Jan 182015

New Programs Will Support Southern California Playwrights
Humanitas / CTG Annual Prize of $5,000 to be Awarded for Best New Unproduced Play
and $5,000 Given to Local Theatre for Production Support
PLAY LA Will Also Help Develop Up to Five New Plays a Year

CTG, Center Theatre Group

Humanitas, which has for years given budding television writers a leg up through its New Voices mentorship initiative, will now add support for locally based playwrights through PLAY LA, a new program launched in collaboration with Center Theatre Group (CTG). The announcement was made jointly by Humanitas President Ali LeRoi and CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie.

The annual Humanitas / CTG Playwriting Prize will be awarded to the best new unproduced play written by a Southern California-based emerging or mid-career writer. The playwright will receive a $5,000 cash prize and an additional $5,000 will be given to a local theatre to subsidize the play’s world-premiere production. Two runners-up will each be awarded a cash prize of $2,000.

The winning and runner-up plays will be developed with CTG’s literary staff, led by CTG’s Director of New Play Development Pier Carlo Talenti, and presented in professional readings in the spring of 2016 at CTG’s Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of a weekend celebration of new plays headlined by “Thanksgiving,” written by Humanitas Board of Directors Member John Sacret Young (“China Beach,” “The West Wing”).
Prize winners will be selected by a panel of noted Los Angeles theatre artists and CTG’s literary staff in conjunction with the Humanitas board of directors, trustees and executive director.

In addition, PLAY LA will develop up to five new plays written by local early- to mid-career writers interested in creating stage works from the ground up. Each playwright will receive a $1,500 stipend and access to advice from theatre, film and television professionals throughout the year.
The development of these PLAY LA plays will be overseen by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Shem Bitterman, founder of PlayLab at Los Angeles’ renowned Skylight Theatre. One play from PLAY LA will be featured as a workshop reading in the new, year-end PLAY LA weekend celebration of new plays at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

“As the capital of the global entertainment industry, Southern California boasts what is probably the largest concentration of talented new and established writers in the world,” said LeRoi. “PLAY LA aims to recognize the many gifted playwrights among them and to support production of their work in our hometown while also encouraging a new era of cross-pollination between the Hollywood community and the local theatre scene.”
“PLAY LA is an exciting and unprecedented collaboration between CTG, a national leader in the development and creation of new theatre works, and Humanitas, a non-profit with a 40-year history of awarding and celebrating the very best in film and television writing,” said Ritchie. “As partners we will be able to foster great new dramatic writing in all media.”
The creation of PLAY LA comes three years after the launch of Humanitas’ successful New Voices program, which pairs emerging writers with television veterans. Mentors have included Ali LeRoi, Alan Ball, Jason Katims, David Shore, Hart Hanson, Bill Lawrence, David Hudgins and Robin Swicord. So far, 20 writers have participated in the New Voices program.
“Over the past few years, Humanitas has expanded from honoring great work to helping foster great work,” observed Humanitas Executive Director Cathleen Young. “New Voices was a big step toward identifying and nurturing the next generation of television writers. I have complete confidence that PLAY LA will have a similar impact on emerging and mid-career playwrights.”

About Center Theatre Group
Center Theatre Group is Los Angeles’ leading non-profit theatre company, programming seasons at the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. In addition to providing theatre of the highest caliber to the vibrant, diverse communities of Southern California, CTG supports a significant number of arts education, community partnerships and play development initiatives.

About Michael Ritchie
Michael Ritchie is in his 10th season as CTG’s Artistic Director, and has led over 174 productions, including 39 world premieres, since his arrival in 2005. He has premiered six musicals that moved to Broadway: “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Curtains,” “13,” “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” “9 to 5: The Musical” and “Leap of Faith,” and the play “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” (a Pulitzer Prize finalist). In addition, Ritchie inaugurated CTG’s Artistic Development Program, designed to foster the development and production of new work.

About Shem Bitterman
Shem Bitterman has written over 30 produced plays and screenplays. Awards include; PEN USA Award (“Harm’s Way”), CBS/FDG New Play Program (“Iowa Boys”), Kennedy Center Fund For New American Plays (“Beijing Legends”), SCR California Playwrights Competition (“The Ramp”), LA Drama Critic Circle’s Ted Schmitt Award (“The Job”). His teleplay, “Betty & Coretta,” was nominated for a Humanitas. His film, “Whitney,” directed by Angela Bassett, airs on Lifetime in January. In 2011, Shem initiated the PlayLab at LA’s Skylight Theatre which has been responsible for mentoring more than 25 original plays from idea stage to completion.

About Humanitas
Since its inception in 1974, The Humanitas Prize has awarded over $3 million to more than 320 deserving television and motion picture writers whose work affirms the dignity of the human person, probes the meaning of life, and enlightens the use of human freedom. Humanitas exists to encourage, stimulate and sustain the nation’s screenwriters in their humanizing task, and to give them the recognition they deserve. The Humanitas Prize is funded by an endowment established through the generosity of individuals, networks, studios and foundations.
Winners of the Humanitas Prize have included David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”); Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”); Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”); Steve Levitan (“Modern Family,” “Frasier”); Ryan Murphy (“GLEE”); Robert & Michelle King (“The Good Wife”); David E. Kelley (“The Practice,” “Picket Fences”); Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting”); Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”); David Shore (“HOUSE”); Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”); Tim Robbins (“Dead Man Walking”); Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”); Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter (“WALL-E”); Aseem Batra (“Scrubs”); Nancy Oliver (“Lars and the Real Girl”); Eric Roth & Michael Mann (“The Insider”); Paul Haggis (“Crash’); Steven Bochco (“Hill Street Blues,” “NYPD Blue”); and Keir Pearson & Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”). For more information, please visit the Humanitas Prize at www.humanitasprize.org.