Mixed Blood Theatre and Ten Thousand Things are two of 14 theater companies nationwide that will be able to hire full-time playwrights for three years under a Mellon Foundation grant.

Minneapolis is the only city outside of New York to have two companies chosen for the project. The three-year grants are for roughly $175,000 to $200,000 to cover salaries and benefits.

Qui Nguyen, co-founder of the Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company of New York, will write a series of pieces for Mixed Blood's main stage, as well as the theater's touring and inclusion programs. He also will represent Mixed Blood's new play efforts nationally. Qui's work has been read in the Twin Cities, but he has not had a full production of one of his plays. The Vampire Cowboys are an Obie Award-winning company for which Qui has written a number of scripts. He's also written for East West Players, the prominent Asian-American theater company based in Los Angeles.

Ten Thousand Things will use its grant to hire Kira Obolensky, a longtime Minneapolis playwright who has written two pieces -- "Raskol" and "Vasa Lisa" -- for the company. Under the Mellon grant, Obolensky will write three plays, including one community-based piece with director Lear deBessonet, a frequent Ten Thousand Things collaborator. She also will help artistic director Michelle Hensley write a book about the work of the company, which is known for taking productions to nontraditional audiences in prisons and homeless shelters.

The Mellon initiative totals $3.7 million and aims to support playwrights' work, and to illustrate to the theatrical field the value of having writers embedded with troupes. Companies were invited to apply with particular playwrights in mind.

The Center for the Theater Commons, based at Emerson College in Boston, will track and evaluate the results of the program. Polly Carl, who headed the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, is now director of the Theater Commons.

Nationally, the list included four other names with Twin Cities connections. Julie Marie Myatt, who had work produced at the Guthrie, will work with South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif.; Pearl Cleage, whose work has been performed at Penumbra Theatre, will be attached to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta; Will Power, with credits at Children's Theatre Company, will work at Dallas Theater Center, and Marcus Gardley, whose play "Dance of the Holy Ghosts" was read at the Playwrights' Center last year, will be at Victory Gardens in Chicago.

Others are: Melinda Lopez, Central Square Theatre, Boston; David Adjmi, at Soho Repertory Theatre, New York; Luis Alfaro, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore.; Nathan Louis Jackson, Kansas City (Mo.) Repertory Theatre; Dan LeFranc, Playwrights Horizons, New York; Peter Nachtrieb, Z Space, San Francisco; Robert O'Hara, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299