For the second year in a row, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has honored the professional theater company based in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This year the NEA has chosen PlayMakers to receive a $30,000 “Access to Artistic Excellence Grant” in support of the theater’s Nov. 11-Dec. 20 production of “Nickleby.”

“We are honored to receive this grant recognizing PlayMakers’ dedication to the highest artistic standards as we take on a theatrical event of the scale of ‘Nicholas Nickleby,'” said PlayMakers’ producing artistic director Joseph Haj.

The play by David Edgar, from the novel by Charles Dickens, will be the biggest production in PlayMakers’ history, with 25 actors playing more than 150 characters.

In conjunction with the production, PlayMakers will launch an in-depth outreach program called The Dickens Initiative: From the Page to the Stage/Literature and the Art of Theatre. The initiative will focus on literacy through the rich, timeless storytelling of Charles Dickens, partnering with libraries, schools, book clubs, university and civic organizations throughout the Triangle.

An array of community events will be part of the initiative, including a week in residence by playwright David Edgar with a master class and public lecture, and a series of presentations in conjunction with the Durham County Library on PlayMakers’ production and the challenges of literary adaptation.

For information on PlayMakers’ 2009-2010 season and details about upcoming events and opportunities to participate in The Dickens Initiative, visit www.playmakersrep.org or call (919) 962-PLAY (7529). A variety of subscription packages are available, with discounts for students, seniors and youth.

“Nicholas Nickleby” Web site: http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/

PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 428-1744, cmahan@email.unc.edu College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093, spurrk@email.unc.edu