Thursday, October 15, 2009

Freed Working on a New Play

SCR has chosen Amy Freed, the playwright behind last year’s hilarious You, Nero, as the recipient of its 2009 Steinberg Commission.

A commission, in the art world, means paying an artist to create something especially for you. In this particular case, it means Freed is writing a new play just for SCR, with money provided by a grant from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Freed’s plays most often take the form of dark comedy. They are ambitiously epic and smartly mine history for laughs.

Why comedy?

“Life is kind of surreal,” she says, “and the collisions of absurdity and grief and silliness are what laughter comes from and what tears come from.”

SCR’s Steinberg Commissions are specifically designed for mid-career playwrights, because other commissioning groups often overlook these writers in favor of either emerging or well-known playwrights. Many a mid-career playwright has dedicated years to writing for the theatre only to find that he or she can’t make a living that way. Often, the theatre loses those writers to the higher-paying worlds of television or film. SCR and the Steinberg Trust want to keep that from happening.

Past commission recipients include Jose Rivera, who used the grant to develop Boleros for the Disenchanted, and Tracy Letts, who received his commission just before vaulting to the top of the American theatre world with his Pulitzer—and Tony—winning August: Osage County. SCR is first in line for Letts’ next play, thanks to the Steinberg Commission.

Amy Freed has been writing plays since 1991, when she turned to writing after an unfulfilling acting career. She gained a national reputation when her play The Psychic Life of Savages won the Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play in 1995.

In 1998, her play Freedomland, an SCR commission and world premiere, became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and went on to play at many regional theatres. She followed Freedomland with her most successful play to date, The Beard of Avon (also commissioned and premiered by SCR), a tongue-in-cheek look at the Shakespeare authorship controversy.

Freed’s other plays include Safe in Hell, Still Warm, Claustrophilia and The Ghoul of Amherst. When she’s not penning plays, Freed teaches playwriting and acting at Stanford University.

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