AMERICAN THEATRE | Kristina Wong Receives First Joan D. Firestone Commission
NEW YORK CITY: En Garde Arts has named playwright Kristina Wong the first recipient of the Joan D. Firestone Commissioning Award. Wong will receive an unrestricted $18,000 grant to work at the intersection of theatre and social change. Firestone, a longtime En Garde Arts chairperson and board member, recently established a five-year fund in her name to award mid-career artists. The grant will be awarded annually.
“I’m absolutely honored to receive this support from the Joan D. Firestone Fund as I kickstart my ambitious new project, #FoodBankinfluencer, with Indigenous communities,” said Wong, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the play Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, in a statement. “It’s so exciting that this funding can further both ambitious progress in the health of these communities I’ll be working with and be the critical backbone to my newest theatre work.”
For #FoodBankInfluencer, Wong will work with strategists in “food deserts” to reimagine the grocery store, food bank, and community fridge as an immersive theatre environment. The work will attempt to cue healthier instincts of consumption and self-determination, and Wong will work with Indigenous communities she first met with the Auntie Sewing Squad as she created her Sweatshop Overlord play. Wong will use the Firestone Commissioning Award to pay a team of seamstresses in Dinnebito, a rural area of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, to sew a new interior for a market to resemble a Native trading post.
Wong was chosen by a nominating committee made up of author and educator Kim Bendheim, former New York Theatre Workshop associate artistic director Linda Chapman, Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, two-time Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, Hamburger, and Firestone.
Wong, a comedian, writer, and performer, is best known for the one-woman play Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, which in addition to its Pulitzer nod won the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance. Wong is the founder of the Auntie Sewing Squad, a national manual aid network of volunteers who sewed cloth masks for vulnerable communities at the onset of the COVID pandemic; their work was the impetus for Sweatshop Overlord. Wong is currently the artist in residence at the Arizona State University Gammage theatre program, and is the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Social Practice Resident.
Wong will receive the Firestone Commissioning Award at a gala at Ideal Glass Studios on Dec. 8. The gala will also honor playwright Sarah Ruhl and John Clinton Eisner, former artistic director of The Lark. En Garde Arts will host the first public reading of Wong’s work resulting from the Firestone Commissioning Award within the next 18 months, and will hold no rights to future productions of the work.
En Garde Arts creates, produces, and presents bold theatrical experiences that reach across artistic, physical, and social boundaries. As of 2020, their budget was approximately $459,700.
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