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The Lark Turns 25!

Lark News
The number "25" in white is superimposed over twenty five small photographs of various events at The Lark.

On June 8, 2019 The Lark celebrates a milestone! It's our 25th birthday and we cannot believe it! I’ve only been at The Lark since September, but even during these brief months I’ve noticed the incomparable support and dedication that it has offered artists from all over the world through the years. I reached out to a few of our fellow Larkees to ask them to share their fondest memories or experiences with The Lark community. In honor of our 25th birthday, here are 25 of those anecdotes!

1. Christopher Peña (Writer)

When I first became a Van Lier Fellow, Lloyd Suh asked me what I wanted from my Lark residency. I remember asking if he could get José Rivera to be my mentor.  He (very lovingly) looked at me like I was insane and said something like, “we can introduce you to him, and you can hang out with him, and maybe you guys can be friends, but not your mentor. Because you’re a professional writer here.” And look, we all have mentors at all stages of our lives, so that’s not what Lloyd was saying. But instead, he was saying, we take you seriously here as an artist and we want to empower you. You’re not a student here. You’re the master of your own craft. I think that’s one of the most important things that’s ever happened to me. Also, years later, because of The Lark, I did become close with José Rivera. And the other thing, jokes on you Lloyd, because you were one of the reasons I became a playwright, and you’re not just my friend, you’re also my mentor. Happy 25th Lark! I wouldn’t be here without you!

2. Miranda Rizzolo (Actor)

When I walked into the Lark a year and a half ago, I was a young actress new to New York. I suddenly found myself welcomed by a wonderful community of artists. Thanks to a recent roundtable, I met a young playwright with whom I have worked again, befriended another actress with whom I now have weekly lunch dates, and was reminded of the importance of spaces like The Lark, where great writing and lovely human beings are the norm.

3. Christina Quintana (CQ) (Writer)

After a long stint out of the city this past fall, I urgently needed to print copies of a manuscript for award consideration. Not only did Megan respond with an immediate affirmative, when I dropped by the office to grab the copies, it felt like I'd entered my own welcome back party. Oh, the beautiful staff and artists that make Lark so special. Feliz 25, Lark! I love you!

4. Krista Williams (Lark Staff)

Rob Askins and Lucy Thurber doing push ups in The Lark's BareBones Studio.
I remember a Playwrights Workshop session when Lucy Thurber and Rob Askins decided  the only way they could solve some dramaturgical debate was with a push-up contest. I'll always remember Rob and Lucy doing push-ups in the middle of a huge ring of a couple dozen actors and playwrights with Arthur Kopit counting off. It was like the cardio version of a stubborn-off. I don't remember who won. But that's maybe kind of perfect? Process over product!

5. Andy Lucien (Actor)

Seeing my first reading at The Lark really made me want to work there. Dreams come true.

6. David Zheng (Writer)

One of my favorite Lark memories took place at Vassar College during a Lark writing retreat. It was super late and we were all kicking it in the lounge, talking shit and playing Uno. And if you know Uno, you know that this game creates bonds and destroys friendships. And you also know that every individual has their own rules of how to play the game. The last two survivors were Andrea and Nissy — and shit got REAL. Andrea put down a wild card, then slapped a yellow two and called UNO OUT. You just can’t do that Andrea. Anyways, it was lots of screaming and fun.

7. Rehana Lew Mirza (Writer)

My favorite memories of The Lark are the times I get to mortify Mike in front of our peers.

8. Mike Lew (Mortified Writer)

My fondest memories of the Lark are of the season-opener parties where we go around the room and set goals for the year. One year Rehana stared me down in front of everyone and says, "My goal for the year is to get MARRIED." Two years later she's like, "My goal for the year is to have a BABY." I'm saying don't go to The Lark season opener unless you're very comfortable with high-stakes goal-setting.

9. Paris Crayton III (Writer)

The very first time walking in and being greeted with so much love. Especially from Stacy Waring.

10. Olivia George (Lark Staff)

Seeing the Studio Retreat reading of Mary Birnbaum, Rachel Flynn, Lauren Lim Jackson, Melissa Lusk, Caroline V. McGraw, and Diana Oh's  Baby No More Times in January 2017, just about two months after the 2016 election, was one of the most cathartic experiences I've had at a theatrical event. And yes I AM waiting for the cast album, please, I want it.

11. Erin Anderson (Actor)

So I moved to New York because I wanted to be as close to the bubbling cauldron where new plays are forged as possible. The first work I did as a proper New York actor was within the warm, incomparable embrace of The Lark walls - a Studio Retreat for Mona Mansour's play Unseen - and they haven't been able to get rid of me since. At The Lark, you're straight up IN the cauldron of new work. I will always say yes - nay, sing YES YES YES - to any opportunity to read and play and delve and be in those rooms. It's an artistic home, a roving pirate ship family, a tribe called Lark. I love it in every way. Happy 25th Birthday, Lark! May you have as many 25th birthdays as I have! And many more cheese plates in the future.

12. Sam Guncler (Actor)

It's incredible to think it's been 25 years. I've probably been around only for about 20 and every time is still the first time.

13. David Henry Hwang (Writer)

My favorite Lark memory was the workshop where I found a clear thru-line and heart in an early, sprawling draft of Yellow Face. My second favorite was getting smuggled out of a theater in Bucharest by John Eisner, Arthur Kopit, and Theresa Rebeck, to escape some woman who was trying to kiss me.

14. Rani O'Brien (Lark Staff)

S.P. Monahan smiling broadly and addressing a circle of people in The Lark's BareBones Studio
The opening meet and greet for the Mexico/U.S. Playwright Exchange in which over five languages were spoken. It was a collective moment of joy and celebration to kick off what turned out to be an artistic and spiritually fulfilling week! The cherry on top was when S.P. Monahan (published playwright & Development Associate at The Lark) offered a 'hit of joy' to any of the artists that came down to the 4th floor office to visit. Here's the photo proving that moment of pure effervescent bigheartedness.

15. Francisco Mendoza (Writer)

This year alone I've had The Lark flawlessly organize two different readings for plays I'm working on, both of them extremely helpful in my process (although one of them was interrupted by the nakedness of the neighbor across 44th Street). I have never felt more taken care of by a theater!

16. Sarah Ellen Stephens (Actor)

Typically, and pretty much every time Andrea Heibler, John Eisner, Kimber Lee, or Lloyd Suh open their mouths has become one of many fond memories. The Playground program has always felt like an intimate family. There are too many lovely moments to count.

17. Franky Gonzalez (Writer)

My fondest memory of the Lark had to have been the night of my reading during Playwrights' Week 2018. The performers were channeling all the years and the energy of those for whom the play was written. I saw people I love and respect laugh and cry for my writing. November 9th, 2018 at The Lark was the day my life changed. I met my agents there, I shared that night with family and colleagues, and - best of all - the man who gave me the inspiration for the Prisoner character attended and told me I wrote a beautiful play.

18. David Shih (Actor)

One of my favorite memories/experiences of the Lark is working on the BareBones Workshop of The Way West by Mona Mansour. I had injured my foot the day before our first rehearsal and had to be on crutches. Then Hurricane Sandy happened and I lost power in my building for two weeks. I live on the 18th floor of my building.

19. Stacey Rose (Writer)

I love that The Lark exists. What they do for theater artists, it is critical, and I'm forever grateful for the role they've played in my development as an artist from allowing me to see the work of other artists grow, to seeing my own work grow.

20. Caridad Svich (Writer)

A favorite Lark memory? There are many. Two come readily to mind at the moment. One of them was the first public reading of The Way of Water in 2012, where there was a palpable sense of urgency and energy and thrill in the air after a few days' work on the script with actors and director Daniella Topol. We were exhausted, fired up by the play's politics,and seeking community within community that first night in midst of the play's global reading scheme with NoPassport. The other was the first roundtable of Red Bike with actor Jocelyn Kuritsky. I remember Krista Williams suddenly leaning forward in her chair during the cold read and at one point, just looking at me with such a sense of kindness and love. So, yes, exhaustion, hard work, urgency, kindness and love.

21. Ava Eisenson (Actor)

Every time The Lark comes up in conversation it seems to go something like this: Artist 1: Doesn't it seem like The Lark always has something really interesting going on? Artist 2: Yes!  I love getting to work there! (Pause) Artist 1 and 2:  AND THEY ALWAYS HAVE SNACKS!

22. Kimber Lee (Writer)

I can still call up the cold knot of fear in my gut right before my first Playwrights' Workshop because I was certain my pages were crap.  Probably also offensive. And I was gonna walk into a room with Arthur Kopit, David Henry Hwang, Dominique Morisseau, Rajiv Joseph, Chisa Hutchinson, Lloyd Suh and a bunch of other amazing writers with this load of crap. And then, through some miraculous combination of dopeass actors and that warm, insightful room, my cold knot of fear melted away and I was able to keep going. Lark is my beloved home and I don't know what I'd do without it.

23. Erin Buckley (Writer)

Candy Buckley sits in a brown armchair smiling and reading off a script. On either side of her actors read from music stands.
My favorite thing about the workshop at The Lark was getting to have six women center stage. My mom (Candy Buckley) dead center in that arm chair! Teresa Avia Lim entering in the second half of the play and just slaying it. Derek Smith flashing his calf at Jessica Hecht. Tyler Lansing Weaks doing push-ups to self-soothe. Hannah Cabell stepping in to save the day on the day of our reading. Crystal Finn and Emily Dorsch bickering over navel oranges.

24. Juliany Taveras (Writer)

I have SO many wonderful Lark memories—but I have to give a special shout out to the Playwrights' Week self-care room, in which I sat blissfully amongst an assortment of games, snacks, & coloring utensils. That (wonderful-smelling) room was not only a much-appreciated place to rest during a jam-packed week, but also somewhere to connect with friends old & new. (p.s: Lloyd Suh hanging out in the office in a face mask = perfection.)

25. Stacy Waring (Lark Staff)

I was first introduced to The Lark in 2009 during a workshop of Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, before all the fame. I had been a PSM for many years and worked in theaters all over the world by that time and I remember being struck by how we were treated. I remember feeling so cared for. When I returned to coordinate the second year of The New Black Fest at The Lark, the space had changed, the company had upgraded from their humble beginnings on 58th Street. But the spirit of the people had not changed. I remember thinking to myself that it could not be by accident. That there had to be a commitment involved that caused a group of people to consistently present in such a way that made me and others feel so empowered, so validated and so free to be myself. Then, as life would have it, that same year I got an opportunity to join the staff at The Lark. And I learned that "the spirit" of The Lark is indeed by design. It is based on a conscious commitment to artists' freedom of expression and an understanding of their need for support in a world that doesn't realize how special and needed they are. It is based on the concept of true community. So as we approach our 25th year, we celebrate the Spirit of The Lark Community. Congratulations Lark. And thank you for Being.

Receiving these lovely anecdotes for the past few weeks has undoubtedly made my heart smile, and I hope it moved yours too. We are eternally grateful to all of the writers, actors, directors, stage managers, donors, organizations, audiences, and all our community members that have supported us for the last 25 years. And if you're so inclined to give us a birthday gift, know that a generous donor has pledged to match up to $10,000! Any donation made in the month of June will have twice the impact! THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. Happy Birthday to us and cheers to 25 more!  -María del Mar Fernández González