The Columbia Festival of the Arts (CFA) has awarded a commission to playwright Gwydion Suilebhan for the completion of a new play inspired by the founding of Columbia in 1967. Suilebhan — a Maryland native and former Columbia resident — will conduct extensive research into the real-life stories of the families who first established Columbia, weaving their personal narratives into a new drama that will attempt to inspire a rededication to the values on which the community is founded.
“Every great community has an origin story, and behind every story there are people. Our community has an origin story, too, and the Columbia Voices Project will bring that story to life,” said Suilebhan.
“I wanted the festival to do something special for Columbia on its 50th birthday. After all, CFA was founded during the 20th anniversary birthday celebrations,” said CFA Executive Director Todd Olson. “It’s right [that] we celebrate Columbia by creating a work of art that immortalizes this community.”
Suilebhan will interview surviving pioneers and newcomers, then transform their stories into a play that investigates who its community members were, why Columbia exists and why it matters in the 21st century. The $10,000 award will support the research, drafting and revision of the play, as well two readings of the work-in-progress, as it develops, at the 2015 and 2016 festivals.
He is the author of “The Butcher,” “Reals,” “Abstract Nude,” “The Constellation,” “Let X,” “The Faithkiller,” “Cracked” and “Anthem.” His work has been commissioned, produced, developed and read by Centerstage, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the National New Play Network, Forum Theatre, Theater J, Gulfshore Playhouse, Active Cultures, Theater Alliance, Source Theater Festival and HotCity Theatre, among others.
Suilebhan, a 2013 resident playwright of The Theatre Project in New York and former resident playwright of the Taffety Punk Theatre Co., in D.C., earned his master’s degree in poetry from The Johns Hopkins University.