AMERICAN THEATER | The Lark Is Grounded: a new-play incubator to fold after 25 years


The Lark Theater in New York.

NEW CITY OF YORK: In a blow to playwrights and the development of the game in the United States and around the world, prestigious new game lab The Lark has announced that it will close its doors, but not before working with “peer institutions to relocate.” existing Lark programs and scholarships. “According to a press release, the decision to shut down the 27-year-old game’s development pillar was a” unanimous but painful conclusion “by the organization’s board of directors after” many long months of responding to crises linked to the pandemic and finding pathways to sustainability “.

In early 2020, Lark founder John Clinton Eisner began planning for his retirement and transition out of his active role in the organization. When the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown began, the Lark appeared to be helping. Eisner publicly announced her departure in February 2021, and a week later director and new game advocate May Adrales (she / she) was named as her successor, to lead alongside Executive Director Stacy Waring (she / she) she).

But behind the scenes, all was not well with the organization’s finances, as its longtime chairman of the board, Colin Greer (he / him) acknowledged in an interview. Contributing to a growing crisis at the Alouette, he said, Waring took medical leave shortly after Adrales was hired, leaving her alone in charge of a small overworked staff. As the organization struggled to reach pre-pandemic funding levels, Greer said, the owner of the downtown Lark space threatened to nearly double the rent. “It really was a perfect storm,” he said.

Greer, who had been with The Lark since before its founding, when he and Eisner pitched the idea of ​​a new gaming initiative over breakfast at a Hungarian restaurant, called its end “extremely sad” and pointed out that the board and staff had worked tirelessly for the past six months to find a solution that would allow the Alouette to continue, to no avail.

For his part, Adrales wrote in an email: “When I enthusiastically accepted this role six months ago, I had no idea that this great organization, my first artistic house in 20 years, was facing challenges. such steep and insurmountable challenges. It is a devastating loss personally but also for the field of theater. I am comforted by my belief that the Lark has never been indebted to a physical place. It is a spirit, a transformation. Our methodologies and philosophies, which allow playwrights to write whatever they choose, have permeated the theatrical landscape. We have all been transformed by the Lark experience, and we will be keeping everything the Lark has taught us throughout her incredible 27 years. We know that his spirit will live through every person he touches.

The history and heritage of the Alouette are indeed substantial. As board member and playwright David Henry Hwang said in a statement, “At a time when the development of the game in America was in danger of slipping into stereotypical dramaturgy, The Lark was founded to empower the playwright’s vision, a philosophy that has now become a best practice across the country and internationally. Its mission was to center playwrights from BIPOC, LGBTQIA and other marginalized backgrounds, which was once also a radical idea but is now setting the tone in the field. The parts developed at the Alouette became the new American gun; of the five most recent Pulitzer Prize winners for theater, four were written by Lark playwrights, and two were developed directly into Lark programs. The Lark has succeeded in transforming American theater, and his legacy will live on. “

A short list of playwrights who developed the work at the Alouette includes, in addition to Hwang himself, Katori Hall, Rajiv Joseph, Martyna Majok, Dominique Morisseau, Jen Silverman, Jiehae Park, Lucas Hnath, Mike Lew, Hansol Jung , Lauren Yee, Dipika Guha, Kimber Lee, Samuel D. Hunter, A. Rey Pamatmat, Rehana Mirza, Sam Chanse, Olivia Dufault, Larissa FastHorse, Donja R. Love, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Susan Soon He Stanton, Leah Nanako Winkler , MJ Kaufman, Tim J. Lord, Matthew Paul Olmos, Zora Howard and Theresa Rebeck.

Founder John Clinton Eisner says, “We started The Lark because there were so many people with important stories who needed a place to develop their voices and visions. Since then, we’ve helped launch a new generation of outspoken playwrights through artist-centered processes that have exploded the theater’s conception of what stories are important to tell and how to tell them.

Founded in 1994, The Lark has provided writers with funding, space, collaborators, audiences, professional relationships, and the freedom to design their own exploration processes. The guiding principle of their work was the belief that playwrights are the revealers of the truth of society, and their work strengthens the collective capacity to understand our world and imagine its future.

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