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Hairspray Royalties to Be Donated to the Actors Fund in Memory of Mark O'Donnell

The Actors Fund also establishes "The Mark O’Donnell Prize" to support emerging artists. logo
The late writer Mark O'Donnell coauthored the book to the Tony-winning musical Hairspray.
(photo provided by DKC/O&M)

The Actors Fund announced today that Stephen O'Donnell will donate his late twin brother Mark O'Donnell's royalties as cowriter of the Broadway musical Hairspray in perpetuity to the nonprofit human services organization, which aids professionals in performing arts and entertainment.

The Actors Fund also announced "The Mark O'Donnell Prize," an annual prize to be awarded in collaboration with Playwrights Horizons and presented to an emerging theater artist in recognition of her or his talent and promise. The first winner will be announced at a private dedication ceremony on October 25 at the Mark O'Donnell Theater at the Actors Fund Arts Center, a state-of-the-art black box theater and arts center located at the Schermerhorn in downtown Brooklyn that has been renamed the Mark O'Donnell Theater in honor of the playwright and humorist.

The prize will be targeted toward "America's most anomalous, singular, and curious emerging writers, composers, directors, and designers." It includes a prize of up to $25,000, use of the Mark O'Donnell Theater at the Actors Fund Arts Center for one week to develop a reading of a new work, as well as counseling from the Actors Fund on two of the major challenges faced by emerging artists: how to apply for affordable housing and obtaining health insurance. The Mark O'Donnell Prize is funded by the Actors Fund, and made possible by a gift from Stephen O'Donnell in memory of Mark.

Mark O'Donnell passed away on August 6, 2012, at the age of 58. He cowrote the book of Hairspray, based on the John Waters film, with Thomas Meehan, earning a 2003 Tony Award for his work. The writers went on to adapt the Tony-nominated musical Cry-Baby for Broadway in 2008, based on a Waters film of the same name.

O'Donnell's Playwrights Horizons credits include That's It, Folks!, Fables for Friends, and The Nice and the Nasty. His other plays include Strangers on Earth, Vertigo Park, and the musical Tots in Tinseltown. He collaborated with Bill Irwin on an adaptation of Moliere's Scapin and coauthored a translation of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. He also adapted Feydeau's Private Fittings for the La Jolla Playhouse and a symphonic version of Pyramus and Thisbe for the Kennedy Center.

Mr. O'Donnell published two collections of comic stories, Elementary Education and Vertigo Park and Other Tall Tales as well as two novels, Getting Over Homer and Let Nothing You Dismay. His humor, cartoons, and poetry appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Esquire. During his career, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the George S. Kaufman Award.