Today, Bucks County Playhouse producers Alexander Fraser, Robyn Goodman and Josh Fiedler announced a new partnership with producer, director Kiran Merchant to create The South Asian Artistic Initiative (SAAI) – a multidisciplinary art program dedicated to promoting, showcasing and building awareness of the impact of South Asian heritage arts and artists.
Designed to provide a platform for the exploration of South Asian artists working in the performing, visual and literary arts as well as to showcase their talent, the SAAI continues a long tradition of supporting new artists at the Playhouse which has started with the creation of the theater by a small group of artists in 1939. Since then, Moss Hart, George Kaufman, Neil Simon, Terrence McNally and Adam Gwon have called the Playhouse a creative home.
“The South Asian artist community is growing and thriving globally, but there aren’t enough platforms for these artists to showcase their talent.“, explains Kiran Merchant. “I am honored and delighted to collaborate in SAAI’s effort with Bucks County Playhouse. This multi-faceted program will not only educate South Asian heritage artists and their work in various disciplines of theater, film / TV, dance and music, literature and the visual arts, but also allow artists to collaborate and exchange ideas on a multicultural and multidisciplinary level. “
Robyn Goodman, executive producer of Bucks County Playhouse, sees the benefit for artists and audiences. “When I was introduced to Kiran by my good friend, Ann Cattaneo from Lincoln Center Theater, I felt an instant connection. I was impressed by his artistic sensibility and his entrepreneurial spirit. We look forward to working with him to bring new voices to the Playhouse scene. “
“Over the years we’ve seen an increase in opportunities for actors, but the same hasn’t been true for playwrights,” says producer Josh Fiedler. “With the launch of this initiative, we can provide a platform for young writers and help develop work that will result in a more diverse and engaged community at the Playhouse and in the wider theater community.”
The SAAI will officially launch in 2022 with its first South Asian Playwright Festival. Until February 28, 2022, the Playhouse is accepting submissions of plays from South Asian writers. Finalists will receive a stipend as well as mentorship from prominent members of the arts community. One of the pieces will be selected for future development. The actual festival dates will be announced shortly. Award-winning playwright Rajiv Joseph (“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”), Christian Parker (former Associate Artistic Director of The Atlantic Theater Company), Kiran Producers Merchant and Playhouse, Goodman, Fraser and Fiedler will select the finalists.
“From an audience perspective, the festival has the ability to bring various themes to the Playhouse regarding this community while providing a valuable creative outlet for these artists,” said Merchant.
Interested writers should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae and / or artist statement with their full script in PDF format using the web form at https://www.buckscountyplayhouse.org/saai. If you are submitting a music script, please include demos in mp3 format if available. Due to the volume of submissions, only works consistent with the mission and artistic values of the South Asian Arts Initiative will receive a response. Complete information and the complete submission form are available at www.buckscountyplayhouse.org/SAAI.
Questions about the program can be emailed to [email protected]
The South Asian Playwrights Festival is just the first of many artistic activities planned under the new initiative. Over the next several years, SAAI will include a variety of events, conversation opportunities and productions, including film festivals showcasing flagship works by South Asian artists and featuring artists; panels and discussions featuring prominent members of film, theater and television; as well as readings and festivals of plays and other literary works by South Asian playwrights.
Bucks County Playhouse, whose bucolic location in Pennsylvania has inspired generations of theater and fine art artists, is a logical location for the initiative. With its trio of Tony award-winning producers, the Playhouse has continued to champion and support new work and emerging artists. Since 2012, the Playhouse has hosted or developed eight world premieres of plays and musicals. It also hosts the annual Oscar Hammerstein Festival, a year-long program that provides expert mentorship to early career songwriters and lyricists.
As announceddirector, producer and entrepreneur, Merchant brings with him a passion for theater, film and television. He has successfully led a practice in the development of multi-billion dollar airport infrastructure projects around the world. A graduate of the prestigious Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York, Merchant has produced “Random Act of Kindness”, “Mahatma Gandhi.com” and “Phyllis Wheatley: The African Muse”. He is currently working in partnership with Silk Road Rising Theater in Chicago to develop a new production for 2022. Merchant has co-wrote, directed and produced the feature film ‘QuarterLife Crisis’, a quirky romantic comedy set on the dating scene in New York. York and is currently developing a feature film, “Much noise for Normandy”, a comedy set in a small French village.