New York Community Trust Announces Winners of 2019 Helen Merriill Award for Playwriting

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

New York Community Trust Announces Winners of 2019 Helen Merriill Award for Playwriting

(June 19, 2019) NEW YORK, NY – Five exceptional American playwrights have won a total of $150,000 as the 2019 winners of The New York Community Trust’s Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting. The winners are: Carlyle Brown, Mia Chung, Aleshea Harris, Michael R. Jackson, and Daniel Alexander Jones. This $30,000 award is one of the largest and most significant prizes for playwrights in the nation.

“Each one of the Helen Merrill Award recipients has demonstrated dedication to, and exceptional talent for, live event storytelling,” said Emily Morse, the chair of the advisory committee that recommends the winners. “They are boundary breaking and category defying artists.”

The late theatrical agent Helen Merrill created a fund in The New York Community Trust to carry out her charitable legacy. Since 1999, The Trust has made 88 awards to playwrights totaling $1.8 million from the Helen Merrill Fund. The monetary awards give recipients the time and financial security to write.

“The Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting is essentially the gift of liberation in process, which is invaluable,” said Aleshea Harris, 2019 award recipient.

Born in 1918, Helen Merrill was a theatrical agent and mentor to aspiring playwrights, directors, and composers in New York City. She grew up in Cologne, Germany and moved to New York City with her family after the Nazi invasion. Starting out as a photographer, Merrill transitioned to theater in the late 1970s. She found new talent by attending off-Broadway productions. Her sharp tongue, witty sense of humor, and faith in the unconventional made her a beloved member of the New York theater scene.

“During her life, Helen represented, and would often use her personal resources to help, up-and-coming playwrights,” said Kerry McCarthy, vice president for philanthropic initiatives at The New York Community Trust. “She cared deeply about the well-being of her writers, and this fund continues her legacy of helping talented playwrights survive in a challenging industry.”

This year’s winners are a diverse and talented group of playwrights, all of whom are known for writing timely, important works that are pushing the boundaries of American theater. The winners are...


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