Expanding the Canon

Established in 2022, Theater J’s Expanding the Canon initiative will commission seven extraordinary racially and ethnically diverse Jewish writers to create new full-length plays that thematically and visually center diverse Jewish narratives. This program is for Jews of Color, Multi Racial/Multi Ethnic Jews, Indigenous Jews, and Mizrachi and Sephardic Jews who seek to correct and broaden the historically limited portrayals of Jewishness on stages in the US and around the world. Expanding the Canon is made possible in large part by funds granted by The Covenant Foundation.

Each writer will receive a $10,000 commission to create a new play over two and a half years; each will also have access to a $5,000 developmental budget that can be used for readings, workshops, research, and travel. 

The program will commence in August, 2022 with a three-day intensive “Beit Midrash” led by Rosh Beit Sabrina Sojourner, a Shaliakh Tzibur and nationally recognized Jewish leader, and an exceptional teaching faculty. They will guide the cohort of commissioned writers through a curriculum covering Jewish life, philosophy, history, and literature. This intensive introduction will give playwrights access to texts and understandings of Jewish thought and tradition that will inspire them as they begin to craft their plays. Throughout the commission, writers will meet monthly to continue to learn, share additional resources and workshop written material.

Excerpts of the finished scripts will be shared in a final gathering in December, 2024. All commissioned scripts will be strongly considered for Theater J mainstage productions.

To learn more about playwright eligibility and submission requirements, please see below.

To learn more about the project leaders, click here.

To read Theater J’s Mission, click here; our Response to We See You, White American Theater, click here; our History, click here

Playwright Eligibility and Submission Requirements

For too long, the American Jewish theater has overwhelmingly consisted of plays by and about white, Ashkenazi Jews.  Theater J’s Expanding the Canon program will provide $10,000 commission to seven racially and ethnically diverse Jewish playwrights to create new full length plays that thematically and visually center diverse Jewish narratives.

Eligibility

This program is for Jews of Color, Multi Racial/Multi Ethnic Jews, Indigenous Jews, and Mizrachi and Sephardic Jews who identify as Sephardic and Mizrachi, even if they are members of a majority Ashkenazi community.  The commissioned artists may be seasoned playwrights, early-career playwrights, or experienced writers of other genres (novelists, poets, etc). We define “Jewish” broadly to include religious Jews, secular Jews, those with Jewish heritage, and others who have a Jewish identity.  All playwrights must reside in North America (Canada, the United States, and Mexico) and be over the age of 18.

Writers must commit to the entire two and a half year commission process, including an initial 3-day on site Beit Midrash in August, 2022 (travel and housing will be provided). They must regularly attend the monthly online cohort meetings with their fellow commissioned writers.

We encourage you to read our “Frequently Asked Questions” below.

Submission Requirements

To submit, please email litoffice@theaterj.org with the subject line “Expanding the Canon Submission” and the following attachments in PDF:

  • Statement of interest that addresses how you are a fit for this program and why it interests you. Please note that you do not need to describe the play you would intend to write. (Page limit: 1 page)
  • Two writing samples. Samples can be excerpts from plays, as well as novels, poetry, or any other form of writing. Samples do not need to center racially and ethnically diverse Jews. (Page limit: 10 pages per excerpt).
  • A resume or C.V.

We may request additional materials as finalists move through the process.

Deadline for submissions: March 15, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

This program is only for writers who define themselves in the above categories.

This program is only for writers who identify in a meaningful way as Jewish. We define “Jewish” broadly to include religious Jews, secular Jews, those with Jewish heritage, and others who have a Jewish identity.

The Expanding the Canon program will pay a total commission fee of $10,000 to each commissioned artist. Travel and housing for the initial Beit Midrash and the final presentation will be provided by Theater J. Each commissioned artist will also have access to a $5,000 developmental budget for their play.

The $5,000 developmental budget can be used for readings and workshops (actor fees, casting director fees, director fees, etc), research, additional collaborators such as outside dramaturgs, the securing of underlying rights, and other developmental uses. Each playwright will guide how their play’s developmental budget should be spent, in consultation with Theater J staff.

No, you don’t. There will be ample resources provided to inspire you and stimulate additional resources during our Beit Midrash at the beginning of the process.

The commission is to write a play that prominently features and centers the story of Jews of Color, Multi Racial / Multi Ethnic Jews, Indigenous Jews, Sephardic, or Mizrachi Jews. In addition, all commissioned plays must be primarily in English and be performable by ten or fewer actors.

Unfortunately, we do not have the resources in this program to adequately support the development of new musicals.

All plays will be strongly considered by Theater J, which will hold the right of first refusal to produce them. If Theater J does not produce the plays, they may be submitted to other theaters (and we’ll do everything we can to advocate for them!).

Yes, students may submit for this program provided they are at least 18 years old.

While we anticipate the majority of our commissioned artists will be playwrights, we are excited to consider novelists, poets, and other writers who are interested in writing a play.

Tell us who you are—beyond what we can read on your resume. Tell us how you are a fit for this program. You may want to talk about your Jewish journey, your background, your writing, and your artistry. And tell us why you are excited about being commissioned into this program.

Use samples that show us who you are as a writer at your absolute best. Your favorite pages. Don’t worry about whether the content fits this commissioning program; we just want to understand who you are as a writer. If you’re a playwright, please use excerpts of your plays as your writing samples. We prefer your samples to be from two different plays, but we will accept two samples from the same play if you feel that shows off your work the best. If you are not a playwright, your samples may be from other forms of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, including novels, essays and poems. Each of your two samples must be no more than 10 pages.

No, we seek to commission new plays. Whether or not you apply for this program, please click here to visit our script submission page to see if your already written script is eligible for submission to Theater J’s literary office!

The cohort of artists will meet in Washington DC for an immersive three-day Beit Midrash convened by Sabrina Sojourner, herself a Jew of Color and a practicing theater artist. Sojourner will convene an exceptional faculty. This team will guide the writers through a curriculum covering Jewish life, philosophy, history, and literature—intended to give the playwrights access to ancient texts and modern understanding of Jewish thought and tradition that will inspire them and be available to them as they begin to craft their plays. These sessions will be a learning laboratory. They will give the writers the tools to engage with original Jewish sources, to dive into, explore, and develop out of those materials new works that reflect their stories and the stories of communities who have been underrepresented in Jewish theater.

Please click here to read about our project leaders.

The Expanding the Canon program is made possible in part by funds from The Covenant Foundation.

Please be sure to read through these FAQs first. If your question still is not answered, you may write to LitOffice@theaterj.org. We will get back to you as quickly as possible!