The Hermitage Artist Retreat Announces Playwright and Screenwriter Madeleine George as Recipient of the $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award
Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced today that accomplished playwright and screenwriter Madeleine George, currently a writer on the hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” has been newly selected as the 2021 recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA). This national jury-selected prize, established by the Hermitage last year with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest non-profit theater commissions in the country. George will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida) and a developmental workshop in a major arts capital such as New York, Chicago, or London in the fall of 2023. Originally awarded in December of 2021 to Radha Blank who is not able to fulfill the commission due to conflicting professional commitments, the inaugural Award Committee reconvened to enthusiastically endorse George – one of four distinguished finalists nominated in the initial process – for this prestigious honor.
Madeleine George’s plays include Hurricane Diane (Obie Award), The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize finalist; Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious Little, and The Zero Hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). Honors include a Whiting Award, the Princess Grace Award, and a Lilly Award. Her translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters premiered at Two River Theater in 2022, and her audio adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For is forthcoming from Audible Originals. Madeleine is a founding member of the Obie Award-winning playwrights’ collective 13P. She is currently a writer and producer on Hulu’s acclaimed mystery-comedy Only Murders in the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez.
“I was surprised and thrilled to get the news about the Hermitage Major Theater Award,” said George on receiving the news from Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It’s such an honor to be joining in the Hermitage’s awe-inspiring family of artists, and I’m excited to have resources and time to put towards my commissioned play, which has been on my mind for a while and which I’m eager to share with the world.”
The Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA) was established in 2021 to recognize a playwright or theater artist with a $35,000 commission to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. HMTA winners are nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders in the field of theater. The 2021 HMTA Award Committee included Doug Wright, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, and past president of the Dramatists Guild of America; Leigh Silverman, Tony Award nominee and Obie Award-winning director; and Liesl Tommy, Tony Award nominee and Obie Award-Winning stage and screen director.
“Madeleine George is an acute and often hilarious commentator on American culture, skewering ‘sacred cows’ like gender, technology, academia, and our patriarchal government and – in doing so – reveals the maddening inconsistencies of the human heart,” said 2021 HMTA Award Committee member Doug Wright, who has since joined the Hermitage Board of Trustees.
The other distinguished finalists for the 2021 Hermitage Major Theater Award included Eisa Davis, an Obie Award-winning multi-disciplinary theater-maker, and Luis Alfaro, an accomplished playwright and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow. Each has been awarded a Hermitage residency and Fellowship, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000.
“Amidst such a brilliant group of finalists, the inaugural Award Committee was faced with an incredibly difficult decision in determining a recipient for this award,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Madeleine George is one of the American theater’s most gracious and gifted talents, and we’re honored to present her with the HMTA. The heart and humor in her writing is enhanced by her generous spirit and her deep passion for the theater. I must also sing the praises of Luis Alfaro and Eisa Davis, both exceptional artists with bold voices and thrilling ideas.”
In addition to the $35,000 commission, the recipient of the annual HMTA will receive six weeks of residency at the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus to develop the new work, as well as a reading or workshop in a leading arts and cultural center. Madeleine George’s commission is expected to receive a development workshop in the fall of 2023.
“The play I plan to work on is a Faust story set in a bowling alley called The Sore Loser,” said George of her plans for the commission. “It’s a comedy about power, domination, and the death of the patriarchy, as told through a small-town bowling tournament.” In the spirit of the Hermitage’s commitment to the arts across multiple disciplines, recipients of the Hermitage Major Theater Award are encouraged to create a commission that directly or indirectly represents the role and impact of art – musical, literary, theatrical, visual, dance, or otherwise – in our culture and society. As to how this will infuse George’s commission, she explains that “one thing I’m trying to do with this play is to enact the transition from the hero narrative we’re all familiar with to a new kind of narrative driven by collective action. I’m curious about what kind of stories we can tell – particularly comic stories – that can help us unlearn the structures of domination that have a stranglehold on mainstream Western culture.”
Photo from Hermitage Artist Retreat