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Release: March 24, 2000

IWP playwright-in-residence Shelley Berc receives $100,000 grant for Maine collaboration

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A two-year collaborative project between award-winning playwright Shelley Berc, a University of Iowa faculty member in the International Writing Program (IWP), and the Portland Stage Company in Maine has been awarded a $100,000 grant, which will culminate in a theater piece featuring the largely untold stories of Maine women who work the sea.

The National Theatre Artist Residency Program that awarded the grant was developed in 1991 by the Theatre Communication Group (TCG) and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The residency program connects distinguished unaffiliated artists with theaters to explore subjects of their choice.

The Portland Stage Company has produced two of Berc's plays developed with Andrei Belgrader, "Scapin" and "Rameau's Nephew," both written during her tenure at the UI. Her "A Girl's Guide to the Divine Comedy," which was published in the anthology "Plays for the End of the Century," was also produced for the company's 10th annual Little Festival of the Unexpected.

For the new project Berc will conduct research at the Maine Maritime Museum, the Center for Maine History, the Portland Fish Exchange and other sites in Maine. Berc will create both an oral-history script for a 2001 premiere and a poetic interpretation of the research.

Berc's play adaptations and original works have been performed at regional theaters in the United States and Europe, including the American Repertory Theatre, the Women's Project, Classic Stage Company, St. Louis Repertory, the Mark Taper Forum, Yale Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Odyssey Theatre, the Norwegian State Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival. Her most recent work, an adaptation of "Turandot" will be produced in 2001 by the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. She has also published the books "The Shape of Wilderness: A Novel" and "Theatre of the Mind."

Among her previous honors are two Lila Wallace-Readers Digest "New Young Audiences" commissions, a McKnight Fellowship in playwriting, an NEA Opera/Music Librettist fellowship, and an artist's residence at the Rockefeller Foundation's center in Bellagio, Italy.

Berc is the UI's University Playwright in Residence. For the IWP, she facilitates stagings and readings by playwrights from around the globe. The IWP, a unique writers' residency program, assembles at the UI each fall a community of international writers. In more than 30 years of residencies, the IWP has hosted nearly 1,000 writers from 115 countries. The Portland Stage Company, Maine's premier professional theater, has been among the venues for IWP playwrights.

TCG is the national organization for not-for-profit American theater, serving 350 member theaters and nearly 17,000 individual members. The Pew Charitable Trust administers a $20-million annual charitable budget and is one of the country's largest private funders of the arts.