The Kansas City Repertory Theatre on Thursday announced a $174,000 three-year playwright residency grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The award is one of 14 Mellon residency grants. The Rep tapped award-winning playwright Nathan Louis Jackson, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, to join the artistic staff.
Jackson graduated from Kansas State University. He later pursued graduate work at The Juilliard School. Jackson told The New York Times that it was in Manhattan, Kan. that he first began writing monologues for forensic competitions: "I wanted to do a piece that speaks for me, so I said, 'I'll just write my own stuff.'"
A play that "jumped out of the page" on to the Rep's stage
In 2010, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre presented Jackson's Broke-ology, which centers on two brothers, Malcolm and Ennis, at a crossroads. It combines details of Jackson's life experiences, growing up in Kansas City, with fiction. In an interview on KCUR, the playwright described "broke-ology" as "the science of being broke. And how people survive and people get through despite the fact that they don't have much money."
The Rep's associate artistic director Kyle Hatley said he reads a lot of plays every season, but he recalled in the KCUR interview that Broke-ology "just jumped out of the page" at him.
"I had a very emotional reaction, actually, when I first read it," Hatley said. "The family dynamics in the play. It hit home personally for me...It's got such universal family themes, that I think everyone can see themselves in (it)."
Bringing "a corner of this community to life"...again?
In a statement about the selection of Nathan Louis Jackson as the Rep's playwright-in-residence, artistic director Eric Rosen said Broke-ology, first produced at Lincoln Center Theatre in 2009, was "a natural fit" for the Rep: "No other production in my four seasons here has so successfully united our diverse communities."
The Kansas City Star's Robert Trussell wrote in a 2010 review of the Rep's production: "Jackson is a talented writer who has brought a corner of this community to life on stage in a way nobody else has. And that is no small accomplishment."
Other works by Jackson include When I Come To Die (Lincoln Center, 2011), The Mancherios and The Last Black Play. He's also written for television.
In July 2013, Jackson begins his residency at the Rep where plans include writing and developing two plays under the guidance of Rosen and Hatley, who will direct the new works for the Rep. Jackson will also participate in season planning and outreach activities.