Not even a global pandemic can stop great theater, as award-winning producer Iyvon Edebiri can attest. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak limiting public gatherings and events, her nonprofit—the Parsnip Ship—continues to highlight compelling play readings and music via podcasts and social media.
“We typically record in front of a live studio audience in Brooklyn,” Ms. Edebiri says. “Amid the COVID-19 crisis, people still want to hear theater—in fact, they’re rallying behind it—so we launched digital programs to sustain that need.”
Ever since she was a child, Edebiri has loved theater. During her undergraduate years at Brandeis University, she transitioned her focus from singing to producing, developing a particular fondness for the logistics and attention to detail needed to bring a play to life.
She created the Parsnip Ship in 2015 to showcase emerging, underrepresented artists, previously focusing on playwrights of color and currently highlighting female-identifying writers. “American theater often acts like these stories and writers don’t exist,” says Edebiri, “but that’s a lie. So by showcasing them on our platform, we’re giving American theater less of an excuse not to feature them.”
Edebiri’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons awarded her the 2019 Mark O’Donnell Prize, named after and funded by the late writer of Hairspray. The award, which recognizes “America’s most anomalous, singular, and curious” emerging theater artists, includes a $15,000 cash prize.
Edebiri refined her skills as a member of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences’ second cohort of Master of Arts in arts administration students. For the alumna, it was an exciting opportunity to be part of a new and growing program. “It was my chance to geek out,” she jokes. “There are so many arts administrators in New York who work in all facets of the arts, and it’s great to have those conversations about what’s happening at other institutions.”
As for her future in the arts, Edebiri plans to continue to produce unique and compelling content—whether that’s online, in person, or otherwise. The Parsnip Ship podcast can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play Music, and all other major platforms.