20x30: Reimagining the Anthropocene
An ambitious Seattle Rep commissioning initiative engaging 20 playwrights between now and 2030 to each write a play inspired by life in our moment.
Anthropocene is a term that suggests we have entered a new geological age where human activity is the dominant force shaping our environment. This commissioning project’s goal is to engage a diverse group of theater artists around the idea of the Anthropocene during what promises to be a pivotal and transformational decade for our nation and our world. What does this moment in time mean for each of us, and how is our experience differentiated by—or united across—race, culture, country, class, or generation?
“I started thinking about this concept in 2016, after experiencing Tamiko Thiel’s Gardens of the Anthropocene, an augmented reality exhibition at Olympic Sculpture Park. It was the first time I had encountered the word Anthropocene—a term used to describe our current geological time, when human activity is the main force affecting the planet—and it struck me that interpreting this ‘age of the humans’ would contain a lot of creative possibilities for theater makers.
What does this moment in time mean for each of us, and how is our experience differentiated by—or united across—race, culture, country, class, or generation?
This is a topic so large, it’s almost impossible to wrap our minds around it. But we’ve entered a time when people widely agree climate change is here. It’s happening. And the repercussions are inescapable—economically, politically, and ontologically. It’s part of our culture now and culture must be part of how we address it. We need new stories, new forms of communication, a different understanding of how we think about our relationship to the planet and towards one another.
This is deliberately a long-term experiment, stretching over a decade, offering playwrights the absolute freedom to engage with this idea in whatever way inspires them. The theme is meant as a starting point for creative inspiration, not a destination. Wherever these dynamic, exciting artists lead us, I imagine the journey will expand the ways we think about the Anthropocene and explore the large and small ways we engage with each other in our world at an unusual time.”
—Artistic Director Braden Abraham
Meet the Playwrights
Nathan Alan Davis
Nathan Alan Davis’ plays include The Refuge Plays (Upcoming at McCarter Theatre), Nat Turner in Jerusalem (New York Theatre Workshop), Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea (NNPN Rolling World Premiere), and The Wind and the Breeze (Cygnet Theatre). His plays have been commissioned and developed by The Public Theater, NYTW, McCarter Theatre, Arena Stage, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Audible, Indiana Rep, The Lark, New Harmony, and Sundance. Awards and honors include a Whiting Award in Drama, the Stavis Playwright Award, a Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citation, a 2050 Fellowship, a Rita Goldberg Fellowship, the Blue Ink Award, and the Lorraine Hansberry Award. Nathan is a graduate of Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. He received his MFA from Indiana University and his BFA from the University of Illinois. He is a Lecturer in Theater and Berlind Playwright in Residence at Princeton University.
Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota Nation) is an award winning writer and 2020-2025 MacArthur Fellow. Her satirical comedy, The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons/Geffen Playhouse), was one of the top ten most produced plays in America last season. She is the first Native American playwright in the history of American theater on that list. Additional produced plays include What Would Crazy Horse Do? (KCRep), Landless and Cow Pie Bingo (AlterTheater), Average Family (Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis), Teaching Disco Squaredancing to Our Elders: a Class Presentation (Native Voices at the Autry), Vanishing Point (Eagle Project), and Cherokee Family Reunion (Mountainside Theater). In 2019 Larissa entered film and television by co-creating a series at Freeform. Since then she has set up a movie for Disney Channel and a series for NBC. She is currently in development as the creator for projects with Taylor Made Productions, Echo Lake, and other projects. Film and TV feel like coming home to Larissa who began her writer training as a Sundance Native Feature Fellow, Fox Diversity Fellow, ABC Native American Fellow, and an intern at Universal Pictures before she found her voice in theater. Over the past several years Larissa has created a nationally recognized trilogy of community engaged plays with Cornerstone Theater Company. The first was Urban Rez in Los Angeles. The second project, Native Nation, was the largest Indigenous theater production in the history of American theater with over 400 Native artists involved in the productions in association with ASU Gammage. Their current project, The L/D/Nakota Project is set in Larissa’s homelands of South Dakota. Her radical inclusion process with Indigenous tribes has been honored with the most prestigious national arts funding from Creative Capital, MAP Fund, NEFA, First People’s Fund, the NEA Our Town Grant, Mellon Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and others. Additional theaters that have commissioned or developed plays with Larissa include The Public Theater, Yale Rep, Guthrie Theater, Geffen Playhouse, History Theater, Kennedy Center TYA, Baltimore Center Stage, Arizona Theater Company, Mixed Blood, Perseverance Theater Company, The Lark Playwrights Week, the Center Theatre Group Writer’s Workshop, and Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor. Larissa’s additional awards include the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award for an American Playwright, NEA Distinguished New Play Development Grant, Joe Dowling Annaghmakerrig Fellowship, AATE Distinguished Play Award, Inge Residency, Sundance/Ford Foundation Fellowship, Aurand Harris Fellowship, and the UCLA Native American Program Woman of the Year. Larissa’s company, Indigenous Direction, is a consulting company currently working with Guthrie Theater, Roundabout Theater Company, Macy’s, and Brown University. She is vice chair of the board of directors of Theater Communications Group and represented by Jonathan Mills at Paradigm NY. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband, the sculptor Edd Hogan. www.hoganhorsestudio.com
Photo by Conor Horgan
Zora Howard is a Harlem-bred writer and performer. Plays include STEW (2020 Drama League nominee for Outstanding Play, Page 73 Productions), AtGN, BUST, HANG TIME, and GOOD FAITH. Her work has been developed with SPACE at Ryder Farm, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Cape Cod Theatre Project, and Pipeline Theatre Company, among others. In 2020, her feature film Premature (2020 Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award nominee), which she co-wrote and starred in, opened in theaters following its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She is the 2020-2021 Van Lier New Voices Fellow at the Lark. BA: Yale University; MFA: University of California, San Diego.
Sylvia Khoury is a New York-born writer of French and Lebanese descent. Her plays include Selling Kabul (Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Theater Festival), Power Strip (LCT3), and Against the Hillside (Ensemble Studio Theater). She is currently under commission from Lincoln Center, Williamstown Theater Festival, and Seattle Rep. Awards include the L. Arnold Weissberger Award and Jay Harris Commission and a Citation of Excellence from the Laurents/Hatcher Awards. She is a member of EST/Youngblood and a previous member of the 2018-2019 Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop at The Lark and the 2016-2018 WP Lab. Her plays have been developed at Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Theater Festival, Eugene O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, Roundabout Theater Underground, Lark Playwrights’ Week, EST/Youngblood, and WP Theater. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University, an M.F.A. from the New School for Drama, and an M.D. from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Photo by Yael Nov
Mary Kathryn Nagle
Mary Kathryn Nagle is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. From 2015 to 2019, she served as the first Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. Nagle is an alum of the 2013 Public Theater Emerging Writers Group. Plays include Miss Lead (Amerinda, 59E59), Fairly Traceable (Native Voices at the Autry), Sovereignty (Arena Stage), Return to Niobrara (Rose Theater), and Crossing Mnisose (Portland Center Stage), Sovereignty (Marin Theatre Company), and Manahatta (Yale Repertory Theatre; Oregon Shakespeare Festival). She has received commissions from Arena Stage, the Rose Theater (Omaha, Nebraska), Portland Center Stage, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Yale Repertory Theatre, Round House Theater, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
AMY FREED'S plays include Freedomland, for which she was nominated for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize; The Beard of Avon; The Psychic Life of Savages; Claustrophilia; The Ghoul of Amherst; Still Warm; Safe in Hell; Restoration Comedy; You, Nero; and Hell to Pay. Her work has been produced at American Conservatory Theater, California Shakespeare Theater, South Coast Repertory, New York Theatre Workshop, Seattle Repertory, Goodman Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Woolly Mammoth, and Yale Repertory Theatre, among others. She has been the recipient of the Joseph Kesselring Prize, the Charles MacArthur Award, and has won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award numerous times. Aurora Theatre Company commissioned a new play from Freed for the company's first Global Age Project new works festival. She currently teaches acting and playwriting at Stanford University.
Julia Izumi’s work has been developed and presented at MTC, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, Bushwick Starr, WP Theater, Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seattle Rep, The COOP, NNPN/Kennedy Center MFA Playwrights' Workshop, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Williamstown Theatre Festival, CAATA’s National Asian-American Theatre ConFest, and Pork Filled Productions. Honors for her work include the OPC Dr. Kerry English Award, O’Neill’s NPC Finalist, Kilroys List Honorable Mention, and KCACTF’s Darrell Ayers Playwriting Award. She is a current New Dramatists Resident. Current commissions: True Love Productions, MTC/Sloan, Playwrights Horizons. MFA: Brown University www.juliaizumi.com
Benjamin Benne (he/him/his) is a David Geffen/Yale School of Drama MFA candidate in Playwriting and represented by Paradigm Talent Agency. He is a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages and currently under commission from South Coast Repertory Theatre. His work has been developed by the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Playwrights Realm, The Lark, The Public, Roundabout, Denver Center, The Old Globe, Two River, Boston Court Pasadena, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Pillsbury House Theatre, and Parley, among many others. He has been awarded Portland Stage's 2020 Clauder Competition Gold Prize, Arizona Theatre Company's 2019 Latinx Playwriting Award, Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's 2019 Latinx Playwriting Award, American Blues Theater's 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Playwrights' Center's 2017-18 McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting and 2016-17 Many Voices Fellowship. Scheduled productions in 2022 include In His Hands with Mosaic Theatre Company and Alma with Center Theatre Group, ArtsWest, and American Blues Theater. www.benjaminbenne.com
Zora Howard, Helen Merrill Award WinnerREAD
"This year’s awardees—Gethsemane Herron, Zora Howard, C.A. Johnson, Michelle J. Rodriguez, and Cori Thomas—each received an unrestricted $30,000 cash award. Together, these writers show the increasingly diverse voices that are bringing powerful stories to America’s stages."
Read more about the 2022's Helen Merrill Award Winners in Harlem World
Nathan Alan Davis Leads M.F.A. Playwriting ProgramREAD
“He is a gifted writer himself with a lyrical yet muscular command of language,” Snodgrass says. “In this, he reminds me very much of Derek [Walcott], our founder. Plus, Nathan is a consummate teacher of playwriting, and he finds great joy in working with passionate writers ready to try new things.”
Read more Nathan and Boston University's M.F.A. Playwrighting Program in BU's newsletter
Photo by Jackie Ricciardi for Boston University
Zora Howard, Pulitzer Prize for Drama FinalistREAD
"Recognizing work for the 2020 calendar year, this year's rules allowed full-length dramatic works that had scheduled premieres postponed or canceled—as well as shows that premiered virtually or outside—to be considered eligible... Zora Howard's Stew (presented in early 2020 by Page 73) and Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley's Circle Jerk (which premiered virtually in October) were announced as finalists."
Read more in Playbill.
Changing the Story, in Court and OnstageREAD
"Nagle believes that restoring tribal sovereignty depends on beating back degrading stereotypes that prop up discriminatory legal frameworks, and that the theatre is one place where that fight needs to happen."
Read more about 20x30 playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle's current work as both an attorney and playwright in The New Yorker.
Photo by Gabriella Demczuk for The New Yorker
Sylvia Khoury Wins 2021 Whiting Award in DramaREAD
"In commenting on Sylvia Khoury’s work, including Selling Kabul, The Place Women Go, and Against the Hillside, the judges noted the plays' 'focus on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan; evoking grand geopolitical drama through simple human gesture,' and praised the way the plays 'break down barriers between human beings, revealing the powerful lines of connection that exist and persist.'"
Read more about the 2021 Whiting Award winners in American Theatre Magazine.
Photo by Yael Nov
Nathan Alan Davis wins 2021 Windham-Campbell PrizeREAD
"I tend to write plays that deal with things that I can't reconcile, and I can't reconcile the injustices of history."
20x30 playwright Nathan Alan Davis has been named recipient of a 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, one of the world’s most significant and generous literary prizes. Hear from Nathan in a video interview with Windham-Campbell, and read more below in a release from Princeton University.
Photo by Benjamin Kanes / Windham-Campbell
Seattle Rep’s Ambitious PlanREAD
"Despite a year in which theaters have gone dark and whole seasons have been canceled due to the pandemic, Seattle Rep is embarking on an ambitious undertaking: three commission projects that will support the development of over 20 new plays over the next decade — more than the Rep has ever commissioned all at once."
Playwright Zora Howard; Photo by Rashaad Ernesto Green
Learn about our New Directions director commissions.