Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Press Release

Pulitzer Prize Winner Ayad Akhtar’s American Dervish to be Adapted for the Stage with a Premier at Milwaukee Repertory Theater

$11.2 Million raised for “Created in Milwaukee” Capital Campaign

By - Mar 5th, 2018 09:40 am

March 5, 2018 – [Milwaukee]Wisconsin native Ayad Akhtar, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and newly elected Milwaukee Rep trustee, and Artistic Director Mark Clements will adapt Akhtar’s critically acclaimed first novel American Dervish for the stage to make its World Premiere at Milwaukee Repertory Theater in an upcoming season as part of the John (Jack) D. New Play Development Program.  The Rep’s multi-year exploration of Akhtar’s work, including The Invisible Hand (2015/16), Disgraced (2016/17), The Who & The What (2017/18) and the upcoming regional premiere of his new Broadway play Junk in the 2018/19 65th Anniversary Season, have delighted audiences and reinforced The Rep’s commitment to producing entertaining and thought-provoking world class theater.

Set in Akhtar’s hometown of Milwaukee, American Dervish is a nuanced and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life.  The New York Times called Akhtar’s first novel “self-assured and effortlessly told,” while People Magazine referred to it as “ambitious but accessible,” and gave it 3.5 stars out of 4, saying the novel brought “resonance to universal questions of belief and belonging.”

“I grew up seeing shows at Milwaukee Rep,” said Ayad Akhtar. “It’s been an honor to have their support over the years and I couldn’t think of a better partner to bring American Dervish to the stage.  I’m equally thrilled to be working with Mark Clements on this adaptation and can’t wait for Milwaukee audiences to be a part of that process as my first novel comes back home.”

“I’m extremely excited to collaborate with Ayad Akhtar, one of our country’s most gifted playwrights,” said Artistic Director Mark Clements. “Having the opportunity to bring American Dervish to the stage, a new work based in Milwaukee, created for Milwaukee, yet with global appeal, that furthers the cannon of a great Milwaukee playwright, is an exhilarating project to be working on together.”

The opportunity to adapt American Dervish to the stage would not have been possible without the completion of Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Created in Milwaukee Capital Campaign, which in part helped to fund the John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development program. Having exceeded the $10 million goal, for a total $11.2 million, the Created in Milwaukee Capital Campaign funds support strategic priorities including $4.5 million to fortify our historic building’s foundation, create a new production of A Christmas Carol, launch a new play development program and develop a robust community engagement initiative, Mpact. Additionally, $5.5 million went to the endowment fund to further support these programs and the ongoing artistic excellence of The Rep.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to the ‘Created in Milwaukee’ Capital Campaign,” said Managing Director Chad Bauman.  “The support clearly demonstrates how The Rep is in a unique position to serve as a catalyst of positive change in the city, an attractor and retainer of talent, and supporter of Milwaukee’s brand as a hub of innovation and creativity.”

The Created in Milwaukee Capital Campaign funds have already made a significant impact. The Rep permanently repaired its “sinking building” in 2015 and in doing so revitalized a historic Milwaukee building. In 2016, it produced a completely new production of A Christmas Carol, bringing in record attendance to Milwaukee’s favorite holiday tradition. In Community Engagement, The Rep launched Mpact, a new initiative aimed at using the creative talents of the theater to create positive change in Southeastern Wisconsin. Mpact programming included: Act II, featuring facilitated dialogues, talkbacks, panel discussions and community outreach; the Professional Training Institute (PTI), which offered free training to a select group of talented teens; and expanded educational programs that reach over 20,000 students in over 250 schools. The John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Fund is currently developing new work from some of the country’s best playwrights that will grace The Rep stages this season and for seasons to come, creating a cultural hub of creativity and innovation that is then sent to other theaters around the country. Writers such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar, Emmy Award-winner Rick Cleveland, Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes, David Lutken, Randal Myler, Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith, KJ Sanchez, Academy Award winner Eric Simonson, Catherine Trieschmann, Dan Wheetman, and Martín Zimmerman are currently engaged in development. Finally, by increasing the Endowment, The Rep ensures that it will remain a cultural cornerstone for years to come.

About Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin in terms of audiences served and one of the largest professional theaters in the country. Each year, The Rep welcomes up to 275,000 people at nearly 700 performances of 15 productions ranging from compelling dramas, powerful classics, new plays and full-scale musicals in its three unique performance venues – the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. Over the course of six decades, The Rep has gained a national reputation as an incubator of new work, an agent of community change and a forward-thinking provider of vital arts education programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Managing Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.

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