The Sundance Institute Theater Program announced today that it has selected Lemon Andersen as the recipient of a $4,500 commission to complete his new play, “ToasT.” The grant represents a partnership with The Public Theater’s Under The Radar (UTR) and is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Andersen’s play follows convicted murderer Willie Green, or folklore hero “Dolomite.” Imprisoned with other folklore characters including Jesse James, Voodoo Queen, Stackolee and Hard Rock, Dolomite must decide whether or not to join his fellow inmates in a rumored prison riot or resist in the hopes of awaiting a promised parole date.
“ToasT” was first developed at the 2011 Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat in Wyoming. UTR provided Andersen with a grant to attend the retreat.
“UTR realized the importance of supporting this artist and his project, and their initial funds enabled Andersen to participate in the retreat where ToasT was born,” said Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, in a statement. “We’re pleased to deepen our relationship with UTR through this commission.”
Full release below:
Sundance Institute Theatre Program Awards New Play Commission Funds Allow Playwright Lemon Andersen to Complete ToasT
New York, NY — The Sundance Institute Theatre Program has awarded a commission to playwright Lemon Andersen for completion of his new play, ToasT. The $4,500 commission represents a portion of support for Mr. Andersen, complementing his residency last season at the Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat at Ucross Foundation. The grant represents a partnership with The Public Theater’s Under The Radar (UTR), which is also contributing to Mr. Lemon’s work, and is supported by a 2008-2011 grant to the Theatre Program from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Andersen began developing ToasT while at the 2011 Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat at Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. Andersen received a grant from UTR to attend the Retreat, where Sundance Institute provided travel, accommodations and creative support.
“UTR realized the importance of supporting this artist and his project, and their initial funds enabled Andersen to participate in the Retreat where ToasT was born,” said Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program. “We’re pleased to deepen our relationship with UTR through this commission. The model we’re exploring here, of collaborating with a like-minded organization to further the development of special projects, holds enormous potential for our program, moving forward, and is yet another example of how we support artists throughout the different stages of their creative process.”
ToasT is about Willie Green, also known as “Dolomite,” the famous folklore hero from the old Black Narratives. In the play, convicted murderer Dolomite has spent the last 27 years in prison with his cellmates and other folklore heroes like Jesse James, Hobo Ben, Voodoo Queen, Shine the Stoker, Stackolee and Hard Rock. As rumors of an impending riot within the prison spread, Dolomite and his cellmates must decide whether to join the riot or resist, in hopes of a promised parole date and the chance to taste freedom. The title of the play refers to an art form of reciting poetry based on characters and situations driven from the Black experience.
Andersen is an original cast member of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on Broadway and he has the most aired episodes on HBO’s Def Poetry. Shakespearean trained at the Public Theater, his film acting credits include The Soloist, The Son Of No One, Miracle At St. Anna, Sucker Free City, She Hate Me and Inside Man. His theater credits include Slanguage, which was directed by Jo Bonney and premiered at the New York Theater Workshop. He is currently touring County of Kings, which was produced by Spike Lee and the Culture Project at the Public Theater. His poetry has been featured on radio spots, print ads and the limited edition ABSOLUT BROOKLYN. Lemon was born, raised, and currently resides in Brooklyn.
Under the supervision of Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director, and Associate Director Christopher Hibma, the Theatre Program hosts creative Labs throughout the year and around the world, including the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at Sundance Resort (submissions accepted through November 15 at http://www.sundance.org/theatreapp), Theatre Lab at White Oak for musicals and ensemble-generated/devised projects (by invitation only), Playwrights Retreat at Ucross Foundation (by invitation only) and Sundance Institute East Africa.