Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards

David Henry Hwang, Michael A. Steinberg, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang, Michael A. Steinberg, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph. Photo by Lia Chang

Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honorees. Photo by Lia Chang

Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honorees. Photo by Lia Chang

On Monday, November 18, 2013, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honorees Rajiv Joseph and Annie Baker received “The Mimi,” a statuette designed by Tony Award-nominated scenic designer and architect David Rockwell, and checks for $50,000 from The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust at The 2013 Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards, held in Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York. The evening also paid tribute to the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Award recipient David Henry Hwang, whose Fall 2012 celebration was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.

Cocktails in the Vivian Beaumont Theater Lobby. Photo by Lia Chang

Cocktails in the Vivian Beaumont Theater Lobby. Photo by Lia Chang

The festivities kicked off with cocktails in the Vivian Beaumont Theater Lobby.

Presenters Oskar Eustis, John Clinton Eisner, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree Rajiv Joseph, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright honoree David Henry Hwang, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree Annie Baker and presenter John Guare. Photo by Lia Chang

Presenters Oskar Eustis, John Clinton Eisner, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree Rajiv Joseph, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright honoree David Henry Hwang, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree Annie Baker and presenter John Guare. Photo by Lia Chang

The event featured performances by Bradley Fong and Cole Horibe in David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu; Alex Hanna, Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher, Aaron Clifton Moten in Annie Baker’s The Flick; and Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed in Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at The Taj.

Attendees also include David Adjmi, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Susan Booth, John Clinton Eisner, Oskar Eustis, John Guare, Phillip Ettinger, Gideon Grody-Patinkin, Joshua Harmon, Todd London, William Ivey Long, Pam MacKinnon, Lesli Margherita, Lynne Meadow, Bruce Norris, Lynn Nottage, Neil Pepe, Molly Ranson, Bill Rauch, Scott Rudin, Raky Sastri, Jeremy Shamos and Michael Zegen.

BAD JEWS playwright Joshua Harmon and his cast Michael Zegen, Mollie Ranson and Phillip Ettinger. Photo by Lia Chang

BAD JEWS playwright Joshua Harmon and his cast Michael Zegen, Mollie Ranson and Phillip Ettinger. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeremy Shamos and Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeremy Shamos and Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang

Gideon Grody-Patinkin and Raky Sastri. Photo by Lia Chang

Gideon Grody-Patinkin and Raky Sastri. Photo by Lia Chang

Scott Rudin, Joanna C. Lee, David Henry Hwang and Ken Smith. Photo by Lia Chang

Scott Rudin, Joanna C. Lee, David Henry Hwang and Ken Smith. Photo by Lia Chang

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Public Theater, introduced an excerpt from David Henry Hwang’s new play, Kung Fu featuring Bradley Fong and Cole Horibe, directed by Leigh Silverman, which will have its world premiere at Signature Theatre in February, 2014.

Oskar Eustis. Photo by Lia Chang

Oskar Eustis. Photo by Lia Chang

Below are excerpts from Oskar’s introduction:
“He is the most important playwright of Chinese origin in the Western world. But that is just a small part of what David brings to the table. What he has done is to use the particular perspective that he has to make us understand something about boundaries.

Every great playwright has certain songs that they sing. Suzen-Lori Parks sings of freedom, Tony Kushner sings of justice, David Henry Hwang sings of power and boundaries. And the power of crossing boundaries.

And in all his plays from the very beginning, from FOB and Dance and the Railroad, through M. Butterfly; through Golden Child, all the way up to his new play, Kung Fu, which is going to delight audiences at the Signature Theatre this Spring, what David does is understand that ethnic identity is absolutely essential and yet insufficient determinant of human identity. It is his understanding of the dialectic of those two things that it is impossible to determine that identity doesn’t exist. In all of them, he has explored American identity.

In recent years he has become very interested in exploring international identity, as the sense of who we are has become more global.

He sings about the relationship between power and love. And the way those two things are sometimes together and sometimes in complete contradiction. And we have to sometimes choose between what we love and what gives us power. And that loving is a form of giving up power.

David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis and Kathryn Layng. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis and Kathryn Layng. Photo by Lia Chang

I am going to briefly talk about this through a synopsis of a play that hasn’t even been seen in New York. A one-act play called Bondage, which I deeply love, which is set in an S & M parlor on the outskirts of Encino, CA. It involves a man and a woman who throughout most of the play are dressed head to foot in black leather. And thus their race is completely uncertain. And they play with each other a series of bondage and discipline, S & M, sexual games, that depend on their assuming different racial identities with each other. It’s funny and smart, as you would expect from David’s work. It comes from a beautifully subversive angle of these issues that we talk about so much.

At the end of the day, what makes it a beautiful David Henry Hwang’s play; it makes you realize that these two people have fallen in love. In order to actually consummate that love, they are going to actually have to take off the leather, strip down to the skin, and expose themselves for who they are, not for what they are. Not for who they wish they were, not for who they pretend to be, and that image of removing your skin in order to reveal your identity is a beautiful image.

Oskar Eustis and Kathryn Layng. Photo by Lia Chang

Oskar Eustis and Kathryn Layng. Photo by Lia Chang

I have to say tonight, in the original production, David’s gorgeous wife Kathryn Layng played that part to perfection, and when she stripped down to her beautiful skin, we all fell in love with her.

It’s part of the key thing that David does in all of the plays, which is recognize that our desire to hold on to our identity, is part of our desire to hold on to our power. And that a true intimacy, and therefore a true newness, and therefore the future, only comes from letting go of that conviction that we know who we are, and recognizing that we actually don’t, and it’s only in relationship to each other that we discover that From that emerges not only the beautiful politics, but a really beautiful playwright. His achievement has been stupendous.

Cole Horibe, Bradley Fong and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Cole Horibe, Bradley Fong and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Kung Fu is about the life of Bruce Lee, that will open in February 2014 at the Signature Theatre.

David’s career began at the Public Theater, it has continued through 30 years at The Public Theater, and we couldn’t be prouder than to share David, as we have with other playwrights, with the Signature Theatre, which is an indispensable theater in New York. I am very proud of Jim Houghton, and what he has managed to create.

Bradley Fong and Cole Horibe. Photo by Lia Chang

Bradley Fong and Cole Horibe. Photo by Lia Chang

Bruce Lee, unable to get work as an actor in Hollywood, suffers a terrible back injury during his workout and is told he can never do martial arts again. His wife Linda has gone to support the family, leaving a powerless Bruce to take care of their son Brandon.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright honoree’s acceptance speech:

David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

“Thank you, Todd and Oskar. I suppose I am literally last year’s news. On the other hand, it means I get to have two Steinberg ceremonies in a way. I tried to get two checks, but that didn’t happen. I want to thank the Steinberg Board and the Advisory Committee, which have been so kind to think of me for this amazing honor. If you are going to be a victim of hurricane Sandy, the best possible thing to be is an Award Refugee. I want to thank Rajiv and Annie for letting me horn in on their evening.

There was an article recently in the Washington POST about the National Theater which talked about shows that had been at the National. M. Butterfly was one of the shows listed. We did our out-of-town tryout there before coming to Broadway. And in Washington, we got really bad reviews, the production was hemorrhaging money, and the producer, Stuart Ostrow, had to mortgage his house in order to get us to New York, where we kind of limped into town with an advance of $1.50, or something. For the first couple weeks of the production, I believe the cast had a betting pool about when the show would close.

David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

I remember that because it teaches me two lessons. Number one is that you never know what is going to be a hit. Which in a way is a good thing. Because if I did know what the formula was, I might be craven enough to just go and do that. But I don’t. So I am forced to fall back on writing what I really believe in. But this means, as a playwright, you have to arrange your life so that your work is not dependent on trying to game the system by trying to predict what is going to be a hit, critically or commercially. You have to arrange your life so can write the play you really believe in. That usually means taking other jobs, finding other ways to make a living, whether that’s writing film or television or musicals, or speaking in public. And the second lesson is that all playwrights fortunate enough to have a career, have been blessed by generous and brave supporters and angels. For instance, we wouldn’t have gotten to Broadway if Stuart Ostrow hasn’t made that sacrifice.

Both of these lessons are encompassed in this Steinberg Award gift. The support that it gives writers like myself is literally life changing. It allows me to arrange my life so I can spend the time on a piece like Kung Fu-writing it, developing it, putting it through workshops–without having to take another job to support myself. And certainly, it terms of supporters and angels, the Steinbergs have been proving themselves to be among the bravest supporters and most generous supporters of the American theater, to both institutions and individuals. I am the lucky recipient of that this year — and last year too.

Leigh Silverman and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Leigh Silverman and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

I want to thank the Steinbergs and all of the theaters and producers and critics and artists that I have had the pleasure to work with: directors, all the way back to Mako and John Dexter, up to Leigh Silverman, who directed the Kung Fu segment that you just saw, as well as the production. And my brave and generous producers, all the way back to Joe Papp, up to Oskar and Jim Houghton today.

Jim Houghton and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Jim Houghton and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Kathryn Layng. Photo by Lia Chang

Kathryn Layng. Photo by Lia Chang

And I want to thank my family. My wife Kathryn and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. She was in the original cast of M. Butterfly. And you’re not supposed to date your cast, but I think we’re the exception that proves the rule. I thank you for making our lives a work of art.

So I feel really lucky. I’m lucky because after thirty years, every day when I get up to pursue this profession of playwrighting, I’m still excited, I’m still happy, I’m still looking forward to what I get to do that day. Thank you all for giving me many more days, months and years, through this beautiful Award.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Playwright John Guare introduced a scene of Annie Baker’s The Flick, directed by Sam Gold, and featuring original cast members Alex Hanna, Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher and Aaron Clifton Moten.

Playwright John Guare. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright John Guare. Photo by Lia Chang

Below are excerpts from John’s introduction:
The Flick did what works of art do; it took full possession of time. For three breathless hours, she played with time, dallied with time, abstracted time, suspended time, the characters performed their mundane tasks as we watched them hypnotized, cleaning this movie theater, setting it up. The silence that she generated was like the silence in a Beckett play. Ohio impromptu. The silence was almost sacred. And then the play was over. Did three hours pass like the blink of an eye? You sat there and surrendered to her time, to Annie Baker time. I was slack jawed at the raveling/unraveling of these people’s lives.

Playwright John Guare. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright John Guare. Photo by Lia Chang

One can only hope that some smart theater historian is out there right now taking note that between 2009 and 2013, one of the great theater collaborations in American Theater history took place. Annie Baker met Sam Gold and together they produced four astonishing theater events in the space of four years. Even Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan in their heyday didn’t score that kind of quadrafecta.

Yet Annie Baker’s plays are the kind of play I don’t like. And yet I see her plays, and more than any other current playwright working, I cannot figure out how she does what she does. How she suspends times, keeps the thematic momentum plowing ahead. It’s a magic act. How does she do it? I don’t care. I just want to spend my time in her time. A successful theater production is one that wins the battle of time. Now during the run of The Flick, some people didn’t like that battle. Soon it will be time for Annie Baker to collect her check, which I hope and know will buy her time and also show her a good time.

Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher, Aaron Clifton Moten and Alex Hanna in a scene from Annie Baker's THE FLICK. Photo by Lia Chang

Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher, Aaron Clifton Moten and Alex Hanna in a scene from Annie Baker’s THE FLICK. Photo by Lia Chang

But first we’re going to see a scene from The Flick which follows the lives of the ushers that work at a rundown single screen movie theater in Wooster County, MA. Ten rows of movie theater seats face the actual audience, the fourth wall serving as the movie screen. Avery has just been hired and he and Sam are getting to know each other. Rose is the projectionist.”

Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree’s acceptance speech:

Playwright Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

“I’m really nervous. I came here with an enormous list of people to thank. It’s that funny thing about theater. Everyone who has been involved in my productions has been hugely important. Just as important as me, so it turned out be a really long list. Every actor who has ever been in any of my world premieres, but I also had a list of all of the artistic directors and literary managers and designers who have brought my plays to live. I am nothing without them. I really feel that way.

I also wrote a big thank you to the director that I always work with Sam, and my mother and my boyfriend, and also my artist friends. And that whole thing was two single-spaced pages long. So even though this is a thank you speech, it is also a tiny piece of theater, so I don’t want you guys to get bored. I’ve already gotten a lot of flack about boring people the past year.

So, I‘m going to say one big thank you to all those people, and I hope they forgive me. My plays are nothing without you, they really aren’t. I feel like they have no value on the page. I personally cannot stand to read them. They are only as good as the people who bring them to life. So I would say that this belongs to all of you, except that I want to keep the money. And of course, I want to thank the Steinbergs, and the Steinberg Trust and the Board and the Advisory committee for selecting me.

John Guare and Annie Baker. Photo by Lia Chang

John Guare and Annie Baker. Photo by Lia Chang

This prize is a great honor. Moments like this make me feel like I’m dreaming, or crazy, like I am in a mental institute and I am imagining all of this. Or that it is a culmination of a very serious childhood fear I have that actually I am a barely functioning vegetable, and my mother has created a Truman Show type reality in which people pretend to be my friend and tell me I’m a writer. And now she has finally topped herself by hiring one of my favorite writers, John Guare to say nice things about me. But actually I don’t want to spend a long time talking about how honored I am either. What I really want to talk about is the money.

Playwright Annie Baker, Aaron Clifton Moten, Louisa Krause and Alex Hanna. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright Annie Baker, Aaron Clifton Moten, Louisa Krause and Alex Hanna. Photo by Lia Chang

$50,000 is a lot of money. If you told me five years ago, ten years ago, someone would give me $50,000, no strings attached for plays I have already written, I would have fainted. I also would have made that money last for five years. I have an amazing ability to live in 6 x 5 rooms and subsist on bananas and bagels back then. Now I’m more spoiled. One year. That’s what $50,000 says to me. One year to write the way I want to write with total freedom.

Because playwrighting is a financially tricky business. You don’t get paid much when your plays are done at nonprofits. In fact, you get paid very little. And I like working at nonprofits. I don’t want to think about profit when I am trying to make a piece of art. That might sound precious, but if I have to think about profit when I am writing a play, I would rather go back to my day job.

So in moments like this, when someone hands you $50,000, and says we like you, go write more plays for a year, any kind of play you want, and what you want to write is a play about a monastery that takes place almost entirely in silence with no movie stars and a lot of candlelight, that’s a really nice thing.

For me, the $50,000 means I can write my next play without financial cunning or anxiety. Because you have to hope and you have to trust that if you write a play for the right reasons that maybe possibly, the questions raised by that work will be worthwhile. What exactly the right reason to spend time making a piece of theater in this god-forsaken world is subjective and often a complete mystery to me. But I know one thing, if I write the play to make money, if I write from a place of ambition instead of inquiry, I get nowhere and the work turns out to be worthless. By worthless, I guess I mean I just don’t like it.

I’m a slow writer. I like to have time to read, I like to have time to realize my play is terrible, to be able to throw my play out and start a new one. I like to have time to realize all the plays I have written up until this moment are a kind of posturing. I like to have time to develop new postures. I like to have time to think about 100 different exciting metaphors and then to realize that over and over again, most metaphors are kind of dumb. I like to have time to feel like a frog. I like to have time to sit and stare at the wall. But these are all enormous privileges. Very, very, very few people in the world get them. For that reason, and because I come from a family of socialists, I don’t necessarily think I should have these privileges, am I’m definitely not sure I deserve them.

I would like to say I work as hard as the rest of the world, that good writing is related to productivity and work ethic, putting your head down and focusing, but honestly, that’s just not true for me. I don’t work that hard. That’s not the kind of work I do. That’s not how I do it best.

So I am endlessly grateful for this money, and for the privilege to sit and be quiet and think for a year of my life. To think and think, and think about thinking, until I finally stop thinking and can sit down and write. I will savor this money, and this honor and these privileges in 2014, and know that they will not last forever, nor should they. Thank you to the Steinberg Trust and everyone involved in it. I’m so grateful.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


John Clinton Eisner, Director, Lark Play Development Center, introduced a scene from Rajiv Joseph’s new play Guards at The Taj, featuring Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed.

John Clinton Eisner. Photo by Lia Chang

John Clinton Eisner. Photo by Lia Chang

Below are excerpts of John Clinton Eisner’s introduction:
“In Bengal Tiger at The Baghdad Zoo, a tiger is shot and killed by a frightened soldier who has been assigned to guard him. No longer bound by mortal appetites and fears or even the fact that he had been an animal in life, the ghost of the tiger now has at its disposal all the knowledge of the universe. His eyes are open to new ways of seeing and he can finally contemplate the meaning of life, death, hunger and all the other challenges that face humanity. As the play progresses, other characters join the tiger in death, until the stage is filled with ghosts. One after another, they see how careless they have been about the gift of life.

Like Thornton Wilder, Rajiv touches with profound tenderness and excoriating rigor the failure of humanity to recognize it’s potential. Whether he is writing about tigers, or origami experts, troubled teenagers or aliens from outer space, Rajiv makes theater come alive. His subjects and plots tend to be straightforward, uncomplicated and fun. It is how he presents the characters in relationship to their particular needs and to one another that they are most recognizable and human. That is when his voice is most distinct. His genius for finding the simplest path to a dark place, often through laughter, marks him as an exquisitely gifted dramatist, as does his ability to transport actors, directors and audiences to new heights of imaginative inquiry.

Jennifer Dorr White, John Clinton Eisner, Rajiv Joseph and Michael Robertson. Photo by Lia Chang

Jennifer Dorr White, John Clinton Eisner, Rajiv Joseph and Michael Robertson. Photo by Lia Chang

It just so happens that I am traveling to Transylvania this week with Rajiv to see a Romanian production of Gruesome Playground Injuries. We’ve been there before and to Mexico as part of a playwright exchange program and so I can vouch for the fact that Rajiv’s plays also excite people in other parts of the world.

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwrighting does not provide even it’s most successful practioners an elaborate living, so it is important to give every ounce of support we can muster to the most gifted artists we know.

I want Rajiv to stay in the theater, to write, to teach, to inspire us. I want him to have the time to write plays and to help us see the world and its potential through a theatrical lens that is uniquely his own. Tonight’s Steinberg playwriting award recognizes Rajiv’s extraordinary accomplishments to date and raises public awareness of his distinctive voice and vision. Just as important, it provides him with financial freedom to keep making theater for a rising generation that increasingly seeks more satisfying answers to complex questions about their place in the world.

Arian Moayed and Omar Metwally in a scene from Rajiv Joseph's Guards at The Taj. Photo by Lia Chang

Arian Moayed and Omar Metwally in a scene from Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at The Taj. Photo by Lia Chang

We are about to see the first scene from Rajiv’s newest play, Guards at The Taj. I’ve seen it, but very few people have. As the lights come up, two men are guarding the Taj Mahal.

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree’s acceptance speech:

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

“There’s a legend in my family, a myth- my great-great grandfather was from a small fishing village in South Indian Kerala called Platood. He and his wife, my great-great grandmother couldn’t have a child, she couldn’t get pregnant. It was becoming a crisis.

He did what you did in those days; he took a pilgrimage to Goa, to the body of St. Francis Xavier, who was lying there. He took a boat to South India, and the boat sank, and everyone on it died.

So the news of his death came back to the village, and my great-great grandmother mourned him. They had a funeral for him.

A year and a half later, he walked into the village. He had survived the shipwreck and had swum to shore. Instead of going home, had continued on his voyage to Goa to see the body of St. Francis Xavier, and made a prayer their so that he might have a child. And then he walked back to Kerala, which is a long way, and he walked to the village, and he saw my great-great grandmother, and then they had sex, and they had a kid, one boy, they had one child. And that child ended up having eight children. And one of those was my grandfather, and he had five children, and one of them was my father. My father had two children, one of them who was me.

Arian Moayed, Rajiv Joseph, Omar Metwally and Marcy Harriell. Photo by Lia Chang

Arian Moayed, Rajiv Joseph, Omar Metwally and Marcy Harriell. Photo by Lia Chang

I want to say a prayer of thanksgiving to St. Francis Xavier and also to my great-great grandfather for making this journey of faith. When I write, it’s to hold on to legends and stories and myths, it kind of explains where I come from, and where my family comes from, where my friends come from, and where the things I love come from. When you think about a journey of faith, you think about also why we’re all here tonight. The Steinberg Trust and the Steinberg family has made a journey of faith by establishing this, and they’ve done it by looking back on their ancestors, who instilled in them a love of theater. It’s a great honor for me to be here. I want say a prayer of thanksgiving to them and also to my parents, who 99 times out of 100, would be here tonight, but are back in India. They just retired and they are there for about four months. I want to thank them too.

Scott Rothman, Jen Rothman, Rajiv Joseph, Lauren McFall, Brad Fleischer and Allison Thiel. Photo by Lia Chang

Scott Rothman, Jen Rothman, Rajiv Joseph, Lauren McFall, Brad Fleischer and Allison Thiel. Photo by Lia Chang

And I want to thank the people here tonight, so many of whom you know who you are, they reason I’m here is that I met you, and you had faith in me –the theaters in this city, the actors and directors who I’ve worked with who have changed my life, and I thank them, and finally the final prayer of thanksgiving I want to give that I give every day, is for my friends, because I write for them, and that is why I am up here.”

Omar Metwally, Rajiv Joseph, Arian Moayed, Krissy Shields, John Clinton Eisner and Victor Maog. Photo by Lia Chang

Omar Metwally, Rajiv Joseph, Arian Moayed, Krissy Shields, John Clinton Eisner and Victor Maog. Photo by Lia Chang

“The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust is extremely proud to honor both Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph with this year’s Steinberg Playwright Awards,” said Jim Steinberg, a member of the Board of Directors of The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. “Both playwrights have produced extremely influential and successful work, which is an extraordinary accomplishment for two such young artists. We look forward to seeing many new works by both Ms. Baker and Mr. Joseph as their careers continue to grow.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Steinberg Playwright Award is given to dramatists in early and middle stages of their careers, who have distinctive and compelling voices, and whose current bodies of work exhibit exceptional talent, artistic excellence, and continued potential for powerful contributions to the American theater.

Todd London. Photo by Lia Chang

Todd London. Photo by Lia Chang

“The combination of Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph provides a dazzling example of the range of contemporary American playwriting,” Todd London, Artistic Director, New Dramatists, added. “The devastating and provocative quietude of Annie’s plays is as different as can be from the extravagant, blood-pumping vitality of Rajiv’s. They share, though, a devotion to formal exploration, a pursuit of deep human emotion and, in nearly opposite milieus, a commitment to theatricality.”

Neil Pepe, David Henry Hwang and Mary McCann. Photo by Lia Chang

Neil Pepe, David Henry Hwang and Mary McCann. Photo by Lia Chang

“Annie Baker is quite simply one of the most exciting and distinctive voices writing in American theater today,” Neil Pepe, Artistic Director of the Atlantic Theater Company and 2013 Advisory Committee Member said. “Her plays are revelatory in their ability to quietly mine the essential humanity of the characters through uncompromising attention to truth and detail. The result is work that is profoundly original, wonderfully comic and deeply heartbreaking.”

“Rajiv is a profoundly gifted playwright and creator of some of the most poetic and lyrical, soaring theatrical storytelling today. He is that rare balance of warmth and wisdom, generosity and diligence and perseverance, curiosity and release,” said Jeremy Cohen, Artistic Director of The Playwrights’ Center. “Sometimes when I watch plays, I feel deeply aware of the artifice of the form — but when I’m watching Rajiv’s worlds unfold, I’m constantly reminded that I’m in a place designed to elevate humanity greater than the mundane, yet with the simplicity of breath that he respires into each and every world he creates.”

Oskar Eustis, David Henry Hwang and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo by Lia Chang

Oskar Eustis, David Henry Hwang and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo by Lia Chang

In 2008, the Board of Directors of The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust established an Advisory Committee of prominent theater professionals responsible for establishing the criteria for the Steinberg Playwright Awards, as well as the nomination and selection processes. The 2013 Advisory Committee is comprised of Susan Booth, ALLIANCE THEATRE; Jeremy Cohen, The Playwrights’ Center; Kwame Kwei-Armah, Centerstage; Todd London, New Dramatists; Lynne Meadow, Manhattan Theatre Company; Neil Pepe, Atlantic Theater Company; and Bill Rauch, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The members of the Board of Directors of The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust are Carole A. Krumland, James D. Steinberg, Michael A. Steinberg, Seth M. Weingarten and William D. Zabel.

David Henry Hwang, Michael A. Steinberg, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang, Michael A. Steinberg, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph. Photo by Lia Chang

The Steinberg Playwright Awards and the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award are presented in alternate years. Past recipients include:

· David Henry Hwang, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2012

· Lisa D’Amour & Melissa James Gibson, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2011

· Lynn Nottage, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2010

· David Adjmi, Tarell Alvin McCraney & Bruce Norris, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2009

· Tony Kushner, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2008

Playwright Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright Annie Baker, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph, 2013 Steinberg Playwright Award Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Annie Baker’s full-length plays include The Flick, Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, Body Awareness, and an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, for which she also designed the costumes. Her plays have been produced in more than 100 regional theaters internationally. She is a Residency Five playwright at the Signature Theatre and a member of New Dramatists, MCC’s Playwrights Coalition and Ensemble Studio Theatre. A published anthology of her work, The Vermont Plays, is available from TCG Books. Other honors include a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, USA Artists Collins Fellowship, Lilly Award and a Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship. She teaches playwriting at SUNY Stony Brook, New York University and Barnard College.

Rajiv Joseph was most recently recognized for his play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, a 2010 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, which starred Robin Williams on Broadway. He has also written Gruesome Playground Injuries, Animals Out of Paper, The North Pool and The Lake Effect, all of which were originally developed at the Lark Play Development Center. He is the book-writer and co-lyricist for the new Peter Pan musical, Fly, and the co-writer of the upcoming film, Draft Day. He also wrote for the TV series “Nurse Jackie” in Seasons 3 and 4. Rajiv received a Jeff Award for Best New Work for The Lake Effect, produced by Silk Road Rising, on November 4, 2013.

Kathryn Layng and her husband David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

Kathryn Layng and her husband David Henry Hwang, 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Honoree. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang is a Tony Award winner and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award winner and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Hwang’s plays include Bondage, The Dance and the Railroad (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), Family Devotions (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), FOB (1981 Obie Award), Golden Child (1997 Obie Award, 1998 Tony Award nomination), M. Butterfly (1988 Tony Award, 1989 Pulitzer Prize finalist) and Yellow Face (2008 Obie Award, 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist). Hwang also wrote the libretti for three Broadway musicals: Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (co-author), Disney’s Tarzan, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (revival, 2002 Tony Award nomination). As America’s most-produced living opera librettist, In opera, his works include four pieces with composer Philip Glass – 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Icarus at the Edge of Time, Sound and Beauty, and The Voyage – as well as Howard Shore’s The Fly, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), and Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (Opernwelt 2007 World Premiere of the Year). Hwang penned the feature films Golden Gate, M. Butterfly, and Possession (co-author), and co-wrote the song “Solo” with Prince. Mr. Hwang has been honored with the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, the 2012 William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre, the 2012 Asia Society Cultural Achievement Award, and the 2012 China Institute Blue Cloud Award. From 1994-2001, Mr. Hwang served by appointment of President Clinton on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. He currently sits on the boards of the Dramatists Guild, the American Theatre Wing, the Lark Play Development Center, and recently became President of Young Playwrights Inc. Hwang is currently Signature Theatre’s Residency One Playwright for the 2012-2013 Season. Signature Theatre’s World Premiere of Hwang’s Kung Fu, will star SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’S Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee. Signature Theatre’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu Stars SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee
David Henry Hwang Set as Signature Theatre’s Residency One Playwright for the 2012-2013 Season

Kathryn Layng, Matthew Maher, David Henry Hwang, Jeff Yang and May Adrales. Photo by Lia Chang

Kathryn Layng, Matthew Maher, David Henry Hwang, Jeff Yang and May Adrales. Photo by Lia Chang

Stephen Carrasco and Lesli Margherita. Photo by Lia Chang

Stephen Carrasco and Lesli Margherita. Photo by Lia Chang

About The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust:
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created by Harold Steinberg in 1986 in the names of himself and his late wife Miriam. The Trust’s primary mission is to support and promote the American theater as a vital part of our culture by nurturing American Playwrights, encouraging the development and production of new American plays, and by providing significant support to theater companies across the country.

Since its inception, the Trust has given in excess of $70 million to more than one hundred not-for-profit theater organizations. These gifts have funded countless productions, as well as the commissioning of playwrights, playwriting programs and arts-in-education outreach programs for thousands of children in an effort to create and educated new generations of theatergoers.

The Trust also collaborated with the American Theater Critics Association to create and fund the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award. The award is presented annually during the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theater of Louisville. Recipients of this award include Robert Schenkkan, Yussef El Guindi, Bill Cain, E.M. Lewis, Moises Kaufman, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Lee Blessing, Craig Lucas, Lynn Nottage, Nilo Cruz, Horton Foote, Jane Martin and Regina Taylor.

Rajiv Joseph and Lia Chang

Rajiv Joseph and Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist.She recently starred in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival opposite Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Phynjuar.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: LAByrinth’s Opening Night of Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby with John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise, Harvey Gardner Moore, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Tracie Thoms, Alano Miller and More
Dec. 16: Award Winning Playwrights Rajiv Joseph and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the focus of PBS Film, Playwright: From Page to Stage
Photos: Cheryl Lynn Bruce, André De Shields, Sandra Marquez, Dennis Zacek and More Celebrate Opening Night of Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at Victory Gardens
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Baayork Lee, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Dodie Pettit and More at Charles Randolph-Wright’s “Three Voices” concert series at Stage 72
Nov. 25: David Byrne and the Cast of Public Theater’s HERE LIES LOVE including Jose Llana, Ruthie Ann Miles, Conrad Ricamora, Melody Butiu and More to Host Benefit Concert for the Philippines at Terminal 5
Photos: John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise, Harvey Gardner Moore, André De Shields at Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby
Photos: André De Shields, Michael Shannon, Rajiv Joseph, Christine Sherrill, Doug Peck, Alexis J. Rogers, Karen Ziemba and More Celebrate 2013 Jeff Equity Awards
Photos: Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Doug Eskew, Tracie Thoms, Sakina Ansari-Wilson and More Celebrate Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts Opening Night at Center Stage
Nov. 14 – Dec. 29: Paolo Montalban and Eileen Ward Lead Cast of Olney Theatre Center’s Production of The King and I
Photos: André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Akash Chopra, Richard M. Sherman, Kevin Carolan, Larry Yando, Nehal Joshi and More Celebrate The Jungle Book Opening Night at Huntington Theatre in Boston
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

David Henry Hwang Articles:
Nov. 18: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph to be honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards
Signature Theatre’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu Stars SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee
Photos: Partying with the Cast of David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child; Extended Run Ends December 16, 2012
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, BD Wong, Brian d’Arcy James, Francis Jue, Jennifer Lim and Leigh Silverman at WNYC’s The Greene Space
Performing Arts Images from the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection on Display at the Library of Congress to Celebrate APA Heritage Month
David Henry Hwang to Receive 2012 William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award
Photos & Video: Celebrate Chinese New Year with David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish
Broadwayworld.com Photo Flash: Library of Congress’ IN REHEARSAL Exhibit
David Henry Hwang, Kathryn Layng and BD Wong at the Asian American Writers Workshop Literary Awards
Nothing is Sacred in David Henry Hwang’s Comedy of Mistaken Racial Identity
Francis Jue, At Home on the Stage
The Making of the Flower Drum Song Cast Album
Flower Drum Song, An American Story
The Literary Legacy of C.Y. Lee
Click here for more articles on David Henry Hwang.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2013 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s