The University of California San Diego’s Department of Theatre and Dance is one of the top theater training programs in the nation for a reason—it produces promising artists. This fact wasn’t lost on the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, an organization that supports emerging artists, when it recently named its Princess Grace Award winners for 2016. Among them were three UC San Diego alumni: Christopher Scott Murillo, ’13; Keith A. Wallace, ’16 and Jiehae Park, ’09. Murillo and Wallace each won in the category of Theater and Playwriting, while Park was awarded a grant for a Works in Progress Residency. The three former Tritons, along with other winners, will be celebrated at the annual Princess Grace Awards Ceremony in New York City, Monday, Oct. 24.
According to Park, who will apply her award toward a two-week residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, support from the foundation will enable her to fund designers and performers for her project, as well as experiment with design ideas that until now have only been theoretical.
“It's incredibly encouraging,” said Park. “One of the beauties of this residency is that there isn't pressure to produce a final product—it truly is about exploration and growth as an artist.”
Park said that UC San Diego taught her some valuable lessons.
“The artistry and technique I learned was amazing, but that foundation of embracing one's uniqueness is part of the reason why the program is as diverse as it is. Diversity is not just a value, but also a huge asset as an artist, and I’m proud to have gone to a program as diverse as UC San Diego.”
Like Park, Wallace also cited the opportunity for learning and artistic growth represented by the award.
“An opportunity like this would allow me to continue work on a trilogy of solo plays chronicling the contemporary experience of Black Americans,” said Wallace. “Keeping in line with my artistic interest in social justice and awareness, my next two plays in the cycle will focus on the prison industrial complex—examining the ways ex-convicts integrate themselves back in society, the workforce and ultimately their intimate family lives—and the stigma around mental health in the Black community, including depression and suicide awareness.”
Wallace regards winning the Princess Grace Award as a tremendous honor.
“Being recognized by an organization that is dedicated to identifying and supporting emerging artists is both humbling and encouraging. Because PGF-USA strives to create a community that facilitates originality and individual voice I feel like I will be among the brightest and most creative minds this world has to offer. What an exciting notion.” he said, acknowledging UC San Diego as an integral part of the artist he has become.
“It was here that I was able to receive world-class professional theater training, to establish and cultivate relationships with other emerging theater artists and to find my individual voice as an actor and writer,” said Wallace.
Murillo explained that as an emerging artist, he is always looking for opportunities that allow him to cultivate his craft and apply his talent in different ways.
“Receiving the Princess Grace fellowship has been one of many affirmations to my career as an artist,” said Murillo, who will work as a resident scenic designer for Playwrights’ Arena in Los Angeles. “The award reminds me how thankful I am to all those who have ever helped shape my career, or who have helped me along the way. This is a testament to not only my sacrifice but theirs as well.”
Murillo called his time as a student at UC San Diego “extremely influential.” He explained that the university’s theater program gives its students practical and hands-on experiences that are invaluable to succeeding in the industry.
“I also found that even after I graduated, there remained a sense of support and guidance from the community of professionals at UC San Diego. Also, the university made me aware of the Princess Grace Foundation since many students and alumni over the years have been recipients.”
The UC San Diego Department of Theatre and Dance regularly ranks among the top programs in the country. It shares a close relationship with the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse, and UC San Diego MFA theatre students participate in at least one professional residency. Upon graduation, many students go on to work professionally in theater, film and television.