The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons Announce Iyvon Edebiri as the recipient of the The Mark O’Donnell Prize for Emerging Theater Artists | Actors Fund

The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons Announce Iyvon Edebiri as the recipient of the The Mark O’Donnell Prize for Emerging Theater Artists

September 24, 2019 | Press Release

New York, NY (September 24, 2019) The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons announced today that New York City creative producer, company manager and dramturg Iyvon Edebiri is the 2019 recipient of “The Mark O’Donnell Prize”, an annual prize presented to an emerging theater artist in recognition of her or his talent and promise.

Inspired by the singular mind of Mark O’Donnell, “The Mark O’Donnell Prize” recognizes “America’s most anomalous, singular and curious emerging writers, composers, directors and designers.” The award includes a cash prize of $15,000; use of The Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center, located at The Schermerhorn in Downtown Brooklyn, for one week to develop a reading of a new work; as well as counseling from The Actors Fund on two of the major challenges faced by emerging artists: how to apply for affordable housing and obtaining health insurance. The Mark O’Donnell Prize is funded by The Actors Fund, a human services organization serving everyone in entertainment and the performing arts, and is made possible by a gift from Stephen O’Donnell in memory of his brother Mark.

The Schermerhorn, an award-winning 216-unit supportive housing development for low-income New Yorkers, continues to serve as home to The Mark O’Donnell Theater. The Theater serves as a resource for Brooklyn-based artists and arts groups to aid in the development and sharing of their work, as well as a venue for integrating the residents of The Schermerhorn with the surrounding community through the arts. The building is operated by The Actors Fund in collaboration with Breaking Ground, a non-profit developer that provides permanent affordable housing for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

After a career of critical acclaim, Mark O'Donnell achieved commercial success when he co-wrote the book of the musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film, with Thomas Meehan. The production earned the pair the 2003 Tony Award and a celebrated seven-year run on Broadway, followed by the 2007 musical film adaptation. The writers went on to adapt the Tony-nominated musical Cry Baby for Broadway in 2008, based on a Waters film of the same name.

Mark O’Donnell’s Playwrights Horizons credits were That’s It, Folks!; Fables for Friends; and The Nice and the Nasty. His other plays include Strangers on Earth, Vertigo Park and the musical Tots in Tinseltown. He collaborated with Bill Irwin on an adaptation of Moliere's Scapin and co-authored a translation of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. He also adapted Feydeau's Private Fittings for the La Jolla Playhouse and a symphonic version of Pyramus and Thisbe for the Kennedy Center.

Mr. O'Donnell published two collections of comic stories Elementary Education and Vertigo Park and Other TALL Tales as well as two novels, Getting Over Homer and Let Nothing You Dismay. His humor, cartoons and poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Esquire. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the George S. Kaufman Award.

The Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by Council Member Stephen Levin.


Iyvon Edebiri is a Nigerian-American and independent creative producer, company manager and dramaturg hailing from Brooklyn, NY. Iyvon is the Artistic Director and Host of The Parsnip Ship, a monthly series of reimagining the experience of radio plays by curating underproduced playwrights and plays with new music by independent musicians that are recorded live at The Mark O’Donnell Theater and distributed on streaming platforms. Iyvon is a recipient of a Fulbright Research Fellowship (Italy) and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship (Italy). She was recently an Americans for the Arts DIAL Fellow and a Fellow of The DO School Future of Audio Entertainment program in Berlin. Iyvon has worked at The Public Theater, Joe’s Pub, PIER55 and Sundance Institute Theater Program. B.A. Brandeis University. M.A. Baruch College (CUNY) Arts Administration program. 

The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that helps everyone—performers and those behind the scenes—who works in performing arts and entertainment. Serving professionals in film, theatre, television, music, opera, radio and dance, The Fund’s programs include social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, housing, and employment and training services. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Actors Fund is a safety net for those in need, crisis or transition. Visit

Playwrights Horizons is dedicated to cultivating the most important American playwrights, composers, and lyricists, as well as developing and producing their bold new plays and musicals. Under Artistic Director Tim Sanford and Managing Director Leslie Marcus, Playwrights builds upon its diverse and renowned body of work, counting 400 writers among its artistic roster. In addition to its onstage work each season, Playwrights’ singular commitment to nurturing American theater artists guides all of the institution’s multifaceted initiatives: our acclaimed New Works Lab, a robust commissioning program, an innovative curriculum at its Theater School, and more. Playwrights has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including six Pulitzer Prizes, 13 Tony Awards, and 40 Obie Awards.


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