Mark Plesent Photo

The Mark Plesent Commission Fund

A new program in honor of Working Theater’s late Producing Artistic Director, Mark Plesent, who led the company from 1996-2021. Known for bridging the access gap to theater, Mark leaned into work that reflected the racial, cultural, class, and economic differences of his constituency (what he called his beloved audience). He accepted that these differences would sometimes be divisive, but he always believed that ‘what makes us different is the most interesting thing about us’.

Conceived with Mark Plesent before his passing in February 2021, The Mark Plesent Commission Fund supports the commission and development of new plays by working people– in particular, those who have not had the privilege or the resources to self-identify or support themselves professionally as artists, but who have shown extraordinary talent, consistency of practice and a commitment to writing within the mission of Working Theater.

The fund raised $75,000 when launched with the goal of running for five years, and providing 10 playwrights with their first professional commission which includes providing an established playwright mentorship, financial support, and developmental support to writers who are deserving of an audience. Thank you to our community who made this fund possible!

Learn more about how to apply. 

2023-2024 Recipients 

Valerie Knight is a licensed clinical psychologist that engages the therapeutic arts. Her journey started as an actress, singer, and theater collaborator in the professional theater. She was a longtime member of the New York Street Theatre Caravan and appeared in many productions by the group and others. Her work has radiated outward into a variety of settings including victims of trauma, care for the caregiver and health professionals, HIV/AIDS, loss of all kinds, the psychological needs of women and people of color. She is a facilitator in Montefiore Hospital’s Healing Loss Program and taught CUNY psychology courses at the District 1199/SEIU union for 16 years. Her current project with collaborator Roz Leiser, RN is “Black and White: Reckoning with Racism and Reconciliation”. The project is developing an American model based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process that features narrative, poetry, art and music. She maintains a private practice in Manhattan. She thanks her excellent teachers, family and friends.

Harrison Magee is a resident of Jackson Heights, Queens, and is a member of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1. Before becoming a bricklayer, he spent nearly a decade working in the City’s residential moving and storage industry. A longtime union activist, he is closely tied to the City’s labor movement and is passionate about making the City a better place for working people. He completed his first play, Billionaire’s Row through the Working Theater’s TheaterWorks! class in Fall 2022, and is grateful to the organization for the opportunity to continue telling stories. 

Chisa Hutchinson (B.A. Vassar College; M.F.A NYU – TSoA) (Valerie’s Mentor) has presented her plays, which include She Like Girls, Somebody’s Daughter, Surely Goodness & Mercy, Whitelisted and Dead & Breathing at such venues as Atlantic Theater Company, Contemporary American Theater Fest, the National Black Theatre, Second Stage, and Arch 468 in London. Her radio drama, Proof of Love, can be found on Audible (with a boss rating). She’s been a New Dramatist, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a Lark Fellow, a Humanitas Fellow, a NeoFuturist, and a staff writer for the Blue Man Group. Chisa has also won a GLAAD Award, a Lilly Award, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, a Helen Merrill Award, and the Lanford Wilson Award. She’s currently on strike with the WGA, but has staffed on two television series—Three Women (Starz) and Tell Me Lies (Hulu)— and is currently creating another with producers Karamo Brown (Queer Eye) and Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Dear White People). Her first original feature, THE SUBJECT, in which a white documentarian deals with the moral fallout from exploiting the death of a black teen, is available on various VOD platforms after a successful film festival circuit during which it won over 30 prizes. To learn more, visit www.chisahutchinson.com .

Ed Cardona Jr. (Harry’s Mentor) is a Connecticut native who has made significant achievements in the field of playwriting. He graduated from Western Connecticut State University and went on to obtain his M.F.A. in playwriting from Columbia University. Ed is the author of numerous full-length, one-act, and ten-minute plays. His most recently produced works have garnered attention and recognition. Among them is “American Jornalero,” which was staged by Intar Theatre, Oakland Theater Project, Teatro Vista, and Urban Theater Company. Ed’s contribution to community and collaborative initiatives is commendable. He wrote “Bamboo in Bushwick” for the Five Boroughs/One City project, which aimed to bring together various communities through theater. Furthermore, he penned “La Ruta,” a New York Times Critics’ Pick, for the Working Theater. Additionally, “Maria Se Fue” was performed as a one-act play at the As Performance Series, NYU | Steinhardt Drama Therapy Program. His ten-minute play titled “Rip 60, Z Split, Hot Read, Ear Hole on 3 – BREAK” was featured at the Source Festival by Source Theater, and his play “Lychee Martini” was a finalist at the 2020 National Playwrights Conference, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. His talent and dedication have earned him accolades and opportunities as an artistic associate with the Working Theater, a collaborator with Urban Arts Partnership/The New Group/Life Stories, and a resident playwright with Theatre 4 The People, St. Andrews College, Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Lab at Intar Theatre, The Professional Playwrights Unit at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, and The Hall Farm Center for the Arts & Education in Townsend, VT. Ed’s written works have been published by renowned publishing houses such as Dramatic Publishing, Smith and Kraus Publishing, and NoPassport Press. Notably, his thesis play, “PICK UP POTS,” earned him the prestigious John Golden Award during his time at Columbia University. Outside of his playwriting endeavors, Ed is an IT professional in Higher Education. He has resided in New York City for over twenty years, calling the borough of The Bronx his home. Despite living in New York, Ed remains a die-hard Red Sox fan. Throughout his journey, he is grateful for the love and support of his family.

2022-2023 Recipients 

Anthony Delfi is originally from NYC but currently residing in New Jersey, and has spent 18 years laboring as part of NYC’s working class. After trying something new on a whim a few years ago, he’s found a fulfilling and creative path in writing for the stage. He’ll be hoping and trying his best to make you laugh and cry as often as possible. Sharing your creative voice is one of the greatest ways to live. It’s a lesson the theater has taught him and one he hopes his work can adequately express.

Geanina (Nina) Riley is a multi-hyphenate storyteller based in Brooklyn, and born and raised in Philly. As a lifelong learner with a passion for decolonization and collaborative arts, she’s created curriculums, theater performances, and justice campaigns alongside nonprofits that advocate for black, queer, and marginalized communities. Organizations include ExpandED Schools, The African American Policy Forum, vibeTheater Experience, and now the National Urban League; all of which have supplemented her artistic practice and activism agenda. Her work interrogates and centers the intersection between black femme identity, sex, spirituality, and community. She will further explore these interests come fall 2022 at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts M.A. program for Art and Public Policy. Geanina holds a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Art and Social Practice from Pace University. She is a recipient of The Pace University Jurors Prize in Art, and the LGBTQ Center Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advocate of the Year.

J. Holtham (Anthony’s Mentor) is a screenwriter, playwright, comic book writer and blogger. TV:PITCH (Fox), MARVEL’S CLOAK & DAGGER (Freeform), MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES (Netflix), SUPERGIRL (CW), THE HANDMAID’S TALE (Hulu). Theatre: Ensemble Studio Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Second Stage Theater, Bespoke Plays. Essays and reporting: American Theatre, Thrillist, Slate. Comics: Star Trek: The Mirror War, Marvel Voices: Legacy (2022), Spider-verse Unlimited. Podcasts: Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye. On the board of the 24 Hour Plays and Ojai Playwrights Conference. He is a proud product of public education.

Chisa Hutchinson (B.A. Vassar College; M.F.A NYU – TSoA) (Nina’s Mentor) has presented her plays, which include She Like Girls, Somebody’s Daughter, Surely Goodness & Mercy, Whitelisted and Dead & Breathing at such venues as Atlantic Theater Company, Contemporary American Theater Fest, the National Black Theatre, Second Stage, and Arch 468 in London. Her radio drama, Proof of Love, can be found on Audible (with a boss rating). She’s been a New Dramatist, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a Lark Fellow, a Humanitas Fellow, a NeoFuturist, and a staff writer for the Blue Man Group. Chisa has also won a GLAAD Award, a Lilly Award, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, a Helen Merrill Award, and the Lanford Wilson Award. She staffed on two television series currently in production—Three Women (Showtime) and Tell Me Lies (Hulu)— and is currently creating another with producers Karamo Brown (Queer Eye) and Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Dear White People) for Showtime. Her first original feature, THE SUBJECT, in which a white documentarian deals with the moral fallout from exploiting the death of a black teen, is available on various VOD platforms after a successful film festival circuit during which it won over 30 prizes. To learn more, visit www.chisahutchinson.com.

Learn More about our 2022-23 Recipients

2021-2022 Recipients

 

Carlos Cotto’s childhood centered around two iconic NYC neighborhoods where he was born and raised, Harlem and Washington Heights. Growing up in a bilingual household, his love of stories began with a mix of telenovelas and primetime TV shows. Employed as a vacation relief porter right out of high school, Carlos was formally introduced to theater by Working Theater and its TheaterWorks! program. The program helped cultivate his love for magical realism which is now a defining feature of many of his plays. From a mayfly’s first day on the job to a doorman’s fever dream battle with a pickle jar, his plays joyfully expand on the surreal nature of a service worker’s livelihood. Carlos was featured in Working Theater’s “Best of TheaterWorks” production off-Broadway in 2020.

John Keane was born and raised in the Bronx NY and currently resides in Westchester county. He has been a member of 32BJ for nineteen years and works on the upper east side of Manhattan. John has had a lifelong interest in art, photography and writing. He has written four short 10-20 minute plays in the last four years. John is a first generation Irish-American and his writing is heavily influenced by the music, songs, stories and people he grew up around. John is currently enrolled at CUNY Hostos and is pursuing a degree in liberal arts.

Maggie Diaz Bofill (Carlos’s Mentor) is a writer and actor living in New York City. She is a founding member of LAByrinth, and is also a member of Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), The Playwright Director’s Unit at The Actor’s Studio and The Dorset Theater Festival’s Women Artists Writing Group. Her produced plays include: WINNER (Ensemble Studio Theater, Dir. Pam Berlin, Special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Season at EST); DRAWN AND QUARTERED (INTAR Theatre, Dir. Lou Moreno, NY Times Critic’s Pick); FACE CREAM and EL GRANDE (EST One-Act Marathons); SWIPE the musical (Tribeca Arts Center, Dir. Lori Kee).

Lucy Thurber (John’s Mentor) is the author of twelve plays. Her five play cycle THE HILL TOWN PLAYS was produced Off-Broadway by Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater in conjunction with The Cherry Lane Theater, The Axis Theater and The New Ohio Theatre. Lucy’s theatrical homes are Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater, The Atlantic Theater, LAByrinth Theater, New Dramatists and The Lark where they have produced and supported her. Lucy is published by Dramatists Play Service. She is an alumni of New Dramatists, A member of 13P, LAByrinth Theater Company, Rising Phoenix Rep and New Neighborhood. Lucy has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, The Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Houses on The Moon, Yale Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, A.C.T. and Steppenwolf Theatre. She is the recipient of Manhattan Theatre Club Playwriting Fellowship, the first Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting, a proud recipient of a LILLY AWARD, an OBIE Award for THE HILL TOWN PLAYS and The Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwriting Award. She has written for SWEETBITER on STARZ and is a writer/producer on AMC’s NOS4A2 and Amazon’s OUTER RANGE. She has written screenplays for Debra Granik and Rachel Weisz and Maven. Lucy has upcoming projects with AMC, HBO, Nanette Burstein and Sarah Paulson.

Thank you to the generous donations from our community for the initial launch of the mark Plesent Commission Fund

10000+Howard Gilman Foundation,Twin Oak Philanthropic Fund,5000+Distracted Globe Foundation,Axel Stawski,2500+Robert Ackerman,Stephen Meringoff,Faith Ryan,1000+Anonymous,Barbara Cohn,Kate Doyle,EmblemHealth,Bill Henning,Jordan Fox,Jonathan & Patricia Kay,Norman & Sandy Reisman,500+Anonymous,Thomas Acosta,Dominique Bravo,Dan Cohen,Emily Franzosa,John & Brett,Daniel Kaslow,Anne Newman,Lavender Rouzier,Frances Spark,Karen Stempel,250+Anonymous III,Peter Bernstein,Nicholas Betito,Phelim Dolan & Lauren Zalaznick,Richard Koven,Gwen Krause,Virginia Louloudes & John Harrison,William V. Madison,Michael Milligan,Cynthia Schneider, Patricia White, Max Schneider-White,James Spindler,Jeffrey Steinman & Jody Falco,Daniella Topol,Jennifer Dorr White,Peregrine Whittlesey,Barbara Zakin

100+Anonymous IV,Carlo Allen,Robert Arcaro,Alkesta & Curtis Belknap,Caryn Bernstein,Ben Bohen & Peter DuBois,Melissa and Andrew Bogdan,Lucrecia Briceno,Pamela Brill,Melissa Brown,William Carden,Connie Coddington,Myra Coffield,Esther Cohen,The Cookie Fund,Joy Cooper,Susan Davidoff,Victoria Doyle,Bernadette Elstein,Roslyn F.,Marisa Fazzina,Arthur Fierman,John Franzosa,Elizabeth Dawn Froemke,Connie G.,Constance Gemson,Ellen Golding,Elise Goyette,Judith Guberman,Jeremy Handelman,Jim Harder & Tim Cahill,Kristin Horton,Denise & Jim Houghton,Bob Jaffe,Marjorie Kaplan & Michael Stanislawski,Randi Karpinia & Family,Kathryn Kaufman,J Keane,Elizabeth Klaber,Scott Krowitz,Ronald Languedoc,Deborah LaVine,Nancy & Christopher Letts,Will MacAdams,Eduard & Zhaneta Maili,Lisa McNulty,Miguel Mendiola,Ellen Mittenthal & Rick McKim,Elizabeth Morgan & Colleen O’Shea,Judy Neichin,Richard Osman,Laura Aden Packer,Eugenia Perez,Catherine Pfordresher,Roger Phillips,Emanuel Plesent,Jerry Polner,Denyse & RJ Reed,Jacquelyn Reingold,Lauren Roth,Samuel Rudy,Michele Sacks,Elliot & Beatrice Samuelson,Daniel Schaefer,Rebecca Schull,Bobby Score,Nandita Shenoy,Kate Skinner,Gabriel Sloyer,Greg & Margie Carbonell Smith,Jennie Smith-Peers,Jan Snyder,Christine Stile-Mazzeo,Sarah Cameron Sunde,Cori Thomas,Leyla Vural,Nicole Watson,The Weiner Family,Janet Weiss,Susan Wilson,Adam and Katy Wolpert,Workers Unite Film Festival, Inc.,Stefanie Zadravec,50+Anonymous IV,Lee Alderson,Julia Barry,Carly J. Bauer,Kari Bentley-Quinn,Michael Bernard,Helene Blieberg,Jessica Brigandi,Peggy Cheng,Jessica Doyle,Maya Evans,Corey Friedlander,Sandy and Joe Green-Navarro,Elaine Greenstein,Cindy Horowitz & Seth Hochman,Jackie Keller,David Kernahan,The Klueber Family,Andrea Kuchlewska,Peggy Kulesz,Rochelle Lewis-Fanali,Kate Loewald,Neysa Lozano,Kathlene McDonald,Edelen McWilliams,Courtney Powell & Tate Nova,Paul Orefice,John Papandrea,Heather Raffo,Thom Rivera,Peter & Joan Salzman,Mia Savvides,Emily Sproch,Giselle Stevens,Linda Ury Greenberg,Mark Valdez,Nikki Walker,Doris Wallace,Haruko Yamauchi,25+Anonymous,Bruce Allardice & Victoria Abrash,Leila Buck,Neysa Caplan,The Chernoff Family,Rachel Falcone & Michael Premo,Anne Ficklen & Thomas Hibbard,Liz Frankel,Madeleine George,Elizabeth Goettler,Jenny Haight,Deadria Harrington,Lori & David Hudson,Claire Kavanah,Lisa Kerchman,Alisa Klein,Josh Landay,Hope Levy,Joean Lim,Eva Mueller,Lorraine O’Brien,Nabil Vinas,Carol Yellin,10+Anonymous IV,Caron Atlas,Allen & Marsha Costa,LeeAnne Hutchison,Joshua Medsker,Jeremy Stoller