For immediate use: Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PlayMakers awarded dual NEA grants for Shakespeare outreach

PlayMakers Repertory Company has been awarded two national arts grants for its staging of a Shakespearean epic during the upcoming season.

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

This year PlayMakers will receive an “Access to Artistic Excellence Grant” of $100,000 to support the company’s two-part production of “The Making of a King: Henry IV & Henry V” from the works of William Shakespeare.

This award is the largest given by the NEA to any professional theater for a production planned in the upcoming season. Only New York’s Lincoln Center Theater and The Goodman Theatre in Chicago also garnered grants of this size.

The PlayMakers production also will receive a $25,000 grant from the NEA and Arts Midwest in support of education programs for “The Making of a King” as part of the “Shakespeare for a New Generation” program, which supports Shakespeare productions and related educational activities by professional theater companies.

PlayMakers received NEA grants during its last three seasons, for productions of “Big River” and “As You Like It” (2010-2011), “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” (2009-2010) and “Pericles” (2008-2009).

“The Making of a King: Henry IV & Henry V” will be directed by PlayMakers’ producing artistic director Joseph Haj. Acclaimed actor Michael Winters, who appeared at PlayMakers as King Lear (2004) will play the role of Falstaff. MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Jennifer Tipton will design the lighting. The plays will be performed in repertory Jan. 28 through March 4, 2012, at the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

Through the “Access to Artistic Excellence” grant, PlayMakers will undertake an outreach program called Breaking History: Power, Politics, and the Legacy of War, exploring themes of war, loyalty and leadership through the lens of “Henry IV” and “Henry V,” two of the Bard’s war-themed plays.

The initiative will connect the plays to North Carolina’s military population at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C., along with regional peace and justice organizations, putting these groups in dialogue with one another. PlayMakers will perform scenes from the plays in Fayetteville and host roundtable discussions on the experiences of military personnel.

PlayMakers will also hold a weekend seminar with UNC’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values, including military veterans and university scholars. As the culmination of the initiative, PlayMakers will host a community forum with military personnel, peace and social justice activists, and veterans joining with theater patrons in a conversation about America’s military culture.

The “Access to Artistic Excellence” grant also underwrites a special event with best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, who will come to PlayMakers for a community forum discussing the themes of the plays through the prism of his book, “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2002), which explores America’s cultural addiction to war.

Through the “Shakespeare for a New Generation” program, PlayMakers is able to provide free tickets to educational matinees for students and their teachers from schools in the Triangle and surrounding counties. PlayMakers will also create and distribute study guides and learning materials, send teaching artists into schools and host a teacher in-service event in collaboration with the UNC Program in the Humanities and Human Values and the NC Civic Education Consortium. Schools benefiting will particularly include those identified as underserved in arts education due to lack of access, geographically or economically.

“We are deeply honored by these grants,” Haj said. “To receive such support from the NEA is an enormous acknowledgement of the art we are striving to create and the outreach we are doing to link our plays meaningfully to our community.”

The NEA, based in Washington, D.C., is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.

Arts Midwest, based in Minneapolis, connects people to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge and understanding across boundaries.

For information on PlayMakers’ 2011-2012 season and upcoming special events, visit www.playmakersrep.org or call (919) 962-PLAY (7529). A variety of subscription packages are available.

PlayMakers is the Carolinas’ premier resident professional theater company. New York’s Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatres in America.”

PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu