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New Voices of Old

Lark News
David Zheng kneels in front of a red curtain, a chair, plant, and lamp, set up behind him. He smiles straight into the camera with his hands pointing towards it. Zhailon Levingston sits behind him, one leg kicked up and his hands blurred in movement.
Playwright & 2018 Fellow David Zheng (left) and Director Zhailon Levingston (right).

Submission season is right before our eyes and we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that The Lark’s  New Voices Fellowship program, supported by the Jerome Foundation, is OPEN for submissions! What is this you ask? It’s a year-long residency that supports writers of color under the age of 30, includes a cash award of $15,000, the opportunity to work on multiple artistic projects, form relationships with other theater makers from around the globe and more! I could go on and on about how passionate I am about writers submitting their work for this Fellowship. But who else could speak more fondly about this Fellowship? That’s right, our New Voices alumni! Here’s what they have to say:

What did you learn/gain during your Fellowship year?

CHRISTINA QUINTANA (2017 Fellow): The list is so long, and the gains are deep—visible and invisible. The most valuable thing: deeper community. Other big bonuses: space to write, create, play; respect for me, the process, the work at whatever stage; artistic friendships/collaborations with a slew of incredible artists; monetary support to help pay the bills and allow for a new level of artistic freedom.

DAVID ZHENG (2018 Fellow): One of the most important things I learned, which is like the most important of things, is my process. I was always able to write and finish a play, but there was always something missing. I can’t articulate what that “missing thing” is exactly, but it’s the difference between a writing a play and finessing a play—and I like to finesse. But I didn’t know how to. But with much time, practice, exploration, and love from The Lark—I found it. I found my process and how I work best. I like spending time with my director and actors, like—a lot. And that could mean whatever. It could mean talking about the play, talking shit, sharing music, sharing memories, playing basketball, or sitting around a table eating snacks. Spending time with my community of artist reminds me that I’m not in this alone.

SUSAN SOON HE STANTON (2011-12 Fellow): I was lucky enough to be the first New Voices Fellow at The Lark, so I think the Fellowship was further refined as we went along. My year was my first year back in New York after grad school, and having a home at The Lark was an immense comfort during a tumultuous time. More than anything, my time as a fellow was time and space to write and develop work. At the end of the year, we had a full day where we read all the plays I had written and revised over the course of my fellowship, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I had accomplished.

CHRISTOPHER OSCAR PEÑA (2012-13 Fellow): The most important thing that I gained during my fellowship year was a community. Andrea, and John, and Lloyd were very attuned to what I needed as a writer, and did everything they could do to give me that. Lloyd particularly, learned very quickly that I wouldn’t write unless I had deadlines. So he continually invited me into situations where I had to write. I did the Winter Writers' Retreat, I did the Playwrights' Workshop, on more than one occasion they took me away on their summer Vassar retreat. I say this often and openly, if not for The Lark, a relationship that began for me through the New Voices Fellowship, I would not have ever written my last four plays.

CQ sits with a laptop on her lap, opened to a word document. She balances it with one hand and turns the page of a script on a music stand in front of her with the other.
Playwright & 2017 Fellow CQ in rehearsal for a Studio Retreat reading at The Lark

What were some challenges? What are the perks?

CQ: I learned (all over again) that it's important to fight the urge to edit too early, and allow the play to be what it wants to become! That's one of the most glorious things about writing plays, but I love revision and am often eager to get to the editorial phase. It's always been harder for me to spill my guts onto the page than revise. This was a welcome challenge—to write with abandon again!

DZ: The only challenge that I experienced was a challenge that I put myself in. I wasn’t sure how much The Lark expected me to do, how often I was supposed to pop into the office, how welcomed I assumed I was at The Lark. But now this place is like my home. You can always catch me here, sleeping on the couch, using the really nice and private single stall bathrooms, or writing in every corner of the 5th floor. And one of my favorite things about The Lark is that it’s all about the artist. It’s all about what you want to do and who you want to do this theater shit with. There’s not a lot of places like this one.

SSHS: I think the challenge at least for me, is that The Lark does not put a lot of requirements on us. So I think it's good to do a goal setting session with John and Lloyd. And with yourself. Ask yourself: What do I want to get out of my year of support, in my writing? How can I best set a course for this time? Schedule monthly goals and participate as much as suits you. Every writer is different, so I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to use the fellowship. I believe that The Lark is like stone soup, you get out of it what you put in. I sat in a number of Roundtables and learned a lot by watching playwrights interact with their directors and actors in the room. I also participated in every Lark program I could. The programs are quite varied and support different aspects of the process—Winter Writer's Retreat, Playground, Vassar.

COP: Challenges? What challenges? The Lark gave me a community, a home, a renewed sense of self, and more importantly, a group of incredible artists who said “we are here. We believe in you. And we are waiting for your work.” It gave me a purpose and made me write because I didn’t want to waste their generosity, financial or emotional.

Why should writers apply?

CQ: Writers should apply because finding a supportive artistic home is everything. You will meet such good people, fellow writers, collaborators, and these people will remain in your life. I've spoken to several writers about this idea. Many companies say, "you are forever part of our family," but The Lark really means it. I often refer to The Lark as a magic wonderland for writers, especially writers of color. You will be seen, you will have the opportunity to push yourself and play, and your work will be respected on a level that should be the equivalent for all of the American theater, in my opinion.

DZ: To put it simply: It will change your life in more ways than one. Trust me. Deadass.

SSHS: I, support, glamor...there's really not a lot to lose and much to gain from being a part of the The Lark. But I would say, that you get what you put in, so if you think you are going to spend most of your year away from New York or you don't enjoy being a part of developmental processes, then this might not be the best time to apply. At the time in my life when I got the fellowship, I was trying to decide if I should stay in New York or move back home. I was intimidated by figuring out how to survive in New York and keep writing. And the fellowship and support from The Lark made that all feel possible. Also, many of the directors, fellow writers, and actors that I met during that year and beyond are dear friends and frequent collaborators.

COP: Writers should apply because The Lark is an incredible home. It is a generous community of artists. It is a place that takes you seriously and believes in what you do no matter what that is. What more can we ask for?

If this didn’t inspire and/or give you the courage to submit, I don’t know what will. Check out the Application Guidelines today!