Covid Relief Grants

Elysabeth Kleinhans Theatrical Foundation announces COVID Relief Grant recipients.
Grants ranging from $10,000 - $25,000 awarded to five non-profit theater companies

New York, New York February 18, 2021 — 59E59 Theaters (Val Day, Artistic Director; Brian Beirne, Managing Director), a development of the Elysabeth Kleinhans Theatrical Foundation, is thrilled to announce that five NYC non-profit theater companies are the recipients of Covid Relief Grants. The grant amounts range from $10,000 - $25,000 and will go towards supporting new work from BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists. 

“Our Off Broadway theater community is being decimated by Covid with no relief in sight,” says 59E59 Theaters Artistic Director Val Day. “The true devastation will be felt for years to come. We wanted to give substantial  financial support to theater companies,  allowing them to continue their impactful work with perpetually underfunded artists.”

In a normal season, 59E59 Theaters, through funding from the Elysabeth Kleinhans Theatrical Foundation, spends in excess of $1.7 million to support the work of non-profit theater companies that produce in the building’s three theater spaces. 

“Our mission has always been to support non-profit theater companies’ Off Broadway premieres. The Covid Relief grants are an extension of what 59E59 Theaters was designed to do,” says Elysabeth Kleinhans, founder of the Elysabeth Kleinhans Theatrical Foundation and Founding Artistic Director of 59E59 Theaters. “We believe we should find new ways to further our mission when we cannot provide the venues to do so.”

The Covid Relief Grant recipients are: 

Hypokrit Theatre Company
For the development of a theatrical project FINDING PARADISE with book, music, and lyrics by Aya Aziz, directed by Arpita Mukherjee.

FINDING PARADISE is a memoir musical that follows an Egyptian-American family across continents and generations as they search for home and belonging in the post 9/11 world. Through the musical, which is an expansion of the sold-out musical Eh Dah: Questions for my Fatherat Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop, Aya explores deeper the traumas that shape the Middle East through a transnational, inter-generational story of her own family.

Hypokrit Theatre Company’s mission is to disrupt the pedagogy of American theater, in order to create a more equitable and relevant theater. Based in New York City, Hypokrit exclusively develops work by artists of color and is led and supported by minority communities, who across ethnicities, genders, and sexualities are united in their commitment to elevate multicultural talent and stories.

Less Than Rent
To support an abridged virtual production of Nora Brigid Monahan’s play MARCHONS MARCHONS. 

MARCHONS MARCHONS chronicles the glory days of the Jacobins -- the most radical wing of the French Revolutionaries -- as they topple the monarchy, the aristocracy, the church, and all the bootlicking class traitors who supported the old regime. But personal dynamics, petty arguments, and even an ill-timed love triangle or two threaten to undermine the movement. marchons marchons explores the messiness of revolution, from the intimate to the ideological, and the challenges of letting go of your individual ego to fight for a future you may never live to see, for the freedom of someone you don't know.

Less Than Rent has been a perpetually emerging theatre company since 2010. They have mounted productions of fifteen new plays, and their work has been seen at 59E59, the New Ohio, HERE Arts Center, La MaMa, Wild Project, and Horse Trade Theater Group. They've received multiple FringeNYC, Rave Theatre Fest, and United Solo awards, some NYIT nominations, and their commissioned Pussy Sludge was named the recipient of the Relentless Award. Their best award was Indie Theater Now’s “People of the Year” in 2013. Their 59E59 production of How To Load a Musket was named one of “the 10 best broadway, off-broadway, and virtual theater productions of 2020” by Theatermania. They are frequently described as "promising," once as "indie theatre at its finest," and have been included on many, many "people to watch" lists over the years. 

New Light Theater Project
To support an abridged virtual production of the winner of their 2020/21 New Light/ New Voices Awarded play INK'D WELL by E.E. Adams, directed by NJ Agunwa.

When Kendra finds out that her brother, Issac, has died in a terrible accident, she returns to her childhood summer home on Martha’s Vineyard. As the mystery behind his death is unraveled, she discovers that he was drowning in much more than water. Meanwhile, a childhood ghost story about a “sea witch” haunts Kendra. The story, paired with her grief, begins to impact her relationship with her family and her relationship with the ocean itself.

New Light Theater Project (NLTP) nurtures a Collective of artist-practitioners through the presentation of compelling stories across theatrical genres. Led by Artistic Director Sarah Norris and Producing Director Michael Aguirre, NLTP believes in the strength of ensemble-work and is committed to fostering their Collective comprised of writers, actors, directors, stage managers, and designers from various backgrounds. At least 50% of an NLTP production utilizes the Collective while the rest of the production team consists of innovative artists they hope to cultivate deeper relationships with. NLTP strives to provide sustained opportunities for the Collective. What started as a weekly Sunday gathering of friends over pancakes, coffee, and plays has evolved into a company of artists who care about the work they are contributing to the theatrical make-up of New York City, and ultimately, seek to ensure a work environment that encompasses a communal spirit. Since 2013, NLTP has mounted over 30 full productions that have received critical praise including Best of Theater 2014 (The L Magazine), inducted into Indie Theater Now's People of the Year/Indie Theater Hall of Fame, and received residencies from Theatre Row on 42nd Street, The Flea Theater’s Anchor Program, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Residency Fellowship, Chicago Dramatists Grafting Project, IRT 3B Residency, and the Access Theater Residency Program.

Noor Theater Company
To support Noor Theatre's Commissioning Initiative.

Noor Theatre’s Commissioning Initiative was created to help build the canon of work by artists of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent. Their commissioned pieces illustrate the breadth and richness of MENA’s many diasporic communities, challenge the harmful stereotypes of Middle Easterners rampant in popular media, and advance important conversations within our communities. The MENA diaspora is not monolithic, and Noor’s pieces reflect the unique voices and perspectives of their artists. The Commissioning Initiative furthers representation for artists of MENA descent through two programs: New Play Commissions and Cross-Medium Commissions. New Play Commissions are awarded to playwrights, who embark on a full-length play development process with Noor. With the support of Pop Culture Collaborative, Cross-Medium Commissions are awarded annually to three writers, who, over the course of a year, develop a script in a medium of their choice (such as film, television, VR, etc.) designed to reach a mass audience.

Noor Theatre is an Obie-winning company dedicated to supporting, developing, and producing the work of theatre artists of Middle Eastern descent. Their programming supports work at different stages of development, whether early drafts of new plays or world premiere productions. Through their Highlight Reading Series, Co-Presentation Partnerships with universities and other organizations, and Premiere Productions or 48 Hour Forum, they aim to create exceptional work that transcends cultural boundaries and speaks to all people. Noor Theatre is a Company-In-Residence at New York Theatre Workshop and a member of Theatre Row’s Inaugural Kitchen Sink Residency.

To continue and complete their virtual work on DJANGO IN PAIN - Act One, created by Antonio Vega and Ana Graham from Por Piedad Teatro, with music by Cristóbal MarYan.

About Django in Pain - Act One - Antonio Vega and Ana Graham are two isolated theatre artists creating this piece inside an apartment in NY, plus a musician (Cristobal MarYán) composing the music in Mexico City, also while in isolation. They explore the possibilities of using a glass top drawing desk as a stage for Django in Pain. Transforming the desk into a wooden cabin, and using shadows and light, tabletop puppets, marionettes, and everyday objects, they tell the story of a depressed playwright who wants to write a happy, uplifting story about a sad man who wants to kill himself but can't because now he has to take care of a three-legged dog.
Ana and Antonio don’t know if the playwright will write the uplifting play; they don't know if he will keep on writing at all. They don’t know if Django is going to kill himself but they certainly hope he won’t.

PlayCo centers artists to lead the trajectory of their creative process and generate a dynamic, uniquely global program of adventurous work that innovates and celebrates the power of live theatre. Their distinctive international mission links U.S. artists with the global creative community and U.S. audiences with a whole world of plays. They build collaborative community partnerships and maintain affordable access to create an inclusive, welcoming theatre for all. Over 20 years their productions of plays from the U. S., Central and South America, Europe, Russia, South and East Asia, and the Middle East include: Amir Nizar Zuabi's This Is Who I Am and Oh My Sweet Land; 3 plays by Toshiki Okada; Lee Sunday Evans’ production of Stefano Massini’s Intractable Woman: A Theatrical Memo on Anna Politkovskaya; Guillermo Calderón’s Villa; Christopher Chen’s Caught (Obie Playwriting Award); Jonas Hassen Khemiri's Invasion! (Obie Playwriting Award) , debbie tucker green’s generations; Aya Ogawa’s Ludic Proxy, and more. The NYC spaces they use are located in Lenapehoking, the homeland of the Lenape people.


Artist Bios

E.E. Adams
(she/her/hers; playwright, Ink’d Well) is a NYC based writer and actress. Her full-length plays include: Ink’dWell (Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Semi-Finalist), Snow Globe (AMiOS First Draughts Commission), and A Creation Myth (Weston Fine Arts Award Winner). Her work has been developed with Fresh Ground Pepper, AMiOS, The Daughters of Troy, Brown University, and the University of San Diego. As an actress, her TV credits include Succession (HBO) and Forever (ABC). She has appeared in productions at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Ars Nova, The Old Globe, Barrington Stage Company, and The Actors’ Theatre of Louisville. Adams holds a BA with Honors in Literary Arts from Brown University and a MFA in Acting from The Old Globe/USD. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch. 


NJ Agwuna (she/her/hers; director, Ink’d Well) is a freelance theatre and film director hailing from central Maryland. Performing from a young age, NJ began studying theatre at REP Stage Summer Institute, where she not only learned the art of acting but was also inspired to pursue the adventurous life of directing. She approaches theater with curiosity and wonder, believing that theater can not only heal us but show us all the possibilities of the world that we inhabit. She has worked on a national and international scale exploring classic text, developing new plays, devising, and investigating new ways to explore trauma and mental illness through theater. 2018 Studied at Columbia University School of the Arts, NY. 

Aya Aziz (she/her/hers; book, music and lyric writer, Finding Paradise) is a writer, performer, and composer from New York. Her musical, Eh Dah? Questions for my Father, had a sold out run in New York Theatre Workshop’s 2019 “Next Door” series. An earlier iteration of the show, then a one-woman musical, ran at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) in 2016 where it won awards for Most Outstanding Book and Outstanding Individual Performance. Aya is a 2020 NYFA grant recipient and is currently working on her debut album. You can find her single “Rapids” online and more of her music in the 2019 film, Ask For Jane. Aya is currently a fellow of the 2020 Emerging Writer’s Group (EWG) at The Public and a 2020 Musical Theater fellow at the Dramatists Guild Foundation (DGF). Her notable concert credits include Signature Theatre, Cherry Lane, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Joe’s Pub, and Disney’s Women of Broadway.

Ana Graham (she/her/hers; creator,  Django in Pain - Act One) is a director, actor, translator, and costume designer born in Mexico City, where she studied drama at the Núcleo de Estudios Teatrales. She is Artistic Producer and Founder of Mexico’s based Por Piedad Teatro where she has developed most of her work. She is also a member of the advisory committee for the US/MEXICO exchange program at The Lark and has been a recipient of Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and Arts performer grants many times. In 2012 Graham was appointed as Mexico’s Art, Culture and Tourism Ambassador by former President Felipe Calderón.  Aiming to expand the activities of her theatre company and to open international opportunities for Mexican theatre artist, she moved to New York in 2009. Since then, she splits her time producing work both in Mexico City and in New York City. Ana and collaborator Antonio Vega partnered with The Play Company to present Ettore Scola’s Working On a Special Day in New York at 59E59 (2013) and The Duchamp Syndrome at The Flea (2015).  In 2018, she was a resident artist at Berkeley Repertory Ground Floor program.  In Mexico she recently directed Samuel Beckett’s  El Final (The End), Maria Milisavljevic’s Abismo (Abyss), and co-directed with Antonio Vega El Ensayo (10 Out of 12) by Anne Washburn and Winter Solstice by Roland Schimmelpfennig. As an actor, she has performed in more than twenty plays, including Woody Allen’s Interiors and most recently Terror by  Ferdinand Von Schirach. In 2005  she received an Ariel nomination as Best Actress for her role in the movie Mezcal directed by Ignacio Ortiz. Before the pandemic, she was collaborating with New York’s playwright Andy Bragen on the development of a new play called Summit and was about to begin rehearsals for an upcoming production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane in Mexico City and for William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, where she was cast as Antony in an all-women Mexican production. Both productions have been postponed.  

Nora Brigid Monahan (they/them/their; playwright, marchons marchons) is a playwright and performer, best known for writing and starring in the dark solo comedy DIVA  (winner of the 2013 USolo Awards for Best Musical and Audience Choice), which was later expanded into the cult musical Diva: Live From Hell (music & lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen) and published by Dramatists Play Service. Their other works include Aunt Jack (also published by DPS), Tyrants (music & lyrics by Oyen, developed by Goodspeed Musicals, Penn State, and The York Theatre), Empty, and Rodham/Sade. Nora is also the creator and co-facilitator of The Lark's Beyond the Binary Initiative, a new program dedicated to providing creative and financial support to gender expansive theater artists.

Antonio Vega (he/him/his; creator,  Django in Pain - Act One) is a director, actor, playwright, and translator born in Guadalajara, Jalisco where he graduated from ETX Jalisco School of Theater. He has also trained with Teatro Estudio (TEES) in Guadalajara; the Mexican Improvisation League in Mexico City; Odin Teatret in Holstebro, Denmark; American Institute of Comedy; HB Studio in NYC;  and the Actors Center in London.  In 2004, Vega joined Por Piedad Teatro and became the company’s artistic director in 2012. In 2013 Vega and collaborator Ana Graham partnered with The Play Company to present Ettore Scola’s Working On a Special Day in New York at 59E59. In 2015 he created, co-directed, and starred in The Duchamp Syndrome which premiered at The Flea in New York City. He has been a resident artist at Tofte Lake Center, Blue Mountain Art Center, and at Berkeley Repertory Ground Floor. In Mexico, he recently directed  Terror by Ferdinand Von Schirach and co-directed Anne Washburn’s El Ensayo (10 Out of 12) with Ana Graham as well as Winter Solstice by Roland Schimmelpfennig. As an actor, he has performed in more than thirty plays. Last year he was cast as Iago in Mexico City’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello and as Saturninus in Titus Andronicus. Before the pandemic, he was collaborating with New York playwright Andy Bragen on the development of a new play called Summit and was about to begin rehearsals for an upcoming production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane in Mexico City which has been postponed until further notice.