DATE: APRIL 16, 2014
CONTACT: Kate Brandt,
PR CONTACT PHONE: 978-654-7595
BOX OFFICE: 978-654-4678


Funding Will Support Outreach for "Year Zero"

Lowell, MA - National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is one of 886 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. MRT is recommended for a $20,000 grant to support its production of Year Zero, a play by Michael Golamco that will launch the company's 2014-2015 Season in September 2014.

Year Zero is about a Cambodian-American teenager named Vuthy struggling to find his place - in a community that doesn't truly accept him and in a family that seems to be disappearing. The play is a comedic drama about finding a direction and a home. This grant will assist MRT in achieving goals of audience engagement and diversifying its audience to better reflect its community. Approximately 12% of the Lowell, Massachusetts population is of Cambodian descent, but only a small number of people from this population attend MRT performances.

A well-written play nominated for a number of awards, Year Zero provides MRT with the opportunity to put an aspect of the Cambodian-American experience onstage, and encourages further discussion about the immigrant experience and struggles of assimilation. To help achieve these goals, MRT has formed an Advisory Council comprised of leaders of local Cambodian organizations. This Advisory Council will provide cultural context for the production, teach the artists about the Cambodian immigrant experience in the context of the play, and assist with Year Zero outreach initiatives. MRT has also partnered with Enterprise Bank, who is the Production Sponsor of the play.

NEA Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, "The NEA is pleased to announce that Merrimack Repertory Theatre is recommended for an NEA Art Works grant. These NEA-supported projects will not only have a positive impact on local economies, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our communities to become more vibrant, and support our nation's artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape."

MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers says of the play, "Year Zero is an appealing story about all our pasts; all of us, who are descendents of immigrants, no matter when they came to American or what country they came from. Still, the specific ethnicity of this particular story makes it especially important to be produced in the city that has the second largest Cambodian-American population in the country." 

Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,515 eligible applications under the Art Works category, requesting more than $76 million in funding. Of those applications, 886 are recommended for grants for a total of $25.8 million. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at

MRT (Merrimack Repertory Theatre) is one of Massachusetts' most highly-regarded theatre companies and one of only three theatres in the state to be a member of LORT (the League of Resident Theatres) which represents the 74 leading non-profit theatres in America. Under the artistic direction of Charles Towers since 2001, it has become known for producing an eclectic mix of new plays and regional premieres, with an emphasis on writers giving voice to the American experience. Since its founding in 1979, MRT has served as a vital cultural, educational and economic resource for Greater Lowell and its surrounding region.

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