Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Morgan Jenness receives 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award

Morgan Jenness. Photo Credit: Alexandre M.S. Carvalho

Morgan Jenness. Photo Credit: Alexandre M.S. Carvalho

Morgan Jenness, a recipient of the $80,000 Doris Duke Impact Award, is a freelance dramaturg who has worked at the Public Theater for over a decade as a manager, director, and associate producer; New York Theater Workshop as an Associate Artistic Director; and Los Angeles Theater Center. She has provided key dramaturgical support on projects including Stacy Klein’s The Grand Parade, currently touring nationally and internationally, Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge (2009), and SURRENDER (2007), her MAP Fund supported collaboration with the International WOW company. In 2003, she was presented with an OBIE Award Special Citation for Longtime Support of Playwrights. She has taught as a visiting artist and adjunct faculty at Bread Loaf, Brown University, Columbia University, Fordham University, University of Iowa, and New York University. Her current project is This Distracted Globe, a consulting entity intended to provide dramaturgical input and overall guidance to creative projects that meld the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Morgan Jenness. Photo by Lia Chang

Morgan Jenness. Photo by Lia Chang

Miss Jenness said, “My key goals for the award period are to more actively explore the idea of the creative agora, the intersections between professional, educational, and community worlds and audiences, and to further investigate the notion of “social sculpture” —how theater, as a potential container for all the arts, can serve as a central magnetic force for investigation, dialogue and inspiration for various diverse communities. I also want to find Creative Campus/Creative Community venues for the projects with which I have already started to engage, including POWER TO THE PEOPLE: The Solutions Grassroots Tour (dealing with impact of fossil fuel industry in our society, from climate change, to environmental damage to war); The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century) — encouraging inter-connectivity between history, arts and education programs, Transcripts — collecting and presenting personal narratives from transgender communities and Don’t Feed the Indians, a comedic interactive revue looking at Native representation within the larger culture. I also want to continue to find, help develop, and facilitate works that serve as ethical and aesthetic structures for multiple engagements and which can also cross the boundaries between arts and activism.”

doris dukeMs. Jenness is among the second group of 20 individuals to receive Doris Duke Impact Awards, announced by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). The award is part of the larger Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, launched in late 2011 as a special 10-year initiative of the foundation to empower, invest in and celebrate artists by offering flexible, multi-year funding in response to financial challenges that are specific to the performing arts. Each recipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award is receiving $80,000, totaling in $1.6 million to 20 new grantees. Since April 2014, the foundation has awarded a total of $3.2 million in Impact Awards to 40 artists in the fields of jazz, dance and theatre.

Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, said, “The Doris Duke Impact Awards are based on nominations submitted by artists, identifying others (often less widely known) that will have enormous impact on the jazz, dance or theatre fields in the future. This year’s group is a thrilling one: we are honored to support them and look forward, not only to how they will use their funds, but to the ways they will shape and change the performing arts in the future.”

The 2015 recipients of Doris Duke Impact Awards are:

Becca Blackwell (Theatre)
Lear deBessonet (Theatre)
Kris Davis (Jazz)
Mark Dresser (Jazz)
Michelle Ellsworth (Dance)
Beth Gill (Dance)
Milford Graves (Jazz)
Ishmael Houston-Jones (Dance)
Morgan Jenness (Theatre)
Heather Kravas (Dance)
Dohee Lee (Theatre)
Dianne McIntyre (Dance)
Matt Mitchell (Jazz)
Carlos Murillo (Theatre)
Brooke O’Harra (Theatre)
Susan Rethorst (Dance)
Tyshawn Sorey (Jazz)
Henry Threadgill (Jazz)
Reggie Workman (Jazz)
Pamela Z (Theatre)

To learn more about the 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award recipients and to view samples of each artist’s work, visit

About the Doris Duke Impact Awards

The Doris Duke Impact Award is one of two awards in the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards program. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is granting these awards as part of a larger $50 million, 10-year commitment beyond its already existing funding for the performing arts. By the end of the 10 years, the foundation will have offered a total of at least 200 artists greatly expanded freedom to create, through an initiative that makes available the largest allocation of unrestricted cash grants ever given to individuals in contemporary dance, jazz and theatre.

Each recipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award is awarded $80,000—including an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant of $60,000, plus as much as $10,000 more in targeted support for audience development and as much as $10,000 more for personal reserves or creative exploration during what are usually retirement years for most Americans. Artists will be able to access their awards over a period of two to three years under a schedule set by each recipient. Creative Capital, DDCF’s primary partner in the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, will also offer the awardees the opportunity to participate in professional development activities, financial and legal counseling, and regional gatherings—all designed to help them personalize and maximize the use of their grants. The Doris Duke Impact Awards uniquely incentivize retirement savings and offer multi-year support that allows grantees to determine their own schedule for receiving the funds rather than mandating a uniform annual amount.

“The flexibility of both the award funding and Creative Capital’s advisory services makes it possible for us to tailor a support structure to each artist that wins this award,” said Ruby Lerner, founding president and executive director at Creative Capital. “This is so important, because an artist can have impact on the field at any career stage, whether they are emerging or in a later career stage, so their needs can vary widely.”

The Doris Duke Impact Awards are intentionally designed to support artists who are not eligible for the Doris Duke Artist Award, the other award in the larger program, either because the artists lack the necessary number of qualifying national awards, grants and prizes to become eligible for the Doris Duke Artist Award or because their artistic voices are still coming into focus. Within those parameters, Doris Duke Artists have the opportunity to nominate artists who inspire them to be considered for a Doris Duke Impact Award. A separate, anonymous panel of peers then selects the recipients based on evidence of exceptional creativity, self-challenge and the potential to make significant contributions to the fields of jazz, contemporary dance and theatre in the future. These grants are not tied to any specific project but are made as investments in the artists’ personal and professional development and future work.

The Doris Duke Artist Awards and the Doris Duke Impact Awards will be announced between 2012 and 2016, and 2014 and 2018, respectively. More information about the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards is available at

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The Arts Program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theatre artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them. For more information, please visit

About Creative Capital
Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country through funding, counsel and career development services. Our pioneering approach—inspired by venture-capital principles—helps artists working in all creative disciplines realize their visions and build sustainable practices. Since 1999, Creative Capital has committed $30 million in financial and advisory support to 419 projects representing 529 artists, and our Professional Development Program has reached 7,000 artists in more than 300 communities. For more information, visit

cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-carlos-flores-3.jpgLia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

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Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 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


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