Cutting Ball Theater Announces $166,000 Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
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by BWW News Desk
San Francisco's cutting-edge Cutting Ball Theater announces that the company has been awarded a grant for $166,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a three-year residency for resident playwright Andrew Saito. The grant will give Saito a full time salary and health benefits at Cutting Ball for the entire three years, with options to receive additional developmental funds. The grant is Cutting Ball's largest grant to date.
As part of Saito's residency, Cutting Ball Theater will present the World Premiere of KRISPY KRITTERS IN THE SCARLETT NIGHT, a poetic portrayal of the heart of the city in the spirit of Alan Ginsburg's Howl, William S. Burroughs, and the plays of Suzan-Lori Parks. KRISPY KRITTERS IN THE SCARLETT NIGHT dazzles with sublime, surreal language and images fit for a Dalí painting in a play about love and longing in the neglected neighborhoods of a fictional city. At the center is Scarlett, a woman who takes care of her grandmother by pulling wild animals out of her ears and letting them loose in her backyard menagerie. She makes her living as best she can off of the dreams and desires of married men who are willing to sacrifice everything for her. Drumhead, a lowly morgue worker with a wild imagination, comes across a carnival poster boasting of the wonders of Scarlett and can't get her out of his head. He too has a relative to care for: his Navy veteran father who lost his legs in a war and spends his days reenacting great battles in the bathtub. KRISPY KRITTERS IN THE SCARLETT NIGHT follows these seeming misfits on their journey to find each other. Artistic Director Rob Melrose helms the production, (May 17-June 16), which was workshopped during Cutting Ball's 2011 RISK IS THIS...festival.
Additionally, During Saito's residency time at Cutting Ball, the company plans to produce an additional World Premiere main stage production penned by Saito, develop two commissioned plays and two translations. Cutting Ball will commission a piece that adapts and responds to Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and Mt. Misery, a play about the plantation where Frederick Douglas was held as a slave, and which, a century later, was purchased by Donald Rumsfeld, which traces their imagined interactions across time. The company is also committed to developing Saito's play Stegosaurus (or) Our Golden Years, and other plays he would like to work on as resident playwright.
As part of Cutting Ball Theater's commitment to new experimental works for the stage, the company has provided commissions and developmental workshops for playwrights, and annually produces RISK IS THIS . . . The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival, one of the only play festivals in America solely dedicated to experimental works for the stage. Cutting Ball has developed innovative plays by such acclaimed writers as Marcus Gardley, Liz Duffy Adams, Eugenie Chan, Christine Evans, and Kevin Oakes, playwrights Cutting Ball championed early in their careers, and who went on to have their respective works produced by theaters including Arena Stage, American Repertory Theater, Magic Theatre, The Women's Project, and The Flea Theater.
Cutting Ball Theater presents the latest edition of the adventurous RISK IS THIS . . . The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival January 11 through February 9, offering a unique opportunity to see plays in development, alongside the artists creating them, as the works find their theatrical voice. This year's festival features three new works (Superheroes, written and directed by Sean San José, Passing by Dipika Guha, Sidewinders by Basil Kreimendahl) and two new "Risk Translations" (Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, in a new translation by Rob Melrose; Insect Play by the ?apek brothers, in a new translation by Bennett Fisher) in staged readings. Free and open to the public.
"I can hardly contain my excitement with the news that Cutting Ball and Andrew Saito received this extremely competitive national three-year playwright residency from the Mellon Foundation. This is obviously a life-changer for any young playwright, but it is also going to have an enormous impact on Cutting Ball as well. We are grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of experimental theater," said Cutting Ball Artistic Director Rob Melrose.
Continued Melrose, "Andrew Saito's writing is some of the most evocative, innovative writing we have come across in our 13-year history. What interests me most about Andrew is his wild imagination and his deep commitment to community and social justice. We could not have imagined a better fit for our next playwright in residence. Andrew is influenced by Suzan-Lori Parks, Marcus Gardley, and Will Eno; all playwrights Cutting Ball has produced and whom Andrew first experienced at our theater early in his career. He is deeply versed in the history of the avant garde and one of the most exciting experimental playwrights writing today. I am really looking forward to working with him and dreaming with him about what it means to be an excellent, forward-thinking theater in this day and age."
"Of the many theaters I admire, Cutting Ball resonates most powerfully with my aesthetics and purposes as a playwright," said Andrew Saito. "Rob Melrose's invitation to work as a full-time playwright-in-residence is a tremendous honor, and comes within a year of finishing graduate school, a pivotal time in my career. This residency will transform my work. I thank Cutting Ball for the trust and faith they place in me with this tremendous opportunity. Cutting Ball is home to artists interested in challenging themselves and deepening their work. With each play, I try something new; Cutting Ball pushes me to evolve, tackle the unprecedented, and grow new and unforeseen artistic strengths."
Rob Melrose is the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Cutting Ball Theater and works nationally as a freelance director. He has directed at the Guthrie Theater (Happy Days, Pen, Julius Caesar - with The Acting Company); Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Troilus and Cressida - in association with The Public Theater), Magic Theatre (An Accident, World Premiere); PlayMakers Rep (Happy Days); California Shakespeare Theater (Villains, Fools, and Lovers); Black Box Theatre (The Creature, World Premiere); Actors' Collective (Hedda Gabler); The Gamm Theatre (Creditors); and Crowded Fire Theater (The Train Play), among others. Directing credits at Cutting Ball include Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep, Pelleas & Melisande, the Bay Area Premiere of Will Eno's Lady Grey (in ever lower light); The Tempest; The Bald Soprano; Victims of Duty; Bone to Pick and Diadem (World Premiere); Endgame; Krapp's Last Tape; The Taming of the Shrew; Macbeth; Hamletmachine; As You Like It; The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World; Mayakovsky: A Tragedy; My Head Was a Sledgehammer; Roberto Zucco; The Vomit Talk of Ghosts (World Premiere); The Sandalwood Box; Pickling; Ajax for Instance; Helen of Troy (World Premiere); and Drowning Room (World Premiere). Translations include No Exit, Woyzeck, Pelléas and Mélisande, The Bald Soprano, and Ubu Roi. He is a recipient of the NEA / TCG Career Development Program award for directors. Melrose has a B.A. in English and Theater from Princeton University and an M.F.A. in directing from the Yale School of Drama. He has taught at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, USF, the University of Rhode Island, and Marin Academy. He is currently translating Ionesco's The Chairs for Cutting Ball's upcoming March production.
Andrew Saito has created more than 15 plays over the past 11 years, ranging from the intimate one-act she & he, to his 13-actor play Landless, to the multi-disciplinary Nuestra Señora de las Enfermedades, a collaboration with performance artist Violeta Luna, visual artist Adrián Arias, musician David Molina, poet Milta Ortiz, and director Lakin Valdez. Awarded an Iowa Arts Fellowship at the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, Saito has taught playwriting and poetry to immigrant and underserved youth in San Francisco with WritersCorps and Performing Arts Workshop, in rural Mayan villages in Guatemala, and at Kearney Street Workshop's Intergenerational Writers Lab. A Resident Playwright at the Playwrights Foundation and a Core Apprentice at the Playwrights Center of Minneapolis, Saito's work has been developed at Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Asian American Theater Company, Mixed Phoenix Theatre in New York, and presented by Intersection for the Arts, the Magic Theatre, Montalvo Arts Center, and Brava Theater, among others. He was a finalist for New Dramatists, the Princess Grace Award in playwriting, and a Jerome Fellowship, and was awarded a 2012 Fulbright Fellowship to continue his writing about and research of marginalized communities in Papua New Guinea.
The Performing Arts program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks to support institutions that contribute to the development and preservation of their art form, provide creative leadership in solving problems or addressing issues unique to the field, and which present the highest level of institutional performance. The Foundation's grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, developing thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and investing sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish and achieve meaningful results.
Co-founded in 1999 by theater artists Rob Melrose and Paige Rogers, Cutting Ball Theater presents avant-garde works of the past, present, and future by re-envisioning classics, exploring seminal avant-garde texts, and developing new experimental plays. Cutting Ball Theater has partnered with Playwrights Foundation, and the Magic Theatre/Z Space New Plays Initiative to commission new experimental works. The company has produced a number of World Premieres, West Coast Premieres, and re-imagined various classics. Cutting Ball received the 2008 San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie award for outstanding talent in the performing arts, and was voted "Best Theater Company" in the 2010 San Francisco Bay Guardian Best of the Bay issue. The company also earned the Best of SF award in 2006 and "Best Experimental Theater Company" in 2012 from SF Weekly, and was selected by San Francisco magazine as Best Classic Theater in 2007. Cutting Ball Theater was featured in the February 2010 and 2012 issues of American Theatre Magazine.
For more information about Cutting Ball Theater, RISK IS THIS..., or for tickets to upcoming productions, the public can visit cuttingball.com or call 415-525-1205.