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Hermitage Fellows find success on and off Broadway

A fellowship at Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Beach can spark creative breakthroughs.

A writer's studio in the Hermitage House, which was built in 1907 as a beachfront homestead.
A writer's studio in the Hermitage House, which was built in 1907 as a beachfront homestead.
Image courtesy of Barbara Banks Photography
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Whenever the Hermitage Artist Retreat announces the latest crops of artists for residencies at its Manasota Beach compound, somewhere somebody is thinking, “Why don’t I get a two-week vacation at the beach?”

Yeah, life’s a beach, but there’s far more to a Hermitage Retreat fellowship than soaking up the sun on fine-grained Gulf sands. “One of the things the artists tell us over and over again is that in any two weeks at the Hermitage, they accomplish more than they do in two years at home,” says Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Retreat CEO and artistic director.

Since it was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2002, the Hermitage Retreat has hosted more than 600 artists in a variety of disciplines, including music, dance, theater, literature and visual art. Right now, several Hermitage alums or their works are shining brightly on New York City stages, both on and off Broadway.

Sandberg thinks the lack of a deadline or a “deliverable,” as he calls it, frees up Hermitage artists to make creative breakthroughs. He also sees benefits in the cross-pollination of artists in different disciplines. 

“At any given time, you have five or six brilliant artists in different artistic disciplines who are there at the Hermitage,” he says. “It’s noncompetitive and there’s no required deliverable. So the lack of pressure actually frees people up to have open and safe conversations with fellow creative minds and share ideas.”

Here’s a roundup, by no means comprehensive, of Hermitage Fellows (as its alums are known), who are lighting up New York stages this season.

Craig Lucas

Craig Lucas
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Back in 1962, the film “Days of Wine and Roses” was a shocking tale chronicling the destructive spiral of a middle-class couple as they descended from social drinking to full-blown alcoholism.

Would such a downbeat tale play on Broadway? Hermitage Fellow Craig Lucas thinks it can. “Days of Wine and Roses the Musical,” his adaptation of JP Miller’s film, will make its Broadway debut in January. 

Featuring a book by Lucas and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, the musical adaptation is still set in 1950s New York and stars Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James as a couple trying to build a family in spite of their bad habits. 

The musical has already been a hit Off Broadway, opening in May of this year to upbeat reviews at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater. Its Broadway production is scheduled for a limited, 16-week run at Studio 54, the former disco that is now a theater.

Lucas, a Hermitage Greenfield Prize winner, hasn’t shied away from gritty material in his career and has been rewarded for his efforts. He has received Tony nominations for the books of “An American in Paris” (2015), “Light in the Piazza” (2005), “Prelude to a Kiss” (1990) and “Paradise Square” (2022). Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss” was also nominated for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage
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Throughout her career, Hermitage Fellow Lynn Nottage has focused on the experience of Black working-class Americans, but that’s not the story behind her latest hit, “MJ: The Musical.” The show, which has been a hit on Broadway for more than two years, goes behind the scenes to explore Michael Jackson’s rise from lovable child star to iconic superstar.

Nottage has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. The first time was in 2019 for her play, “Ruined.” She won again in 2017 for her play “Sweat.” 

Along with being a playwright, Nottage is a professor of playwriting at Columbia University. She's received a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and was on Time magazine’s 2019 list of the 100 Most Influential People.

Nottage also served on the jury for the Hermitage Major Theater Award that selected 2022 recipient Shariffa Ali.

Jeanine Tesori

Jeanine Tesori
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It’s been a very good year for Hermitage Fellow Jeanine Tesori. Her collaboration with David Lindsay-Abaire, “Kimberly Akimbo,” won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

When Tesori was in residence as a Hermitage Fellow, she shared that her time on Manasota Key allowed her to work for hours on end. That freedom from deadlines helped inspire a breakthrough in rewrites for “Kimberly Akimbo."

Prior to be honored for “Kimberly Akimbo,” four of Tesori’s scores had been nominated for Tony Awards, including “Twelfth Night,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Caroline, or Change” and “Shrek the Musical.” She recently served as supervising vocal producer on Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of “West Side Story.”

In “Kimberly Akimbo,” Victoria Clark stars as a New Jersey teenager who looks like a woman in her 70s. 

Denis O’Hare

Denis O'Hare
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Both on- and off-Broadway, it’s been a big year for the works of Stephen Sondheim, the late composer and lyricist.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” the revival of the Sondheim-George Furth musical, is a bona fide hit this time around. And Sondheim’s final musical, “Here We Are,” based on the films of Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, has finally made it to the stage.

The premiere of Sondheim’s posthumous “Here We Are” stars Denis O’Hare as the character "Man" in an off-Broadway production at The Shed, which opened Sept. 28 and is scheduled to close Jan. 21.

O’Hare, who is also a playwright, was a Hermitage Fellow in 2017, when he worked on a one-woman play with Lisa Peterson about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. O’Hare is probably best known for playing vampire king Russell Edgington on HBO’s “True Blood,” but he has won awards for his performances in the plays “Take Me Out” and “Sweet Charity.”

Joshua Harmon 

Joshua Harmon
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Hermitage Fellow Joshua Harmon’s “Prayer for the French Republic” moves to Broadway in January after being a hit for the Manhattan Theatre Club during its Off-Broadway run.

The play, which won the 2022 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best New Off-Broadway Play, begins in 1944, as a Jewish couple in Paris anxiously awaits to hear the fate of their missing family. 

Fast-forward 70 years, and the couple’s great-grandchildren are facing similar questions about their family’s security. 

Harmon, a playwright based in New York, wrote “Bad Jews” and “Significant Other,” both of which were produced Off-Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company.



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.

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