John Clinton Eisner Retires as Founding Artistic Director of The Lark

Presenters Oskar Eustis, John Clinton Eisner, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree Rajiv Joseph, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright honoree David Henry Hwang, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree Annie Baker and presenter John Guare at the at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York on November 18, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

New York, NY—The Lark, an international play development laboratory dedicated to amplifying the voices of playwrights, announces that founder John Clinton Eisner is retiring after 27 years as Artistic Director, with the intent to hand over leadership to a new generation of theatrical talents. Founded in 1994, The Lark was established as a playwright-centric, artist-guided laboratory for new play development and a platform for free expression and rigorous experimentation, and a counterpoint to the prevailing commodity-based culture of theater. Eisner announced his intentions to step down in January 2020, and through a search process which included a committee comprised of Lark artists, staff, and board, a new Artistic Director was selected in January 2021, to be announced next month.

Omar Metwally, Rajiv Joseph, Arian Moayed, Krissy Shields, John Clinton Eisner and Victor Maog. Photo by Lia Chang

“It is a critical moment of inflection both inside and outside The Lark, and we’ve used the time during the pandemic to hold space for our affiliated artists and align our mission and values with our plans for the future,” said Eisner. “I am delighted and energized by the search committee’s choice. What we imagined in soft focus a year ago has become tangible through the collaborative action of this group of stakeholders who care deeply about The Lark and its community. This is a consequential moment of passage for the organization and the artists we serve.”

John Clinton Eisner, Lisa Rothe, Jeanne Sakata and Joel de la Fuente. Photo by Lia Chang

“John Clinton Eisner has laid a foundation for play development that has served so many, including me,” said The Lark’s Executive Director Stacy Waring. “It is a legacy befitting of this moment in history and it is an honor to continue the work of liberation and access for playwrights.”

During Eisner’s tenure, The Lark established new initiatives and programs each meant to support the development of new plays and the playwrights who write them. The inaugural Playwrights’ Week in 1995 revealed a field-wide need to support new voices, thus spurring the organization to focus on new play development. The Lark continued to evolve to be entirely playwright-centric, and today prioritizes voices that have been historically under-resourced and marginalized through an acclaimed portfolio of fellowships that support artists at all stages of their careers including the Apothetae and Lark Playwriting Fellowship and Initiative, the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, which supports playwrights of color aged 30 and under, and the Venturous Fellowship, supporting risk-taking plays. 

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

“John Eisner created and guided The Lark to become a vanguard organization, empowering playwrights when our plays were in danger of being over-developed by theaters and facilitating international exchange when few other organizations supported this work,” said Lark Board member and playwright David Henry Hwang. “Now, The Lark is transforming to meet the needs of today, by welcoming exciting new leadership which will help guide post-pandemic theater to greater artistic excellence through equity, diversity and inclusion. We are deeply grateful to John for his service, vision, and hard work, and wish him well on his next creative chapter. He remains an inspiration to us all.”

Lia Chang Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards 

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