By his own admission, Harrison David Rivers stumbled into playwriting. After graduating from Kenyon College, the native of Manhattan, Kan., moved to San Francisco, where he was working as a costume designer. One day, something otherworldly began to happen.
“I started hearing voices in my head,” he said. “I thought I was going crazy.”
Rivers called his mother back home. She did not refer him to a therapist, in part because she knew her son well.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you write the voices down?’ ” he said. “I did. And that became my first play, ‘Prophet’s Wife.’ I thank her for that.”
Rivers has 25,000 reasons to thank his mother. He has won a McKnight fellowship in playwriting. The award comes with a $25,000 purse, plus $3,900 in support funds.
Rivers, who moved to the Twin Cities a year ago on a Jerome Foundation Many Voices fellowship, is one of two winners of the McKnight, which is administered by the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. Twin Cities-based playwright Carson Kreitzer was also named a McKnight winner — for the third time.
Kreitzer’s plays include “The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer” and “Behind the Eye.” She was recently in New York for a reading of her new play, “South Street Annie,” directed at the New York Theatre Workshop by Elyse Singer.
“The freelance life is about cobbling together bits and pieces and you’re never sure how long the balance with hold,” said Kreitzer by phone from Manhattan. “An award like this gives you stability and the time to do the deep thinking that an artist needs. I can’t thank the McKnight and Jerome foundations enough for being such a huge part of my trajectory as an artist.”
Jerome fellowships, more
The fellowships are part of a flurry of awards to playwrights announced by the Playwrights’ Center, which is instrumental in the development of works for stages nationwide. In total, the announced awards carry $150,000 in cash prizes.
Four emerging playwrights have each won a Jerome Foundation fellowship of $16,000. They are Ryan Campbell, who earned a master of fine arts degree at Yale; Basil Kreimendahl, a resident of New Dramatists in New York; Andrew Rosendorf, who earned an MFA at the New School, and actor-turned-playwright Keliher Walsh.
Additionally, Erik Ehn of Providence, R.I., has been named as the McKnight national resident playwright, which comes with $14,000 in commissioning funds and $5,750 for workshops plus housing and travel stipends. Ehn is artistic director of Tenderloin Opera Company and director of writing for performance at Brown University.