COMMISSIONING AND DEVELOPMENT
Ars Nova commissions and develops new work with an eye for artists that work with nontraditional creative processes and projects that often combine generative artists across multiple disciplines to collaboratively create a piece of theater. Our adventurous, process-driven environment allows commissioned projects to develop organically and in an artist-focused way by committing to these groundbreaking, form-defying projects for the long haul over several years. Ars Nova’s mission-driven affinity for hybrid works that combine music, comedy and theater makes us a natural home for devised theater pieces with complicated creative structures. And, because these pieces often cannot be made in traditional ways, we have embraced a flexible development process to help nurture these unique pieces from the beginning stages on to a full production.
OUR CURRENT COMMISSIONS ARE
Click each headshot for an artist bio.
MELIS AKER is a bilingual writer, actor, and musician from Turkey. Her plays have been commissioned by and developed at Atlantic Theatre, Ars Nova (Play Group member), NYTW (2050 fellow), New Group, Dramatists Guild (DGF fellow), Roundabout Space Jam, LaMaMa, The Lark, The Flea, Noor, Golden Thread Productions, Corkscrew Festival and BRIC in the U.S., as well as the Finborough and Park theatres in London.
Melis’ plays include: Field, Awakening (2019 Kilroy’s List, Columbia@Roundabout finalist, Sundance final-round, Berkeley Rep Ground Floor final-round, Playwrights Realm finalist); Dragonflies (2019 Sundance final-round); When My Mama was a Hittite (Columbia@Roundabout finalist), Azul Otra Vez [Blue, Revisited]; Manar (Columbia@Roundabout finalist, Theatre503 Playwriting Award semifinalist); 330 Pegasus: A Love Letter (Jerome NY Fellowship final-round), Scraps and Things (Playing on Air, starring Carol Kane), and Gilded Isle. Her screenplay “ARI” (“Bee”) was at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival as part of Maison des Scenaristes, and her pilot of “MANAR” was accepted to Orchard Project’s Episodic Lab, Trans Atlantic Partners, and IFP week.
Selected acting credits include: “The Blacklist: Redemption” (NBC), “Seneca” (HBO’s NYLFF), Love in Afghanistan (Arena Stage & Roundabout), We Live in Cairo (NAMT, New World Stages), Proof (Edinburgh Fringe). Her song “The Unknowing” made it to the final reel of the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk contest. Melis has worked as Ayad Akhtar’s assistant, and given a StoryCorps and TEDx talk. She is a proud member of The Lark’s Middle East America writers room.
Upcoming: Melis is developing a screenplay with Revelations Entertainment headed by Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary, and her play Field, Awakening will receive its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre directed by Rory McGregor. Training: Columbia (MFA), Tufts (BA), RADA (Acting). Representation: CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. www.melisaker.com
Melis Aker’s commission is supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
KEVIN ARMENTO’s plays include Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (Drama Desk Nomination, Stage Edinburgh Award), Good Men Wanted (New York Stage and Film), Companion Piece (Pleasance Theatre), and killers (Tom Noonan’s Paradise Factory), and upcoming plays include Balls (co-written with Bryony Lavery, 59E59 Theaters / One Year Lease), Playing Hot (Pipeline Theatre) and Devil with the Blue Dress (Bunker Theatre, London). Work has been produced and developed with Arena Stage, Ars Nova, Cape Cod Theatre Project, Dixon Place, The Flea, Johnny Mercer Writers Colony, The New Ohio and Stages Repertory Theatre, and he is an alum of The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm, Artist-in-Residence at The Drama League and Play Group and Makers Lab at Ars Nova.
SAMMY MILLER A native of Los Angeles, Grammy nominated drummer Sammy Miller has become known for his unique maturity and relentless focus on making music that “feels good” as a drummer, singer and bandleader. Upon completing his Master’s at The Juilliard School, Sammy formed his ensemble, The Congregation. As a band they are focused on sharing the power of community through their music—joyful jazz.
Kevin Armento & Sammy Miller
MICHAEL BRESLIN & PATRICK FOLEY make plays and videos (and plays with video) about their obsessions and humiliations. In combination with original text, their work draws on material from modern drama, reality television, American method acting, viral memes, technology and dance. Underlying their work is an investigation into theatrical form — how to subvert and manipulate it — and theater’s relationship to the media that dominates our lives: television, Instagram, FaceTime and Hollywood movies. Their works include: Circle Jerk (Ars Nova Makers Lab, Prelude Festival, Little Theater), A Doll’s House, Part 3 (Ars Nova ANT Fest, Exponential Festival, Wesleyan, International Online Theater Festival), and This American Wife (NYTW Next Door). Dramaturgy, in its abundant forms and contortions, is critical to their work, and they frequently collaborate with Cat Rodríguez (performer and dramaturg) and Ariel Sibert (dramaturg). michaelandpatrick.com
Michael Breslin & Patrick Foley
HEATHER CHRISTIAN (Composer) is an Obie Award-winning composer/playwright/performer and 2019 Sundance Time Warner Fellow. She makes original performance work (Animal Wisdom Bushwick Starr, Mission Drift Nat’l Theatre London, The World Is Round BAM,) as well as scores film (The Shivering Truth (Adult Swim), Lemon, Gregory Go Boom, Sundance Grand Jury Prize) and has released 9 records with her band Heather Christian & the Arbornauts. Heather is an Ars Nova commissioned artist and a 2019 Steinberg Commission at Playwrights Horizons. heatherchristian.com.
nicHi douglas is a Brooklyn-based performer, choreographer, director, playwright and activist. She has performed all over New York and the country as a freelance actor/dancer in addition to performing nationally with The Dance Cartel and literacy-focused children’s theater company The Story Pirates. She currently teaches Movement & Choreography and Performance Symposium at NYU/Tisch – Playwrights Horizon Theater School studio. Recent stage credits: A Time Like This: Music for Change (Carnegie Hall, Stage Director), Runaways (City Center/Encores! Off-Center and The Delacorte/Public Theater, Associate Director & Associate Choreographer), Primer for a Failed Superpower (Roulette, Choreographer), BLACK GIRL MAGIC SHOW! (Ars Nova ANT Fest and JACK, Director/Choreographer/Playwright), they told us not to pray (Playwrights Horizons Downtown, Director & Choreographer) and Girl From the North Country (The Public Theater, Associate Choreographer). Upcoming: Last Stop on Market Street (Atlantic Theater Company, Choreographer) and where love lies fallow (The Shed, Director/Choreographer/Playwright).
DEEPALI GUPTA is a performance artist, composer, and playwright. Her work explores themes of madness and illucidity in relation to the feminized and colonized body. She makes work intended to unravel the warped weave of narratives surrounding what we term mania, psychosis, mood disorder, and mental illness.
She is the youngest daughter of Kashmiri and Bengali immigrants; and a neurodivergent person with a diagnosis of bipolar I. According to the American psychiatric rubric, the mind suffering from “bipolar disorder”—illucid, illegible—experiences cognitive hyperassociativity and produces disorganized speech. This mind makes random turns and follows unknown laws. Deepali’s artistic ethos is intimately related to her neurologic logic.
Her work has been presented by Ars Nova, The Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Judson Memorial Church, The Poetry Project, The Bushwick Starr, and Target Margin Theater. She has collaborated with theater and VR companies such as Piehole, Tender Claws, and New Saloon on acclaimed and award-winning projects—including Ski End, Madonna col bambino, and Minor Character.
Current projects include I Love You Stranger (developed in Ars Nova’s Makers Lab) and a commission for JACK titled United States v. Gupta, in collaboration with director Caitlin Sullivan. This work runs from the vein of lived experience, and works with private and public archives—bleeding out into any and many landscapes. SoundCloud: deepali (k) gupta / IG: deepaligupta / website: deepaligupta.net
KHIYON HURSEY is a writer and composer based in Los Angeles and New York. He was a staff writer for Netflix’s romantic musical drama, SOUNDTRACK and is currently co-writing LOVE IN AMERICA, a movie musical to be produced by Issa Rae at Universal. He is the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation’s Irving Burgie Scholarship, Bart Howard Songwriting Scholarship, the Lucille and Jack Yellen award, a 2016 NAMT Writers Grant, a 2016/17 Dramatists Guild Musical Theater Fellow, 2017 Space on Ryder Farm Residency, 2018 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project residency, 2019 ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop with Stephen Schwartz, 2019 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, the 2020 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals and the 2020 Stephen Schwartz Award. Khiyon got his start as the music assistant on the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions and the Grammy Award Winning Cast Album of HAMILTON. He’s been a guest lecturer at Columbia, Yale and Berklee College of Music on Musical Theater. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in Songwriting.
JEROME & JAMES (JJJJJerome Ellis & James Harrison Monaco, also known as James & Jerome) are a music and storytelling duo based in New York, creating hyper-literary live-music narrative spectacles for theaters and other spaces. Their collaboration is diligently non-hierarchical. Their electronic music concert and art lecture Ink, which premiered in January 2019 as part of Under The Radar Festival, was the first ever co-presentation by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Public Theater. In addition to The Met and Under The Radar, their works have been presented at venues such as Lincoln Center, La MaMa, MASS MoCA, the Kimmel Center and Ars Nova’s ANT Fest (2013). They are also New Writers in Residence at Lincoln Center Theater. jeromeandjames.org or jamesandjerome.org
Jerome & James
ANTOINETTE NWANDU is a New York-based playwright. Her Jeff-award winning play, Pass Over, will have its New York debut at LCT3 in June. A filmed version of the Steppenwolf production—directed by Spike Lee—will have its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Her play Breach: a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate will have its World Premiere at Victory Gardens in February. Antoinette’s work has been supported by the Sundance Theater Lab, Space on Ryder Farm, Ignition Fest, the Cherry Lane Mentor Project, the Kennedy Center, Page73, PlayPenn, Southern Rep, The Flea, Naked Angels, Fire This Time and The Movement Theater Company. Honors include the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, the Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and spots on the 2016 and 2017 Kilroys lists. Antoinette is a MacDowell Fellow, a Dramatists Guild Fellow and an Ars Nova Play Group alum. She is currently under commission from Echo Theater Company, Colt Coeur and Audible.
ON THE ROCKS THEATRE CO. is a California born, New York-bred company comprised of longtime collaborators Christopher Ford and Dakota Rose. Through rigorous blending of humor and heart, camp and poignancy and with a rich visual aesthetic drawing on a wide range of mid-century Americana, ON THE ROCKS create wholly original work that tells the stories of imperfect characters making their way in uncertain worlds. With a recurring crew of performers, musicians and dancers, they have made McBeth (2010), Wolfert (2015), The White Stag Quadrilogy (2016), FRED (2017) and their annual holiday bar pageant, Edelweiss (2017 & 2018).
On The Rocks Theatre Co.
RAY YAMANOUCHI was born in Queens, raised on Long Island, and received a BA in film and theatre from CUNY Hunter College in Manhattan. His plays include Tha Chink-Mart (PlayPenn 2018), Impact (Finalist, Princess Grace Award 2019), and The American Tradition (New Light New Voices Award 2018). He has developed work with WT Theatre, The Blank Theatre, Rising Circle Theater Collective, Mission to (dit)Mars (Propulsion Lab), Ars Nova (Play Group), and Playwrights’ Center (Core Writer). You can find him online @NotoriousYAMs, or as the host of RE:, a NYC theatre talk show (www.retheatre.nyc).
ZACK ZADEK Composer/lyricist, playwright and songwriter with Warner/Chappell, Zack Zadek has been named by Playbill as “A Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriter You Should Know”, was a MacDowell Fellow and VCCA Fellow and is a 2019 Dramatist Guild Fellow. Zack won the Weston New Musical Award for his book, music and lyrics to DEATHLESS (dir. Tina Landau) which received its world premiere at Goodspeed Musicals in 2017. His work has been developed and presented at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The 5th Avenue Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, The Lark, Arena Stage, Goodspeed Musicals, Weston Playhouse, Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, Legacy Theatre, NYMF, The Mitten Lab and in the UK at the London Theatre Workshop and Edinburgh Fringe. He is a two-time finalist for the Kleban Prize as a librettist and a lyricist, a three-time Jonathan Larson Grant Finalist, a resident of the Working Farm @ SPACE on Ryder Farm and SigWorks @ Signature Theatre, KSF Artists of Choice finalist and winner of the inaugural NMI/Disney Imagineering New Voices Award. Other pieces include The Crazy Ones (dir. Sam Buntrock/Hunter Bird), The Role of a Lifetime (dir. Jerry Mitchell) and 6 (dir. Sheryl Kaller/Max Friedman). Upcoming projects include Store Brand (dir. Jaki Bradley) being developed by The Civilians and current commissions from Mike Bosner Productions, Jill Furman Productions, Arena Stage and Ars Nova. He is currently a writer-in-residence with The Orchard Project Greenhouse and The Civilians.