The first group of emerging playwrights to benefit from Audible's $5m fund will include two British writers: Gary McNair, from Glasgow, and James Fritz, from London.
The fund, launched in May 2017, is dedicated to the commission and development of "innovative" English-language works from playwrights around the globe. Its aim is to enable the creation of one- and two-person audio plays in line with its brand values to "elevate listening experiences through powerful performances of brilliantly composed words".
Audible selected the first recipients of the grant in collaboration with an advisory board of theatre talents including Sir Tom Stoppard, Annette Bening, David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, Lynn Nottage, Trip Cullman, Mimi O’Donnell and Leigh Silverman.
Among the first class of commissions is McNair, a playwright, director and performer based in Glasgow, whose 2017 Fringe First award-winning Letters to Morrissey is the third in a trilogy of darkly comic works drawing on "the joys and struggles of growing up in working class Scotland".
Fritz, also in the first group of grant recipients, is a playwright from London whose first full-length play, Four Minutes Twelves Seconds premiered at Hampstead Theatre in 2014 and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Most recently, in 2017, his radio play Comment is Free won both the Imison and the Tinniswood Awards at the BBC Audio Drama Awards, marking the first time that a single writer has won both awards the same year.
In addition to financial support, Audible will provide the selected playwrights "creative and logistical resources" including the use of Audible’s workspace and access to its staff of experts it said it hoped would provide "a nurturing environment that inspires and encourages artistic expression with Audible listeners in mind". The fund will also support live and in-studio production of the newly created plays, with recordings of these productions to be made available for Audible listeners in 2018.
"We are delighted to welcome our first class of talented playwrights to the Audible aesthetic, and look forward to bringing their words in performance to theatregoers along with our millions of listeners," said Audible founder and c.e.o. Don Katz.
Theatre artistic director Kate Navin said: "What an incredibly impressive first class of exciting and diverse playwrights to receive commissions from Audible playwright fund. We look forward to developing and supporting the creation of these works and to bringing them to life both in audio and on stage. Offering these productions on Audible will bring these plays to millions of people as incomparable listening experiences."
In addition to McNair and Fritz, the full first class of commissions goes to: Aaron Mark, a Texas-born, New York-based artist; Aditi Brennan Kapil, a multi-disciplinary artist, of Bulgarian and Indian descent, who was raised in Sweden; New York-based playwright Antoinette Nwandu; Bridgette A Wimberly, a poet, playwright and librettist whose work has been produced Off-Broadway and across the US; Chisa Hutchinson, from Newark, New Jersey; writer, actor and musician David Rossmer; James Anthony Tyler, who this year was presented with the third annual Dramatists Guild of America's Horton Foote Playwriting Award; Lauren Gunderson, claimed to be "the most produced playwright in America in 2017; Japanese American playwright Leah Nanako Winkler; Madhuri Shekar, whose most recent play Queen was produced at Victory Gardens in Chicago; Nassim Soleimanpour, a multidisciplinary theatre maker from Tehran, currently based in Berlin; Paola Lazaro, a playwright and actor born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Regina Taylor, the winner of four Washington, DC Helen Hayes awards.