New York, NY (November 4, 2021) –The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons announced today that Obie award-winning actress and theater maker L Morgan Lee is the 2021 recipient of The Mark O’Donnell Prize, an annual prize presented to an emerging theater artist in recognition of their talent and promise.
Inspired by the singular mind of Mark O’Donnell, The Mark O’Donnell Prize is targeted toward “America’s most anomalous, singular and curious emerging writers, composers, directors and designers.” The award includes a cash prize of $15,000; use of The Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center, located at The Schermerhorn in Downtown Brooklyn, for one week to develop a reading of a new work; as well as counseling from The Actors Fund on two of the major challenges faced by emerging artists: how to apply for affordable housing and obtaining health insurance. The Mark O’Donnell Prize is funded by The Actors Fund, a human services organization serving everyone in entertainment and the performing arts, and is made possible by a gift from Stephen O’Donnell in memory of his brother Mark.
The Schermerhorn, an award-winning 216-unit supportive housing development for low-income New Yorkers, continues to serve as home to The Mark O’Donnell Theater. The Theater serves as a resource for Brooklyn-based artists and arts groups to aid in the development and sharing of their work, as well as a venue for integrating the residents of The Schermerhorn with the surrounding community through the arts. The building is operated by The Actors Fund in collaboration with Breaking Ground, a non-profit developer that provides permanent affordable housing for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
After a career of critical acclaim, Mark O'Donnell achieved commercial success when he co-wrote the book of the musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film, with Thomas Meehan. The production earned the pair the 2003 Tony Award and a celebrated seven-year run on Broadway, followed by the 2007 musical film adaptation. The writers went on to adapt the Tony-nominated musical Cry Baby for Broadway in 2008, based on a Waters film of the same name.
Mark O’Donnell’s Playwrights Horizons credits were That’s It, Folks!; Fables for Friends; and The Nice and the Nasty. His other plays include Strangers on Earth, Vertigo Park and the musical Tots in Tinseltown. He collaborated with Bill Irwin on an adaptation of Moliere's Scapin and co-authored a translation of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. He also adapted Feydeau's Private Fittings for the La Jolla Playhouse and a symphonic version of Pyramus and Thisbe for the Kennedy Center.
Mr. O'Donnell published two collections of comic stories Elementary Education and Vertigo Park and Other TALL Tales as well as two novels, Getting Over Homer and Let Nothing You Dismay. His humor, cartoons and poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Esquire. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the George S. Kaufman Award.
The Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by Council Member Stephen Levin.
B I O G R A P H I E S
L Morgan Lee is an Obie award-winning actress and theatre maker most known for her performance in the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, A Strange Loop, which garnered her a Lucille Lortel nomination and the distinction of being the first openly transgender actress to originate a role in a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of theatre. Most recently, L Morgan was cast to portray artist Lili Elbe in a British musical adaptation of the novel The Danish Girl, being workshopped in the UK. She is also developing a new play entitled The Women (2021), which was seen in Ars Nova's 2021 Vision Residency. Other credits include new works with Long Wharf Theater, Baltimore Center Stage, 5th Avenue Theater, Musical Theatre Factory and more. L Morgan is dedicated to being a part of work centering underrepresented voices on both stage and screen. "She needed a hero, so that's what she became." For more: lmorganlee.com.
The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that helps everyone—performers and those behind the scenes—who works in performing arts and entertainment. Serving professionals in film, theatre, television, music, opera, radio and dance, The Fund’s programs include social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, housing, and employment and training services. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Actors Fund is a safety net for those in need, crisis or transition. Visit www.actorsfund.org.
Playwrights Horizons is a writer's theater dedicated to the development of contemporary American playwrights and the production of innovative new work. Adam Greenfield became Artistic Director in 2020; Leslie Marcus has served as Managing Director since 1993. As the theater enters its 51st season, Playwrights is building upon its diverse and renowned body of work. In addition to its work onstage, Playwrights’ singular commitment to advancing American playwrights and storytelling guides all of the organization’s multifaceted initiatives: their New Works Lab, Theater School, Almanac digital magazine, audio fiction program Soundstage, POP Master Class series and Lighthouse Project. Robert Moss founded Playwrights in 1971 and cemented the mission that continues to drive the institution today. André Bishop served as Artistic Director from 1981–1992. Don Scardino succeeded him and served until 1996. Tim Sanford, the organization’s longest-serving Artistic Director, held the position from 1996-2020. Over five decades, Playwrights has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including seven Pulitzer Prizes, 13 Tony Awards and 47 Obie Awards.