Nathan Alan Davis

Nathan Alan Davis is an artist whose work fuses depth of feeling and love of language, balancing the profound, the prosaic, and an overwhelming desire to reach through the fourth wall and pull his audiences towards him.

A native of Rockford, Illinois, Nathan Alan Davis is one of the most exciting and versatile young playwrights working today. Each of his plays represents both an experiment in form and a continued investigation of what it means to be Black in America. His most recent work, The Refuge Plays, is an ambitious trilogy of short plays that spans four generations of a family seeking both literal and figurative refuge in a world that is by turns cruel and indifferent. Skillfully weaving the mythic and the mundane together, the trilogy presents a tender portrait of a culture and a family, considering the meanings of home and place, showing how the past continues to shape the present. In The Wind and the Breeze, Davis uses rap, rhyme, and freestyle music to stunning effect, telling the story of Sam, a young hip hop star who feels tied to his neighborhood even while his friends urge him to pursue opportunities in the wider world. In other critically acclaimed plays like Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea and Nat Turner in Jerusalem, Davis takes a philosophically and poetically rigorous approach to Black identity in America and in the African diaspora, examining how the idea of narrative plays into both—how stories tell us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. In the words of Nat, “The knowledge of it was in the air. / And still is. / Once something is in the air you can’t help but breathe it in. / It becomes a part of you. And then you breathe it out. / And now your own substance is mingled with it.” Davis has received many awards and honors for his writing, including, most recently, a Steinberg Playwright Award (2020), a Rita Goldberg Fellowship (2019), and a Whiting Award (2018). An alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University Bloomington, and the Juilliard School, he is a Lecturer in Theater and Berlind Playwright-in-Residence at Princeton University.

To have my work thought of and honored in this way means more than I can say. This is a truly life-changing moment; I am profoundly thankful. NATHAN ALAN DAVIS