Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock have been named the two inaugural recipients of the Golden & Ruth Harris Commission, previously launched by Jeremy O. Harris and New York Theatre Workshop.
Named after the Tony-nominated playwright’s grandparents, the collaboration aims to provide funds for working artists at both the early and mature stage of artistic development. Chatman and Pinnock will each receive a $50,000 commission for a new theatrical work.
Four finalists will also receive a cash prize of $12,500 each in support of their continued artistic endeavors: Rhodessa Jones, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Djanet Sears, and Pamela Sneed.
“I am grateful to be an inaugural recipient of the Golden & Ruth Harris Commission,” said Chatman. “Thank you to all who believed in my audacious idea of writing, The Messiah in Mink: The Rise and Fall of Prophet Jones. Theatre has the opportunity to use its platform to confront and end systemic racism through the stories we perform by exploring the ritualistic lives of people of color and sharing them on stage. I am hopeful that by highlighting the humanity in my play and plays like it, we will continue to break down the walls of injustice and build a more equitable and inclusive world.”
“I am thrilled to be the first recipient of this prestigious commission,” added Pinnock. “While the past year has been a difficult one for all theatre makers, we have a lot of catching up to do and plenty to write about. I can’t wait to get started on the commission and will endeavor to honor the faith placed in me by Jeremy O. Harris and NYTW.”
The panelists who selected the six finalists were writer, director, and photographer Janicza Bravo; scholar, writer, and journalist Roxane Gay; director Katie Mitchell; director and playwright Robert O’Hara; poet and playwright Claudia Rankine; director Machel Ross; journalist Doreen St. Félix; and writer Brandon Taylor.
Chatman uses theatre as a medium to conjure freedom, hope, joy, and justice. Led by ancestral guidance and intergenerational wisdoms, she directs, educates, produces, and writes work that seeks to heal her community. In 2008, she co-founded the Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit, a company that engages the audience through teaching and exploration. In furthering her desire to amplify and offer space for new voices within the theatre, she founded Fly Black Girl Education & Theatre, a healing and theatrical conservatory for and about Black women and girls. Her theatre credits include New York fellowships with Stage Directors and Choreographers Workshop Foundation, the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, as well as the Goodman Theatre Maggio Directing Fellowship.
Pinnock is a U.K.-based playwright whose plays include Rockets and Blue Lights, Glutathione, The Principles of Cartography, Tituba, Cleaning Up, Taken, IDP, The Stowaway, One Under, Beg Borrow or Steal, Water, Mules, Can You Keep a Secret?, A Rock in Water, Leave Taking, A Heroes Welcome, The Wind of Change, and Picture Palace. She is the recipient of the Alfred Fagon Award, George Devine Award, Pearson Plays on Stage Scheme Best Play of the Year Award, and the Unity Trust Theatre Award, and she received a special commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. In 2020 her short play Una Calling debuted online as part of the Shakespeare and Race Festival.
Harris and New York Theatre Workshop most recently collaborated on the Off-Broadway world premiere of Harris’ Slave Play, which subsequently transferred to Broadway and is currently nominated for 12 Tony Awards.
For more information, visit NYTW.org.