Message from Theresa Rebeck
Cherry Lane Mentor and Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Dear Friend, this is what I learned this year:
- A lot of people working really hard at something they believe in CAN make a difference.
- Hope is not stupid. Hope is smart.
- The planet has a chance.
This is what I have known for all my adult life:
Art is necessary to the human race. To children and adults, all races, all genders, all the time. Art makes us better. Stories make us better. Plays make us better. Going to see ourselves represented on stage, and sitting in the dark, with our fellow citizens, is not only fun, it makes our lives better.
Because of what I know, and what I've learned, I was thrilled to be asked by Angelina Fiordellisi to put together some thoughts about why Cherry Lane is so essential to the life of theatre in New York.
I first learned of the astonishing work being accomplished at Cherry Lane years ago, when word of their ground-breaking Mentor Project began to spread. The profound idea that promising young writers needed both personal guidance from an established playwright, and that they also needed production—rather than yet another reading or workshop—was nothing short of revolutionary at the time. Since then, the Cherry Lane Mentor Project has become a model of new play development all over the country, winning a 2008 Obie Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Development of New Work. It has many times over jump started the careers of exceptional young playwrights such as Rajiv Joseph, who has achieved national recognition with his plays Animals Out of Paper and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.
In 2005 I was Rajiv's Mentor, so I take particular pleasure in using him as an example of the very real accomplishment of Mentor Project. As the careers of those nurtured there have grown, so has the Project itself, expanding into commissions for the Master Playwrights who serve as Mentors. Those commissioned plays will then move into full production on Cherry Lane's beautifully renovated Mainstage. In addition, Mentor Project has embarked on an ambitious program of promoting our emerging writers on the internet, and through outreach to university theatre programs and regional theatres.
Cherry Lane’s Mentor Project does something that is truly necessary in the American Theatre: It puts the writer and the audience first—as it has done, since the historic theatre was built, in 1924. And it does so in a neighborhood environment. At Cherry Lane, art is local and national and universal. In my book, it doesn't get any better than that.
There is one more thing I learned this year: People contributing ten, fifty or a hundred dollars can turn a long shot campaign into a landslide. People giving whatever they can, can change the world.
Cherry Lane continues to change the world every year by presenting powerful, beautiful, funny, and relevant new plays, plays that audiences want to see, supporting playwrights from whom the world needs to hear. They need us to show up and applaud them. They also need us to contribute. Please join me in giving as generously as you can to a theatre which gives so much to us. If every one of us contributes, I think what we will find is:
- A lot of people working at some thing they believe in does make a difference.
- Hope is smart.
- The planet has a chance, and
- Art makes us better.
Thank you for whatever you can give.
Theresa Rebeck, Playwright