Working Theater has announced the first recipients of the Mark Plesent Commission Fund, established to honor the legacy and vision of the Company’s artistic leader of 27 years.
The Fund, conceived with Mark Plesent before his passing in February 2021, will support commission and development of new plays by working people– in particular, those who have not had the privilege or the resources to self-identify or support themselves professionally as artists, but who have shown extraordinary talent, consistency of practice and a commitment to writing within the mission of Working Theater. Mark recognized that many within the communities that Working Theater serves are storytellers themselves. This commission will provide mentorship, financial, and developmental support to writers who are deserving of an audience.
The Mark Plesent Commission Fund’s inaugural recipients are Carlos Cotto and John Keane, both longtime Working Theater community members and TheaterWorks! Program alumni. The Fund will support these writers as they work alongside professional Playwright mentors to develop and write their first commissioned works for the theater. Maggie Diaz Bofill, playwright and NY Times critics pick for her play Drawn and Quartered, will join Carlos Cotto, whose past plays lean into magical realism in environments inspired by his job as a union porter. Lucy Thurber, who wrote the award-winning play cycle The Hill Town Plays, will join John Keane, who has been a committed playwright in the TheaterWorks! writing program for over four years and is currently pursuing a Liberal Arts degree from CUNY Hostos.
Information about public readings and performances of the commissioned works will be announced later in Working Theater’s season.
“Mark believed in the importance of breaking down barriers between everyday people and art-making. His many deep friendships with playwrights and directors began because he was so often the first to support their notions of themselves as artists. Mark recognized Carlos and John’s extraordinary talents and he wanted them to know we were willing to invest in them taking a step towards their dreams,” said Tamilla Woodard, co-Artistic Director and Laura Monarque, Managing Director. “As we move Mark’s vision forward, we believe it is imperative that the Company continues to create access for artists from all backgrounds. And we share Mark’s joy in discovering and nurturing the artist in all of us.”
Working Theater is committed to raising $150,000 to support the commission of two writers annually for the next ten years. Since its announcement on March 8th, the Fund has raised $55,000 and, with the support of many, is on track to continue the legacy that Mark has left behind.
Carlos Cotto’s childhood centered around two iconic NYC neighborhoods where he was born and raised, Harlem and Washington Heights. Growing up in a bilingual household, his love of stories began with a mix of telenovelas and primetime TV shows. Employed as a vacation relief porter right out of high school, Carlos was formally introduced to theater by Working Theater and its TheaterWorks! program. The program helped cultivate his love for magical realism which is now a defining feature of many of his plays. From a mayfly’s first day on the job to a doorman’s fever dream battle with a pickle jar, his plays joyfully expand on the surreal nature of a service worker’s livelihood. Carlos was featured in Working Theater’s “Best of TheaterWorks” production off-Broadway in 2020.
John Keane was born and raised in the Bronx NY and currently resides in Westchester county. He has been a member of 32BJ for nineteen years and works on the upper east side of Manhattan. John has had a lifelong interest in art, photography and writing. He has written four short 10-20 minute plays in the last four years.
John is a first generation Irish-American and his writing is heavily influenced by the music, songs, stories and people he grew up around. John is currently enrolled at CUNY Hostos and is pursuing a degree in liberal arts.
Maggie Diaz Bofill is a writer and actor living in New York City. She is a founding member of LAByrinth, and is also a member of Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), The Playwright Director’s Unit at The Actor’s Studio and The Dorset Theater Festival’s Women Artists Writing Group. Her produced plays include: WINNER (Ensemble Studio Theater, Dir. Pam Berlin, Special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Season at EST); DRAWN AND QUARTERED (INTAR Theatre, Dir. Lou Moreno, NY Times Critic’s Pick); FACE CREAM and EL GRANDE (EST One-Act Marathons); SWIPE the musical (Tribeca Arts Center, Dir. Lori Kee).
Lucy Thurber is the author of twelve plays. Her five play cycle THE HILL TOWN PLAYS was produced Off-Broadway by Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater in conjunction with The Cherry Lane Theater, The Axis Theater and The New Ohio Theatre. Lucy’s theatrical homes are Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater, The Atlantic Theater,
LAByrinth Theater, New Dramatists and The Lark where they have produced and supported her. Lucy is published by Dramatists Play Service. She is an alumni of New Dramatists, a member of 13P, LAByrinth Theater Company, Rising Phoenix Rep and New Neighborhood. Lucy has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, The Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Houses on The Moon, Yale Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, A.C.T. and Steppenwolf Theatre. She is the recipient of Manhattan Theatre Club Playwriting Fellowship, the first Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting, a proud recipient of a LILLY AWARD, an OBIE Award for THE HILL TOWN PLAYS and The Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwriting Award. She has written for SWEETBITTER on STARZ and is a writer/producer on AMC’s NOS4A2 and Amazon’s OUTER RANGE. She has written screenplays for Debra Granik and Rachel Weisz and Maven. Lucy has upcoming projects with AMC, HBO, Nanette Burstein and Sarah Paulson. www.theworkingtheater.org