Theater J Announces Expanding the Canon Commissions
Playwrights Carolivia Herron, Harley Elias, Thaddeus McCants, M.J. Kang, Kendell Pinkney, Jesse Jae Hoon, and Zachariah Ezer. (Photo by Theater J).
Carolivia Herron, Harley Elias, Thaddeus McCants, M.J. Kang, Kendell Pinkney, Jesse Jae Hoon, and Zachariah Ezer. Photo by Theater J.

Washington, DC – Theater J has announced the seven playwrights who have been selected for its Expanding the Canon initiative: Harley Elias, Zachariah Ezer, Carolivia Herron, Jesse Jae Hoon, M.J. Kang, Thaddeus McCants, and Kendell Pinkney. Selected from among 82 submissions, each writer will receive a $10,000 commission and a $5,000 developmental budget towards the creation of new full-length plays over the next two-and-a-half years. The initiative aims to center ethnically and racially diverse Jewish narratives and to correct and broaden the historically limited portrayals of Jewishness on stages in the US and globally.

Throughout the commission period, the seven playwrights will meet monthly to share and further develop their work. Excerpts of the finished scripts will be presented in December 2024. All commissioned plays will be strongly considered for Theater J mainstage productions. 

About the Playwrights

Harley Elias is a playwright and performer from New York City. He has been the recipient of residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, with Resonance Ensemble, a Fulbright Grant, a Samuel French OOB Award, and the Young Playwrights Award. His Play #3 is published by Samuel French. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from Stanford and is currently pursuing an MFA in the playwriting program at Brown University.

Zachariah Ezer’s plays include The Freedom Industry (The Playwrights’ Center, New York Stage & Film), Address the Body! (The Echo Theater Company), and An Unclear World (Hi-ARTS), among others. Selected awards include the University of Texas’s James A. Michener Fellowship, the Playwrights’ Center’s Core Apprenticeship, Hi-ARTS’ Critical Breaks Residency, Echo Theater Company’s National Young Playwrights Residency, Town Stages’ Sokoloff Arts Creative Fellowship, Best Play at the Woodside Players of Queens Summer Play Festival, BUFU’s EYEDREAM Residency, and Wesleyan University’s Olin Fellowship.

Carolivia Herron is a Jewish African American novelist, librettist, and educator who teaches classics in the English Department of Howard University. Her published and produced works include Thereafter Johnnie (novel), Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson (opera libretto, music composed by Bruce Adolphe); Nappy Hair, Always An Olivia (children’s books); and The Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimké (scholarship). She has also held professorial appointments at Harvard University, Mount Holyoke College, Chico State University, and the College of William and Mary.

Jesse Jae Hoon is a playwright, actor, and organizer. Plays include Somebody Is Looking Back at Me, Dong Xuan Center (2022 Princess Grace Fellowship Finalist, 2019 O’Neill NPC Finalist), On the Clock, I’ve Got A Sinking Feeling in the Pit of My Stomach, The House of Billy Paul, Emergency Wine & Cheese Fundraiser of the Amagansett Democrats’ Association (2022 O’Neill NPC Semifinalist), and 12 Chairs. MFA in playwriting from Hunter College, BFA in drama from NYU Tisch (Playwrights Horizons). Organizer with Democratic Socialists of America and Equity Next.

M.J. Kang is a playwright, actor, and director, based in Los Angeles and Montreal. She’s recently been awarded The Breath Project New Play Award 2022 and has been commissioned by Portland Playhouse, Shotgun Players, and AFO Solo Shorts.  She continues to be part of the Playwrights Group at Company of Angels (second year), The Barrow Group’s Restorative Stories with Seth Barrish (second year,) and is part of the Writer’s Pool at Playground-LA. She’s had her plays produced by Son of Semele, Pan Asian Rep, East West Players, Theater Passe Muraille, Tarragon Theater, Factory Theater, Blyth Festival Theater, Shakespeare in Action, AFO Solo Shorts, Shotgun Players, and many others.

Thaddeus McCants is a Brooklyn-based writer, director, and performer originally from Madison, Wisc. As a playwright, he is a current NYTW 2050 Fellow, Theater Masters Visionary Playwright, KCACTF National Finalist, Goldberg New Play Prize Finalist, and has been a Semi-Finalist for both the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference & American Blues Theatre Blue Ink Award.

Kendell Pinkney is a Brooklyn-based theatre artist, producer, and rabbi who creates art at the intersections of race, ethnicity, collective memory, religious identity, and sacred text. His collaborative theatre works have been presented or developed at venues such as 54 Below, Joe’s Pub, LABA @ the 14th St. Y, and Two River Theatre, to name a few. Most recently, he was featured in the acclaimed docuseries The New Jew with actor-comedian Guri Alfi and on Crooked Media’s Unholier than Thou podcast.

Theater J is a professional theatre and program of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC) which aims to celebrate, explore, and struggle with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. As one of the nation’s largest and most prominent Jewish theatres, Theater J aims to preserve and expand a rich Jewish theatrical tradition and to create community and commonality through theatregoing experiences.