PlayMakers awarded top NEA grant for upcoming season

PlayMakers producing artistic director Joe Haj

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded PlayMakers Repertory Company its largest grant given to a producing theater for a production in the upcoming season.

For the fifth year in a row, the NEA has recognized the professional theater company, which is based in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This year PlayMakers will receive an “Art Works” grant of $100,000, the highest in the country, to support the company’s productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Clybourne Park,” which will be presented together during the theater’s 2012-2013 season.

PlayMakers received NEA grants during its last four seasons, for productions of “The Making of a King: Henry IV & V” (2011-2012), “Big River” and “As You Like It” (2010-2011), “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” (2009-2010) and “Pericles” (2008-2009).

First produced in 1959, “A Raisin in the Sun,” Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama of family, race and dreams deferred, has become an acknowledged American masterpiece. “Raisin” will be directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges, artistic director of San Francisco’s Brava! Theater Center.  She also helmed “Topdog/Underdog” (2008) and “I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda” (2010) at PlayMakers.

Written in 2009 and taking up the story where “Raisin” leaves off, the wickedly insightful, bitingly funny “Clybourne Park” by Bruce Norris has been honored with the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is a nominee for the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play. “Clybourne Park” will be directed by Tracy Young, whose work has been called “true genius” by the Los Angeles Times.

The plays will be performed in rotating repertory Jan. 26 through March 3, 2013, at the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

Through the “Art Works” grant, PlayMakers will undertake an outreach program called “A Dream Deferred: Urban Development and Gentrification in Contemporary America.” Located in a community with two major research universities, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, PlayMakers will explore the challenges and benefits surrounding the economic and social relationships between these schools, the towns they inhabit and the communities they affect.

PlayMakers will hold a weekend seminar with UNC’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values developing a conversation with the University’s School of Information and Library Science which has done extensive research around home lending practices and race. PlayMakers will also partner with UNC’s Ackland Art Museum to produce an exhibit of visual arts on issues of gentrification.

Working with the Chapel Hill mayor’s office, the “Art Works” grant will underwrite a series of town hall-style forums to facilitate community dialogue on the gentrification of Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood. PlayMakers will also partner with local theater company Hidden Voices to present a photographic and video exhibit from a Hidden Voices production on the gentrification of Northside entitled “Because We’re Still Here and Moving.” In addition, PlayMakers will partner with North Carolina’s premier youth poetry organization, Sacrificial Poets, to host a poetry night examining issues of displacement, race, and identity. PlayMakers will host a community event with playwright Bruce Norris and celebrated Lorraine Hansberry scholar and professor Harry Elam of Stanford University discussing Hansberry’s legacy and her influence on the American theater.

“We are deeply honored by this award,” said PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj. “To receive such support from the NEA is an enormous acknowledgement of the art we are striving to create and the outreach we are doing to link our plays meaningfully to our community.”

The NEA, based in Washington, D.C., is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.

For information on PlayMakers’ 2012-2013 season and upcoming special events, visit or call (919) 962-PLAY (7529). A variety of season ticket packages are available.