Shayok Misha Chowdhury '16 Receives the 2022 Mark O'Donnell Prize and 2022 Relentless Musical Award

Anastasia Ellis
February 02, 2023

Directing alumnus Shayok Misha Chowdhury ’16 was awarded the 2022 Mark O’Donnell Prize in December. Chowdhury and Laura Grill Jaye, who make up the musical-writing duo Grill and Chowder, were awarded the 2022 Relentless Musical Award in the same month. 

The Mark O’Donnell Award, named in honor of Hairspray and Cry Baby book co-writer Mark O’Donnell, is awarded by the Entertainment Community Fund and Playwrights Horizons. The award is meant to celebrate America’s most singular and curious emerging writers, composers, directors, and designers. It includes a $15,000 prize, use of the Entertainment Community Fund Arts Center’s Mark O’Donnell Theater for the development of a reading of a new work, and support in applications for affordable housing and health insurance. 

The 2022 Relentless Musical Award, won by Chowdhury and Jaye for their new musical, How the White Girl Got Her Spots and Other 90s Trivia, marks the first time that the Relentless Award was given to a musical. The duo’s work was selected from over 500 applicants and judged by a panel that included Associate Professor Lynn Nottage. Chowdhury and Jaye will receive $65,000, along with support to hold staged readings across the United States, including a series at Theater Row in New York. 

The Relentless Award, which returned in 2022 for the first time since 2019, was established by the American Playwriting Foundation in memory of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman after his sudden death in 2014. This year’s decision to give the award to a musical was made in order to honor songwriter Adam Schlesinger, who passed away in 2020 as a result of complications from COVID-19. 2022 applicants were given the challenging task of embodying the spirits of both Hoffman and Schlesinger. David Bar Katz, the foundation’s artistic and executive director, expressed just how challenging that combination is to achieve: Hoffman’s spirit, he says, is found in art that seems “like they’d ripped their heart out and threw it on the stage,” while Schlesinger “loved creating well-constructed pop songs that…people would enjoy.”   

Shayok Misha Chowdhury is a multidisciplinary theatre artist based in Brooklyn and a 2022 Princess Grace Honorarium Recipient. He is the writer and director of Public Obscenities, which he began writing as an inaugural member of Soho Rep’s Project Number One. The show begins performances in February 2022. Upcoming, Misha will direct SPEECH, which he co-created with Lightning Rod Special, at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. As a Resident Artist at HERE Arts Center, he is developing Rheology, a concert-memoir-physics-symposium, for which he was awarded an inaugural Sundance Asian American Fellowship. Other projects include Brother, Brother at New York Theatre Workshop, MukhAgni at Under the Radar, and How the White Girl Got Her Spots and Other 90s Trivia at Joe’s Pub with Laura Grill Jaye, the other half of musical-making duo Grill and Chowder. Misha is the creator of VICHITRA, a series of sound-driven, cinematic experiments, including Englandbashi (Ann Arbor Film Festival); The Other Other (Ars Nova); An Anthology of Queer Dreams (Audio Unbound Award finalist); and In Order to Become (The Bushwick Starr), which he is developing into a live Carnatic opera. Misha is also an alumnus of New York Theatre Workshop’s 2050 Fellowship, The Public Theater’s Devised Theater Working Group, Ars Nova’s Makers Lab, New York Stage and Film Nexus, the Sundance Art of Practice Fellowship, BRIClab, and Soho Rep’s Writer/Director Lab.