Doris Duke Artist Awards

Marcus Gardley


Los Angeles, California

Marcus Gardley, a 2019 Doris Duke Artist in the theater category, is a nationally renowned playwright who demonstrates an exceptional talent for unearthing lesser known pieces of African-American history and bringing them to light in the form of rich, deeply felt works of socially conscious theater. His plays “X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation,” which illuminates seldom-shared details of Malcom X’s assassination, and “Black Odyssey,” which recasts Homer’s epic as a contemporary story of a black soldier returning from Afghanistan, are just two examples that demonstrate his prowess as an activist-artist. 

Lauded for his poetic dialogue, Gardley gives voice to brilliantly imagined characters and inspires audience connections to them. Nowhere is this truer than in “The House That Will Not Stand,” Gardley’s 2019 Obie Award-winning play currently being adapted into a film. In this work, he vividly resuscitates a group of African-American women in 1836 New Orleans who were in common law marriages with wealthy Frenchmen and had unprecedented power and their own slaves.  

Gardley is an ensemble member playwright at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and is the assistant professor of theater arts and performance studies at Brown University. He has received numerous honors, including the 2019 San Francisco Library Laureate Award, the 2018 Guiding Light Award, the 2017 Special Citation Theater Award, the 2015 Glickman Award, a 2013 United States Artists Fellowship, the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels award for Mid-Career Playwright, the 2008 Helen Merrill Award, the Kesselring Prize, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Scholarship and the ASCAP Cole Porter Prize for his work.

See the other 2019 Doris Duke Artists