Playwright, Librettist, Teacher, Director
Heather McDonald was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and composer Jake Heggie (“Dead Man Walking”) to write the libretto for an opera based on Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair. The opera, also titled The End of the Affair, had its world premiere at Houston Grand Opera in March 2004 directed by Broadway director Leonard Foglia and starring Australian soprano Cheryl Barker and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes. The opera received a second production at Madison Opera, and a third production will be in Seattle at Opera Pacifica fall 2005. Subsequent productions are planned for Pittsburgh, New York and Australia.
Heather McDonald’s play An Almost Holy Picture was produced on Broadway starring Kevin Bacon and directed by Michael Mayer. It was nominated for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. The play premiered at The La Jolla Playhouse starring David Morse and was named Best New Play of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. Ms. McDonald received The Kesselring Award for Best New American Play from The National Arts Club. The play has subsequently been produced at Center Stage in Baltimore, Round House Theatre in Washington, D.C., The McCarter Theatre in Princeton, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre and in numerous other theatres around the country. Holy Picture has been featured at several conferences of Lutheran and Episcopal ministers, and will be seen at The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. June 2005. It has been translated into Spanish and produced in Mexico and Spain.
Her play When Grace Comes In received joint World Premieres at The La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre. The play was a finalist for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was developed at The Sundance Theatre Laboratory, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and The New Harmony Project. Ms. McDonald has continued to work on Grace and a new version received a workshop through FirstLook Productions in New York directed by Rebecca Taichman and starring Marcia Gay Harden.
The production Ms. McDonald directed of her play Dream of a Common Language for Theatre of the First Amendment was nominated by The Washington Theatre Awards Society for eight Helen Hayes Awards and won four including Outstanding Resident Production. Dream premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and was produced Off-Broadway at The Judith Anderson Theatre. It has had many other productions.
Ms. McDonald directed her play Available Light: a play with music at Signature Theatre which was supported by a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA support allowed for the commissioning and recording (at the NPR studios) of a full score by composer David Maddox. Available Light premiered at The Actors Theatre of Louisville in the Humana Festival.
Other plays include Faulkner’s Bicycle, The Rivers and Ravines (commissioned and produced by Arena Stage), Available Light, Rain and Darkness: Hitting for the Cycle and have been produced at many theatres including Yale Repertory Theatre, The Actors Theatre of Louisville – Humana Festival of New Plays, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Center Stage, The McCarter Theatre, The La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Rivendell Theatre, The Magic Theatre, New Playwrights Theatre and Off Broadway in New York.
Recent and new projects include a commission from Signature Theatre for a new play, tentatively titled, The Suppressed-Desire Ball, directing Michele Lowe’s play The Smell of the Kill at Round House Theatre, The J. M. Barrie Project , a collaborative piece with the MFA Acting students at Case-Western Reserve University and The Cleveland Playhouse, and a commission to adapt Gerda Lerner’s memoir FIREWEED: A Political Biography for Madison Repertory Theatre.
She has three times been awarded NEA Playwriting Fellowships and been nominated for The Pulitzer Prize. She has been a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and won The First Prize Kesselring Award. She has been the recipient of a TCG Extended Collaboration Grant and a McKnight Fellow, and in 2005 an NEA/TCG Playwriting Residency Award. Her plays are published by The Dramatists Play Service, Samuel French, Inc., American Theatre Magazine, and in several collections.
Ms. McDonald has written and sold two screenplays. One, Rocket 88, was an original screenplay about the birth of rock ‘n roll. The other, Walking After Midnight, was an adaptation of a novel by Maureen McCoy about a female country/western songwriter. She participated in Robert McKee’s STORY Structure Intensive Screenwriting Seminar at Hunter College and Omega. She has participated in Paula Vogel’s Playwriting Bootcamp Seminar.
Ms. McDonald has had a long commitment to teaching and as Associate Professor and Playwright-in-Residence has taught at George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts - Institute of the Arts for the past fourteen years. She has taught many other workshops around the country in various graduate playwriting programs and is on the faculty of the Kennedy Center Summer Playwriting Intensive. She received her MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program. She lives near Baltimore with her two daughters Louise Whalen and Marilyn Grace.
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References Available Upon Request