - photo by Emma Diaz)

The Lark is thrilled to announce playwrights Zora Howard and Edison Ventura Mata Diaz have been selected as the 2020-21 Van Lier New Voices Fellows. The Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, with additional support from the Jerome Foundation, is a year-long residency that supports extraordinary playwrights of color aged 30 and under, to help address the lack of inclusion of early-career playwrights of color in the field. The Fellowship includes a cash award of $35,000—an increase from previous cycles, and an amount intentionally reflective of the median, entry-level salary in New York City, designed to give playwrights the opportunity to write full time. The Fellowship also includes access to The Lark’s artistic resources and support, and a $5,000 Opportunity Fund for the purposes of research, travel, and other expenses.

“We are so grateful and excited that Zora Howard and Edison Ventura Mata Diaz will be spending this season with us at The Lark,” said The Lark’s Artistic team. “Zora is a formidable dramatic talent and storyteller who creates intricately designed, sobering worlds, alive with poetry and humor. We are so thrilled she’ll be joining our community because we know we can only be made better by her presence and her work. Edison is a Lark community member who has brought his casually ingenious performances to many of our rooms, and we can’t wait to start forming those rooms again—this time, around his own sly, searing, playful, and fearless plays.” 

Zora is a Harlem-bred writer and performer. Plays include STEW (2020 Drama League nominee for Outstanding Play, Page 73 Productions), AtGN, BUST, HANG TIME, and GOOD FAITH. Her work has been developed with SPACE at Ryder Farm, Pipeline Theatre Company, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Cape Cod Theatre Project, among others. In 2020, her feature film Premature, which she co-wrote and starred in, opened in theaters following its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.  

“I am grateful for the gift of time, space, and artistic community The Lark has provided me through the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship,” said Zora. “Amidst this time of stifling uncertainty we’re living in, this fellowship is a deep breath of fresh air. And I cannot wait to find the possibilities it will open up in my work.”

Edison is an Afro-Latino writer/actor/finesser born in Providence, RI and raised in the Boogie Down. His work is an exploration of the hood, class, spirituality, and all things wavy. He's had his work developed with LAByrinth Theater Company, Curious Theater Company and the MCC Youth Company. He was a 2018 Space on Ryder Farm Greenhouse Resident. Recent acting credits include The Siblings Play (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater).  

“If you asked me what I'd be doing right now five years ago,” said Edison, “I would have never imagined this. I'm extremely grateful to be selected, and can't wait to develop new projects with one of the most poppin theater laboratories ever. I'm looking forward to making connections with The Lark's community of amazing artists and creatives. I want to flip the American Theater upside down, and this feels like a huge step toward that.

“It's been a hard year for most of us,” said The Lark Artistic team, “but with these two playwrights and their essential vision around, we suspect there are brighter days ahead.”

The Van Lier New Voices program is part of a portfolio of fellowships at The Lark that aims to engage a diverse community of playwrights from around the world at various places in their careers. Past Van Lier New Voices Fellows include Donja R. Love (Fireflies), C.A. Johnson (All the Natalie Portmans), Brittany K. Allen (Redwood), Christina Quintana (CQ) (Scissoring), Erika Dickerson-Despenza (cullud wattah), David Zheng (Ching Chong Maka Hiya), Xavier Galva (The Parlour), and Ife Olujobi (Jordans).

The Lark’s Van Lier New Voices Fellowship program is supported by the New York Community Trust’s Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund, with additional support from the Jerome Foundation.