TheatreSquared, a leading regional theater known for its immersive, intimate productions and commitment to fostering new theatrical voices, announced an ambitious commissioning project featuring three distinguished playwrights: Satya Chavéz, Candrice Jones, and Jonathan Norton. With this project, TheatreSquared will forge important relationships while working toward the goal of bringing diverse stories to the forefront of American theater.
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.
"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," says T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. "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."
"New works are core to the growth of the American theater," says T2 Executive Director Shannon Jones. "Uplifting voices and stories for our communities to engage with keeps our conversations lively and our connections meaningful. We live in an ever shifting world, and playwrights who capture those moments that are ever so timely help to push us forward and stay connected to the moment."
"We’ll hopefully have a continued relationship with these writers throughout their careers, with a potential impact on theater as a whole as these plays are performed on stages around the world—hopefully for years to come," adds T2 Director of New Play Development Dexter J. Singleton.
About the Playwrights
Satya Chavéz is an Indigenous Mexican-American, queer, Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist who is known for their powerful 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." Last season, they were the recipients of Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Original Music in a Play for their play Refuge.
"They just have such a unique, organic style where they combine storytelling with music—and a lot of that music is being mixed live, on stage—improvisation, and storytelling," notes Singleton. "They use all these elements to tell stories, and it is amazing to watch."
Candrice 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. Earlier this summer, FLEX was performed on the Lincoln Center stage in NYC, where it was called a "slam-dunk New York debut" and named a "Critic’s Pick" by The New York Times. 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.
"Candrice is an Arkansan playwright and is going to continue to cultivate stories about Arkansas people," says Singleton. "A person who has those roots, is homegrown, and continues to explore Arkansas stories is wonderful."
Jonathan Norton is a Texas-born playwright whose play Mississippi Goddamn exploded onto the theater scene to wide acclaim—Broadway World called it "a force to be reckoned with." 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. With a knack for blending humor and moving social commentary, Norton's plays frequently shed light on the lives of marginalized communities, highlighting both their struggles and triumphs.
"Jonathan brings that southern charm and insight to his work at all times," says 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."
"Collaborating with these three artists is incredibly exciting and is the start of what we hope will be a long lasting relationship," says 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."
Ultimately, says Singleton, this project is a testament to T2’s ongoing mission to serve as a catalyst for conversation, captivate audiences, provoke thought, and contribute to the evolving landscape of American drama. New work in particular, he says, is crucial for the task of revitalizing the American stage at a time when, post-pandemic, it so badly needs it.
"It's what inspires, it's what gets people excited, gets them re-energized," he says. "I think it's necessary for the field to never forget about new plays, and living writers in particular. The focus should be on new American plays and new work because it's talking about ‘the now’, affecting people's thoughts, and that's what we need and that's what's most inspiring—things that we can communicate, educate, and debate. That’s what’s going to help our lives today."
TheatreSquared’s signature offering of bold new plays in an intimate setting has driven its growth to become the state’s largest theater, offering more than 350 performances annually in an intimate setting. Its pioneering work has been recognized with a 2022 Obie Award, as well as critical acclaim from The New York Times ("Best Theater of 2020" list), The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. The playwright-led company is one of mid-America’s leading laboratories for new work, having launched more than 70 new plays. Notable collaborators have included Candrice Jones, Bryna Turner, The Kilbanes, Sarah Gancher, José Cruz Gonzales, Mary Kathryn Nagle, Qui Nguyen, Mona Mansour, Amy Evans, and many others. TheatreSquared’s home—winner of the 2021 International Architecture Award—is a cultural landmark. Offering far-reaching access and education programs and an open-all-day gathering space, the Commons Bar/Café, TheatreSquared remains rooted in its founding vision, that "theatre—done well and with passion—can transform lives and communities."
Major funding for the TheatreSquared Season 18 is provided by the Walton Family Foundation; the Walmart Foundation; the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation; the Windgate Foundation; the Shubert Foundation; the Tyson Family Foundation; the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage; the National Endowment for the Arts; Bob and Becky Alexander; Jane Hunt; Barbara Shadden; Todd Simmons and Melissa Hall Simmons; and Simmons Foods.
Marketing support for TheatreSquared Season 18 is provided by Experience Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Fayetteville Flyer, 3W Magazine, CitiScapes, KUAF, 5NEWS, MailCo USA, and NWA Daily.