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Prime Stage Theatre Receives NEA Grant for World Premiere of ‘Speak’

Prime Stage Theatre announced the National Endowment for the Arts has approved it for a Grants for Arts Project award of $15,000 to support the world premiere play adapted from the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Laurie Halse Anderson

Published in 1999, Speak tells the story of high school freshman Melinda, who was treated as a pariah by her peers after suffering a sexual assault. Melinda refuses to discuss her experience and then stops talking altogether until eventually finding the courage, with the support of a teacher, to once again “speak” as a whole person.

Ms. Anderson’s novel won numerous awards and has been a perennial best-seller in the young adult genre. It was adapted into a 2004 film starring Kristen Stewart. Prime Stage Theatre commissioned nationally renowned playwright Laurie Brooks to create this new and important stage play. Ms. Brooks has received three Distinguished Play Awards and developed plays at The Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices.

Laurie Brooks

“This story about the traumatic effects of rape, bullying and social ostracism has resonated enormously with youth, parents and educators,” says Prime Stage Theatre artistic director Dr. Wayne Brinda. “We’ve already had people thanking us for the courage to bring it to the stage.”

Prime Stage Theatre will premiere Speak February 28 – March 16, 2025, at New Hazlett Theater, presented in collaboration with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Dana Harding is slated to Direct.

“All our plays are presented with a group partner representing the community,” says Brinda. “At the performances of Speak, we’ll provide resources and professional guidance on ways teens and adults can cope with serious emotional crisis.” 

Prime Stage Theatre received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 2023 for its world premiere of Perseverance, based on the memoir of a Pittsburgh Holocaust survivor.

In announcing the grant, NEA Chair Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson stated, “Projects like this exemplify the creativity and care with which communities are telling their stories, creating connections, and responding to challenges and opportunities in their communities through the arts.

“So many aspects of our communities such as cultural vitality, health and wellbeing, infrastructure and the economy are advanced and improved through investments in art and design,” she noted. “The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to ensuring that people across the country benefit.”

Since its 1996 founding with the mission of “bringing literature to life”, Prime Stage Theatre has produced over 100 plays and is a national leader in educational theatre.

Prime Stage Theatre’s 2024-25 season includes Great Expectations (Nov. 2-10, 2024); Look Forward:  The Ruby Bridges Story (Jan. 17-26, 2025); Speak (Feb. 28-Mar.16, 2025); I Never Saw Another Butterfly (Apr. 3- 5, 2025); Twelve Angry Men (May 2-11, 2025).

“Each of our five plays for this season exemplify themes of strength, voices and hope, with youth and family as a central focus in each,” says Brinda. 

For more information on Prime Stage’s 2024/24 season visit: