NYU graduate and playwright Samuel Hunter was named one of this year’s 21 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellows on Sept. 17.
Recipients of MacArthur Fellowships, which are often referred to as genius grants, are chosen by thousands of anonymous nominators for their excellence and contributions to their respective fields. The fellows receive a $625,000 grant over five years, without any restrictions or obligations.
“The MacArthur Foundation recognizes exceptional individuals doing transformative, creative work with a track record of achievement in their field and the potential for even more significant contributions in the future,” the foundation said in a Sept. 17 press release.
Hunter received the fellowship for his work in theater and joins the other 897 MacArthur Fellows the foundation has named since its creation in 1981. Hunter said he sees the fellowship as an opportunity to focus on and improve his work.
“Ever since I got the call, I’ve been thinking about how this will change my life,” Hunter said. “I think I’ve come to realize that what this means is actually really simple, it just means that I need to keep working. This fellowship is about the work that I’m going to produce over the next five years and beyond. I take it as an artistic mandate.”
Most of Hunter’s work explores themes of empathy and portrays characters struggling to make connections with others. His work is heavily influenced by his childhood in Idaho, as well as his experience as a gay teenager in a fundamentalist Christian high school.
In the 2013-14 theater season, Hunter has premiered three plays, including his new Off-Broadway show “Pocatello.”
Tisch senior Alex Rakowski said he is happy to see an NYU alumnus recognized for his work.
“It makes it feel more attainable for someone like myself,” Rakowski said. “Plus, half the time I say I study dramatic writing here, someone has no idea the program exists, so anything that brings more recognition to the department is great.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 22 print edition. Email Valentina Bojanini at [email protected]