Melis Aker has been named Signature Theatre's first LaunchPad Resident Playwright. Over 230 playwrights applied for the new program through an open submission process with over 500 plays submitted.
Playwright, actor, and musician Aker, who is Turkish-American and lives between New York and London, inaugurates LaunchPad, which supports diverse early-career playwrights and expands Signature's mission of producing a body of work by each resident writer.
Over a three-year period, the new program offers a resident playwright holistic artistic support, including two $15,000 commissions, a full production in the 99-seat Ford Studio, a workshop production, healthcare benefits, developmental readings, an annual theatre-going stipend, a writing retreat outside Manhattan, private workspace at Signature, and guided mentorship by a Spotlight or Premiere Signature resident playwright.
Signature Theatre Artistic Director Paige Evans says, "Melis’ work is filled with vividly drawn characters and worlds that she knows well but that American audiences may not necessarily be as familiar with. Melis asks crucial questions about what needs to be translated culturally for an audience and what doesn’t. That intersection of cultures, which runs through her body of work, was so compelling to us, and we’re thrilled to have Melis as our inaugural LaunchPad playwright.”
Aker adds, “There are two resources in particular that I believe young writers like myself yearn for: time to create work tethered to an informed process, and financial compensation for that time spent figuring out what your process even is, so that you can have a tangible outcome, and intentional impact. I am deeply grateful to Signature Theatre for providing me with both, and for their robust, longstanding investment in my career as a writer. I have long been an admirer of the advocacy Signature provides for playwrights, especially in their commitment to developing and producing a body of work by a given writer. It is rare to experience an oeuvre in an economy and industry that promotes speed and brevity, so it is a proper gift to be supported by an artistic team who champions patience, and provides both a microscopic and bird’s eye view into the journey of a creator. I am honored and humbled to be in conversation with Signature, and with the legacy of virtuosic theatre-makers they have held up along the way.”
Aker's plays include Hound Dog, Field, Awakening, Dragonflies, Scraps and Things, AZUL, When My Mama Was a Hittite, Fractio Panis, Manar, 330 Pegasus: A Love Letter, Indigo Dreams, OPET Diaries, and Gilded Isle.