A Novelist Supports Emerging Writers, Including Playwrights

 | Apr 12, 2021
Pacific Playwrights Festival

In 1999, best-selling novelist Elizabeth George wanted to do something to help writers at the start of their careers—so she created the Elizabeth George Foundation. The nonprofit provides grants to writers across genres to support them in the creation of their new works. ​Over the last 20 years, the foundation has partnered with SCR to commission works from nearly 60 emerging playwrights. Among the recipients have been some of the American theatre’s most celebrated writers including Julia Cho, Noah Haidle, Quiara Alegría Hudes and Rajiv Joseph.

SCR is thrilled to announce the recipients of the Elizabeth George commissions for 2020 and 2021: Spenser Davis and Charly Evon Simpson (2020) and Aurora de Asua, Benjamin Benne and Bleu Beckford-Burrell (2021). Continue reading below about each of them.

In 2020, playwright Shayan Lotfi also received an Elizabeth George Commission. In May 2021, his play Park-e Laleh will have a digital, staged reading as part of the Pacific Playwrights Festival.

2020 Elizabeth George Commissions

Davis,-Spencer​Spencer Davis

Spencer Davis is a Chicago-based​, Arkansas-born writer-director. He’s a longtime member of Broken Nose Theatre, an ensemble member of The Factory, and current Michael Maggio Directing Fellow at The Goodman Theatre. His play Plainclothes won the 2019 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award and was a finalist for the Harold & Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award. Last year, his critically acclaimed virtual play The Spin was called “my favorite online production since theat​res began shuttering last March” (Stage & Cinema). His short plays have been produced around the world and have been published by Smith & Kraus. As a director, he has been nominated three times for the Joseph Jefferson Best Director Award, winning once. His production of At the Table was named “One of the Best of the Year” by Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones and “One of the 25 Best Shows of the Decade” by Storefront Rebellion. He’s a series writer and director of “Squid,” a short-form comedy series now available on Amazon Prime. He’s proud to be represented by Luke Virkstis at William Morris Endeavor.

Shayan-Lotfi-Headshot-to-SCR​Shayan Lotfi

Shayan Lotfi has written a few plays and thankfully still wants to write. He’s been fortunate enough that some really cool institutions—like South Coast Repertory, The Lark, Roundabout, and Boston Court—have helped develop his work, and that some really cool residencies—like SPACE at Ryder Farm and the Millay Colony—have fed and housed him as he tried desperately to be productive. When he’s not writing, he works as an urban policy consultant, splitting his time between New York and Los Angeles.

Simpson,-Charly​Charly Evon Simpson

Charly Evon Simpson is a playwright, TV writer and teacher based in Brooklyn. Her plays include Behind the Sheet, Jump, form of a girl unknown, it’s not a trip it’s a journey, and more. Her work has been seen and/or developed with Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Lark, P73, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chautauqua Theater Company, Salt Lake Acting Company and others. She is a recipient of the Vineyard Theatre’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the Dramatists Guild’s Lanford Wilson Award. This fall, she will begin her seven​-year residency with New Dramatists. She currently has theatre commissions with MTC/Sloan, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Cleveland Play House and PlayMakers Repertory Company. She’s also currently working on TV shows for HBO and teaching playwriting at State University of New York at Purchase. Simpson has a BA from Brown University, a an MA in women's studies from University of Oxford, New College, and her MFA in playwriting from Hunter College.

2021 Elizabeth George Commissions

de-Asua,-Aurora​Aurora de Asua

Aurora de Asua is a California​-born playwright and actor based in Chicago. Her plays have been workshopped at Chicago theatres such as Victory Gardens Theater, ​Sideshow Theatre Company, Rivendell Theater, Greenhouse Theater Center and The Story Theatre. As an actor, she has worked with The Goodman, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, The Hypocrites and Victory Gardens, among others. She has a BA in theatre from Northwestern University. auroradeasua.com

Beckford-Burrell,-Bleu​Bleu Beckford-Burrell

Bleu Beckford-Burrell is a first-generation Jamaican-American actor/playwright. Born and raised in New York City, she works for non-profit organizations where she teaches acting to teens, as well as writes and directs plays. Her plays include P.S.365 (2019 O’Neill Finalist) showcased at EST (Youngblood Workshop Series) and The National Black Theatre (Keep the Soul Alive reading series). Her play Lyons Pride (2020 Burman New Play Award ​finalist, 2019 The Kilroy’s Honorable Mention, and Yale Drama Series Award runner-up, 2018 BAPF, Princess Grace Award ​finalist) was showcased at Playwrights Realm (Ink’d Festival of New Plays) and EST (Bloodwork Reading Series). Her play La Race (2020 Normal Ave ​finalist and Theatre503 International Playwright Award, O’Neill, Bay Area Playwright Foundation semi-finalist) is currently being showcased at Faultline Theatre (Irons in the Fire, upcoming) and Page 73 (Virtual Residency). She is a Page 73 Fellow (2021), The Playwrights Realm Fellow (2018), Playwrights' Center New Voices Fellowship (2018, ​finalist), NYTW/2050 Fellowship (2019, ​finalist) as well as an I73 playwright (2020), Colt Coeur resident (2021), PWC Core Writer (2020, ​finalist), WP Lab (2020, ​finalist)​ and Working Farm (2019, ​semi-​finalist). She received the 2020 Playwrights Horizons, Jody Falco & Jeffrey Steinman Commission for Emerging Playwrights. MFA Rutgers University BleuBeckford.com 

Benne,-Benjamin​Benjamin Benne

Benjamin Benne was born and raised in Los Angeles County and completed a BA in ​theatre ​arts at Cal State Fullerton. Benne has lived in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and currently resides on the East Coast, where he is a Yale School of Drama MFA ​candidate in ​playwriting. ​His plays, including at the very bottom of a body of water, Alma and In His Hands, have been seen and developed coast to coast—and a few points in between—including The Old Globe​, Boston Court Pasadena, Teatro Milagro , Seattle Repertory Theatre, Theatre Battery, Denver Center for the Performing Arts , Texas Tech University, The Playwrights’ Center, Pillsbury House Theatre, American Blues Theater, Two River Theater, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, The Playwrights Realm , The Lark, and Roundabout Theatre Company. He is a recipient of Portland Stage’s 2020 Clauder Competition Gold Prize, Arizona Theatre Company’s 2019 National Latinx Playwriting Award, American Blues Theater’s 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award, the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival's 2019 Latinx Playwriting Award and a 2017 Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award. He is a Playwrights’ Center Affiliated Writer and member of Primary Stages’ Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group. benjaminbenne.com

Learn more about the 2021 Pacific Playwrights Festival.