TheatreSquared, a regional professional theater at Fayetteville, welcomes three renowned American playwrights as Artists in Residence, including one from southeast Arkansas.
Artists are Dermott native Candrice Jones, along with Satya Chavéz, and Jonathan Norton.
TheatreSquared announced a commissioning project featuring the three distinguished playwrights. As part of this project, each playwright will embark on a creative journey to craft a brand-new, original play that will explore a diverse array of themes, perspectives, and experiences, according to a news release.
Jones is well known to Northwest Arkansas audiences, who watched her critically acclaimed play FLEX bloom at the Arkansas New Play Festival in 2021 and, later, receive a full production during the 2021/2022 season.
This summer, FLEX was performed on the Lincoln Center stage in New York City, where it was called a "slam-dunk New York debut" and named a "Critic's Pick" by The New York Times, according to the release.
"Jones' background as a poet, educator and playwright combine to create sharp, beautiful, and realistic worlds and characters in plays that sear both mind and spirit," according to the release.
The southeast Arkansas native has been honored to have been a fellow at Callaloo for poetry at Brown University and in London. She has also been a VONA Playwriting Fellow and a CalArts MFA Critical Studies recipient, according to https://pwcenter.org/profile/candrice-jones.
"Candrice is an Arkansan playwright and is going to continue to cultivate stories about Arkansas people," said Dexter J. Singleton, TheatreSquared Director of New Play Development. "A person who has those roots, is homegrown, and continues to explore Arkansas stories is wonderful."
Chavéz is an Indigenous Mexican-American, queer, Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist who is known for their musical compositions and narratives that delve into complex cultural intersections.
Chavez's award-winning work has garnered critical acclaim for its exploration of identity, immigration, and social justice. The San Francisco Chronicle called them "a quintuple threat performer," while the Chicago Reader noted their work is "stunningly beautiful, both visually and aurally," according to the release.
Last season, they were the recipients of Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Original Music in a Play for their play Refuge.
Norton is a Texas-born playwright.
"Northwest Arkansas audiences will remember him from the 2023 Arkansas New Play Festival, where his hilariously poignant script I AM DELIVERED'T was workshopped. That show is already scheduled to receive a co-production at both Dallas Theater Center and the Actors Theatre of Louisville early next year," according to the release.
Norton's plays frequently shed light on the lives of marginalized communities, highlighting their struggles and triumphs.
"Jonathan brings that Southern charm and insight to his work at all times," said Singleton. "I think a big part of this commission is having the opportunity to introduce our patrons to writers who are writing about the South, and the activity, culture, and social issues that people explore as Southern Americans."
The theater's artistic director is Robert Ford.
"Theaters like T2, which center new work, are always looking for the next Death of a Salesman, or the next brilliant comedy, or soaring musical, that captures some essential aspect of now," Ford said. "Because, deep down, we know that's the very best thing we can offer to our world. Commissioning allows us to get in on the ground floor of that 'offer to our world.' Absolutely no one can predict the impact of a particular play or playwright -- but what an amazing privilege it is to send the invitation, take the risk, and spark the telling of a story that no one has told before, that no one has seen."
Shannon Jones is executive director of TheatreSquared.
"Collaborating with these three artists is incredibly exciting and is the start of what we hope will be a long-lasting relationship," said Shannon Jones. "We're thrilled to contribute to the continued growth of the American theater and share the voices of these playwrights with our community and beyond."