American playwrights Tracey Scott Wilson and Lynn Nottage each won $50,000 from the Joyce Foundation to develop new plays that will premiere in the Twin Cities, it was announced Wednesday.
Nottage’s “Reading Play” will have its first performance at the Guthrie Theater. She wrote it after interviewing residents of Reading, Penn., which is ranked as the poorest city in the country. Nottage did similar interviews with women in war-torn Congo for her Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Ruined.”
Wilson’s “Prep,” a play about a group of teachers changing their students’ test scores to receive yearly bonuses, will open at Pillsbury House Theatre. Wilson’s previous play with Pillsbury House, “Buzzer,” is scheduled to open soon at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
“Her new play will confront tough issues in a school setting,” said Faye Price, co-artistic producing director at Pillsbury House. “We don’t have a way to speak about issues surrounding race — people take it personally. But the play will be true to our mission and form.”
Other Joyce Award winners this year include New York-based composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery, and dancer-choreographer Camille A. Brown.
The Chicago-based Joyce Foundation gives its annual arts awards to artists of color in six Midwestern cities. In the past two years, the Twin Cities has taken five awards. Last year’s winners included St. Paul painter Seitu Jones.
“The Twin Cities are just rocking it,” said Angelique Power, senior program officer at the Joyce. “I don’t think people have a real appreciation of the rich diversity of artists in Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
The Joyce seeks to “improve the quality of life in the Great Lakes region” and to “level the playing field” in culture, Power said. Thus, she said, there’s a focus on artists of color.
“These awards empower artists,” she said. “They go to organizations and seek partnerships to get their works out there. It helps to create more space in the larger culture of creativity.”
In February, Power will be in the Twin Cities to talk with artists of color who may be interested in getting more info about the foundation.