PRESS RELEASE: MRT Receives $20,000 NEA Grant

DATE: December 9, 2015
CONTACT: Kate Brandt,
PR CONTACT PHONE: 978-654-7595
BOX OFFICE: 978-654-4678


Funding will support production of
“The Realness: a break beat play”

Lowell, MA – The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round of fiscal year 2016, including an Art Works award of $20,000 to Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) in support of the upcoming world premiere production of “The Realness: a break beat play” by Idris Goodwin.

“The Realness” is the second in a series of “break beat plays” by Goodwin, which infuses elements of hip-hop into traditional theatre. It will be directed at MRT by Wendy Goldberg, artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, with performances running March 16 – April 10, 2016. In the play, a young African American considers love, identity and truth as he immerses himself in the 1996 hip-hop scene. Funding from the NEA will support MRT’s efforts to increase its outreach to young and diverse audiences.

In its first 50 years, the NEA awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so.  The Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at

According to MRT artistic director Sean Daniels, “Idris Goodwin and Wendy Goldberg are two of the most exciting voices in the American Theatre, and I'm honored they'd premiere this show here. With the NEA's support we can introduce this brilliant and charming show to a broader section of the Merrimack Valley, many of whom wouldn't be able to attend theatre otherwise.”

Director Wendy Goldberg commented, “After developing this piece all over the country, I'm excited we can premiere it with Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Sean's first season as Artistic Director. Thank you to the NEA for this vote of encouragement and support in making work that is bold, provocative and culturally relevant.”

Playwright Idris Goodwin added, “I am one lucky playwright. This is an exciting time over at MRT and for me as a playwright. I can’t wait to see ‘The Realness: a break beat play’ begin to take shape!”

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one MRT offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has been Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre company since 1979, and is an integral part of Lowell’s identity as the cultural heart of the region. The company is known for its high production standards and for creating compelling new plays and regional premieres that reflect the lives and emotions of its audiences. MRT is one of just three theatres in Massachusetts that is a member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), which has 72 members nationwide.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678