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Playhouse Offers New Play Commissions

CINCINNATI -- Thanks to the late playwright Jerome Fey, two contemporary writers for the stage, Kia Corthron and Theresa Rebeck, will receive play commissions from the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

Fey grew up in Cincinnati in the 1960s, attending and volunteering at the Playhouse in its early days. As an adult he moved to Los Angeles and pursued a career in playwriting, penning Oxford's Will, Blind Faith, and other scripts. He founded the Golden West Playwrights' Workshop, taught at UCLA, and served as literary manager of Colony Studio Theatre. Before his death in 1992, he arranged for a gift from his estate to allow the Cincinnati theatre to commission two new plays annually through the Jerome Fey Endowment for New Plays.

Recalling the company's 2004 regional theatre Tony Award, which cited the Playhouse's "significant contribution to American theatre," Edward Stern, its producing artistic director, said, "A key element of that contribution must be the ongoing support and nurturing of American playwrights, truly an endangered species thanks to TV and film.

"My focus," he continued, "will heavily be on minority and women playwrights -- groups that, I believe, need even more support. This is our admittedly small attempt in making a difference in the future of American theatre."

On March 14, the Playhouse announced that Corthron and Rebeck (a Cincinnati native) will receive the first two Fey commissions. The playwrights can select their own subjects, and the plays will be staged at the theatre, said Stern, although not all future commissioned plays are guaranteed productions. The award, he noted, is strictly for writing and does not include funding for staging.

The Playhouse currently offers another award, the Mickey Kaplan New American Play Prize, which does provide for a fully funded production of a selected script. The plays commissioned through the Fey Endowment will now also be considered for the Kaplan Prize. The Playhouse also regularly stages other new works, with two world premieres announced for the 2006-07 season.

Corthron's plays include Breath, Boom; Force Continuum; The Venus de Milo Is Armed; and Slide Glide the Slippery Slope. She has received the Mark Taper Forum's Fadiman Award, a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group residency, a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays grant, and the Joe A. Callaway Award. Several of her plays have premiered at the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Rebeck's play Bad Dates has been popular on regional stages, including the Playhouse, where it was presented in January 2005. She has also written The Butterfly Collection, View of the Dome, The Family of Mann, Loose Knit, and Spike Heels. Her Omnium Gatherum, written with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, debuted at the 2003 Humana Festival and was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in drama.

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