The Boost

The Boost - a new commission


The Leah Ryan Fund announces Pittsburgh-based playwright, Tammy Ryan, as the inaugural recipient of The Boost, a new commission developed over the past year. The Boost is awarded to a woman, trans, or non-binary playwright over forty for a play to be written in conversation with Leah Ryan’s play The Wire.

Tammy Ryan receives the commission for her proposed play: Tutankhamun or the Last Pharaoh in Queens (working title). The play, set in New York City in 1978 and in the present, will center on the transportation of the King Tut exhibit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Grappling with themes of family, class, race, and the collisions between generations it will investigate questions like: “How do we chase our dreams when the obstacles are so high that we cannot see over the walls which surround us?” This new work is slated to have a public reading in the Spring of 2025.

On receiving The Boost, Tammy Ryan said, “I am honored to be the inaugural recipient of The Boost and am grateful that the Leah Ryan fund sees value in supporting women, trans, and non-binary playwrights in mid-career. When we’ve reached an age where we have honed our voices, gained some understanding of our craft and now have the life experience to create our best work, to be “boosted” up in this way can be a game changer. I hope to honor the memory of Leah Ryan with the play that I write and to help create momentum for future recipients of The Boost.”

The Leah Ryan Fund also recognizes seven finalists for The Boost: Anne Garcia-Romero, Marin Gazzaniga, Mary Hamilton, Callie Kimball, Michele Lee, Crystal Skillman, and Paola Alexandra Soto.

Arlene Avakian, board member, said, “when a member of our board floated the idea for a commission for a mid-career female, trans, or non-binary playwright, we were excited. Like with The Leah, a first in prizes for an emerging woman, trans, or non-binary playwright, The Boost is a first in a commission of its kind as well. We were thrilled when the applications flooded in, and, now, we have a winner–Tammy Ryan–with an amazing project. We look forward to seeing her play in about a year at which time we will also showcase Leah’s play, The Wire, which we asked to serve as a prompt for proposals for The Boost. Stay tuned.”

About Tammy Ryan
Tammy Ryan’s plays have been performed, commissioned and developed at theaters across the United States and internationally, such as the Alliance Theater, City Theater, Florida Stage, Marin Theater Company, People’s Light, Pittsburgh Playhouse, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Portland Stage Company, and Theatre Lab among others. Honors include the American Theater Critics Association’s Francesca Primus Prize for Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods, and the American Alliance of Theater in Education’s Distinguished New Play Award for The Music Lesson. Ryan was also named a 2020 Haas fellow for her play Take My Hand And Wave Goodbye. Other works include Seven Cousins For A Horse (Thrown Stone Theater), The Wake (Premiere Stages), Molly’s Hammer (Repertory Theater of St. Louis), Soldier’s Heart (Pittsburgh Playhouse) and Baby’s Blues (NCPA/Mumbai). She has received support from the National New Play Network, The New Harmony Project, The Sewanee Writers Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation. Ryan is an alumna of the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Playwrights Collective and a resident playwright of New Dramatists. For more:

About The Boost
This new commission – The Boost – will be awarded to women, trans, and non-binary playwrights age 40 or over who have an ongoing practice. The winner will receive $10,000 to write a new play in conversation with a work by Leah Ryan. Applicants should think of Leah’s work as a prompt, taking inspiration and creating freely from her themes, characters, or any other aspects of her writing. 

The Board of the Leah Ryan Fund has chosen Leah’s play The Wire as the prompt for the Boost’s inaugural year. 


Application Opens: September 18, 2023 

Application Deadline: November 15, 2023 or until 150 applications are received

Winner announced: February 1, 2024

Play delivered: February 1, 2025

Reading of the commissioned play: Spring 2025


At this time, an eligible applicant for the Boost is a woman, trans, and/or non-binary playwright age 40 or over who has had at least one production performed in front of a paying audience OR a script published by an established/known publishing/licensing house.

Application requirements:

– A two-page project summary in which the writer describes the play they intend to write, and answers the question: what about Leah’s play The Wire inspired your idea for this play? 

– CV / production history

– Fifteen pages of a work that best represents your voice. (This does not need to be the first fifteen pages of the work, just the pages you feel are the strongest).

– One reference (someone who can speak about your work as a playwright and theater maker – a letter is not needed.)

The winner will receive:

—$10,000 ($6K at time of commission, $4K on completion)

—A workshop and a reading of the new play

About Leah’s play The Wire

The Wire is about a family of high wire circus act performers all of whom, at one time or another have had the dream, the nightmare really, about “being up on the high wire in front of thousands of people. In the dream, you start to fall. Then everyone else starts to fall. And then you wake up. Or else, you don’t. And if you manage to survive, perhaps even the simple act of setting foot on the floor will seem impossible.

If you have any questions please contact Project Coordinator Dev Bondarin at