ABOUT NEW WORK
At Woolly Mammoth, we stoke the creative vision of bold and innovative artists with rigor and care. Core to the principles of New Work at Woolly are aesthetic innovation and civic provocation – we are drawn to the messy edges of theatrical style and human experience in all of its complexity. Over the last forty-three years we have experimented with many different approaches, responded to feedback from dozens of playwrights and directors, and both absorbed and led important changes in the field. The relatively recent change from a Literary Department to a New Work Department is an example of this – a desire to be more expansive and less text-based in our consideration of work for our stage.
At Woolly the “how” (equitable practices, intentional processes) we work is just as important as the “what” (plays or project). Woolly prides itself in being a thought leader in the field. We value the people making the work more than the product. The fact that our plays are made with radical care and intentionality is as important to us as the success of the exceptional, dynamic, and provocative work for which we have been known for four decades.
Woolly’s stage features a combination of world premieres, regional premieres, as well as presented work. Woolly presents work by innovative artists that has been seen elsewhere, often internationally, and needs a further life in DC and at Woolly. Recent examples of this model have been The Royal Court’s production of SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER by Jasmine Lee Jones and The Javaad Alipoor Company’s production of RICH KIDS: A HISTORY OF SHOPPING MALLS IN TEHRAN by Javaad Alipoor, co-created with Kirsty Housley.
Our new play development activities and resources are primarily focused on Commissions. Selected plays in our season also receive dramaturgical support from New Work staff. Our Connectivity department builds research partnerships with national and local experts. Above all, Woolly Mammoth offers artists an open-minded audience that has embraced our unique mission to push the form and content of American theatre in brave new directions.
The New Work department administers Pat Murphy Sheehy Playwrights Fund. This Fund was established to support the development of new plays in recognition of Pat Murphy Sheehy’s tenure as Producing Artistic Director of Source Theatre Company by its Board of Directors. Currently, the Sheehy Fund is used to cover expenses—travel, housing, food, entertainment—incurred in bringing a playwright to DC to attend productions, meet our staff, and discuss their goals and creative process. This allows the New Work team to begin to build relationships with artists whose work aligns with Woolly over time, outside of any development or production process.
Woolly Mammoth’s New Work team invites writers whose work resonates with the theatre’s mission, values and investment in innovation. The artistic team spends time getting to know the writer and assessing how we can move their career forward. Recent Sheehy artists have been Jesus Valles, A.A. Brenner, Nazareth Hassan, Gethsemane Herron, and Daniella de Jesus.
Woolly Mammoth’s charter membership in the National New Play Network highlights its national role in new play development. In our 2010/11 season, we participated in the NNPN “rolling world premiere” of Luis Alfaro’s OEDIPUS EL RAY alongside The Magic Theatre and The Theater at Boston Court. In our 2013/14 season, we produced Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s THE TOTALITARIANS in a rolling world premiere with New Orleans’ Southern Repertory Theatre and San Francisco’s Z Space. Woolly Mammoth has been the fortunate recipient of Collaboration Fund grants and Producer in Residence grants from NNPN.
Additionally, Woolly Mammoth collaborates with a network of colleagues across the country who have contributed space, expertise, and other resources to many Woolly world premieres in development. These partners include Playwrights Horizons, New Dramatists, The Public Theater, The Civilians, Folger Theatre, The Lake George Theater Lab, Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Black Women Playwright’s Group, The Wexner Center, Wilma Theater, and others.
Baltimore Center Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Long Wharf Theatre, and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis announced a joint program of the Artistic Caucus in 2021. The first year saw the hiring a group of freelance artists to participate in a year-long Artistic Caucus as key parts of the artistic development teams within each theatre, and across all four theatres. The first cohort included Marie Cisco, Adil Mansoor, Nailah Harper Malveaux and Regina Victor.
The initiative, which combines the forces and resources of four institutions as an investment in interconnection and abundance, is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
As part of their work, the Artistic Caucus read new plays and proposals, scout projects, and facilitate relationships with artists on behalf of all four theatres. With this caucus, the theatres are venturing to open up the frequently competitive and opaque artistic development process by working with artists to help identify projects, paying them for their expertise, and positioning the different artistic priorities for each organization as a place of strength and cooperation. This model aims to make space for more entryways into the artistic development pathways, more touchpoints for artists, more voices in the room, and more visions for what theatre can be than what has been available through traditional structures of literary management.
Year 2 was an evolution of the work of the first year with the Artistic Caucus cohort split into two groups – Readers and Think Tank.
BOLD WOMENS LEADERSHIP CIRCLE
The BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle, led by Northern Stage Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne, is a visionary initiative created to bridge the career gaps for women+ in the American theater. The Circle’s mission is to create a diverse network of women+ artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States and empower them to address the issues preventing women+ from advancing in theater leadership. The Circle offers major support of artistic initiatives driven by women+ artists and has created a formal mentorship program that trains and prepares future women+ artistic directors to lead, create, innovate, and deepen the impact of theater on American culture.
Conceived in 2017 by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation as a major grant to support female identifying (women+) artistic directors, designers, and artists, the Circle was launched in 2018 and is already changing the face of professional theater leadership in the United States. Woolly Mammoth is fortunate to be a part of the BOLD Circle with Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes, Artistic Director; Mekala Sridhar, Associate Producer; Nailah Harper Malveaux and Fatima Dyfan, Rising Directors and Jess McLeod, Resident Director in the BOLD Cohort.
The New Work department is continuously on the lookout for artists and works that are aligned with Woolly’s risk-taking aesthetic and values. We seek out this work by connecting with artists, by attending performances, festivals, and readings, as well through relationships with agents and colleagues.