2018-19 McKnight Fellowship winners announced

The Playwrights’ Center announced today that Idris Goodwin, Tori Sampson and May Lee-Yang are the recipients of the 2018-19 McKnight National Residency and Commission and 2018-19 McKnight Fellowships in Playwriting. These writers are three of the 35-40 fellows and Core Writers who find an artistic home at the Playwrights’ Center each year.

The Center also supports more than 2,000 member playwrights living all over the world, develops around 70 new plays each year, and helps move plays from page to stage through a robust partnership program with producing theaters. “To have the longtime support of a visionary partner like the McKnight Foundation is both unique and extraordinary,” says Jeremy B. Cohen, producing artistic director at the Playwrights’ Center. “To have it align with nurturing three such brilliant playwrights reinforces the great new vision of theater in our country—a country that needs these voices now more than ever.”

Idris Goodwin — 2018-19 McKnight National Residency and Commission Recipient


Idris Goodwin

The McKnight National Residency and Commission funds the creation and development of new works and comes with a $15,000 commission, $5,750 in workshop funds, and travel and housing stipends. Past recipients include Kia Corthron, Erik Ehn, Kate Fodor, Karen Hartman, Daniel Alexander Jones, Sibyl Kempson, Craig Lucas, Taylor Mac, Ruth Margraff, Dan O’Brien, Betty Shamieh, Kathleen Tolan, Mfoniso Udofia, Francine Volpe and Mac Wellman.

The 2018-19 recipient is Idris Goodwin, an award-winning playwright, director, orator and educator who was a Playwrights’ Center Core Writer from 2013 to 2016. Goodwin has long been at the forefront of hip hop theater, with work such as his “breakbeat play” series. His play The Way The Mountain Moved — commissioned as part of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions Series and co-developed through the Playwrights’ Center’s partnership program—will receive its world premiere in the summer of 2018. Last month it was announced that Goodwin will become the producing artistic director of StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky.

Goodwin’s commissioned play for his McKnight National Residency and Commission—“a play that’s been whispering over my shoulder for a minute now,” he says—is titled Scarfoot Lives. It is a multigenerational play spanning 150 years, about an interconnected family of black creatives.

“I am honored. I am thrilled. And I am charged up!” Goodwin says about the residency and commission. “Ever since I first set foot into the Playwrights’ Center over 15 years ago, I knew it’s where I belonged. I leap at all opportunities to be within the walls of that building. This is the right play and the right time and now I have the right circumstances to spark its creation.”

 May Lee-Yang, Tori Sampson — 2018-19 McKnight Fellows in playwriting

The McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting awards two Minnesota-based playwrights a $25,000 stipend, $2,500 to support play development and other professional expenses, and $1,400 in travel funds. Past recipients include Carlyle Brown, Ping Chong, Migdalia Cruz, Lisa D’Amour, Steven Dietz, Barbara Field, Jeffrey Hatcher, Christina Ham, Carson Kreitzer, Melanie Marnich, Marion McClinton, Kira Obolensky, Harrison David Rivers, Paula Vogel, Mac Wellman and August Wilson.

May Lee Yang

The 2018-19 McKnight Fellows in Playwriting are May Lee-Yang and Tori Sampson.

May Lee-Yang is a writer, performance artist and teaching artist who was part of the Playwrights’ Center’s Many Voices program in 2002-03 and 2008-09. Her plays include Hmong-Lao Friendship Play or Lao-Hmong Friendship Play, Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman and The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity, which premieres July 27 at Theater Mu.

Lee-Yang says, “I’m excited about this fellowship because it will give me the luxury of time and resources to experiment, research and bring life to projects that don’t yet have a home.”

Tori Sampson is a 2017-18 Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. She is currently working on commissions for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre and Atlantic Theater Company.

Tori Sampson

Her plays include If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must be a Muhfucka (Playwrights Horizons 2019), This Land Was Made (Vineyard Theater 2018) and Cadillac Crew (Yale Repertory 2019).

Sampson says, “This fellowship means that I have another year of being a full-time playwright ahead of me!”

All Playwrights’ Center fellows and Core Writers are selected by diverse national panels of artists and theater leaders.

—Information provided by The Playwrights’ Center