Thursday, September 13, 2007

Send us your play!

We're now accepting submissions for the 2008 Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

Festival submission guidelines are on the web site

And while you're there check out the great fall classes at the New Play Institute - D.W. Jacobs, Annie Smart and Marcus Gardley are all teaching!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Festival Turns 30!

We had a wonderful opening weekend of parties, awards, and of course readings! Thanks to all those who came out to be part of it.

The Festival continues the weekend. Come join us! And while you're there, check out the new website.

More Festival blogging coming soon...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Announcing the 2007 Bay Area Playwrights Festival!

I know we promised it sooner - but better late than never.

We're got a really fantastic group of playwrights assembled for this year's Festival.

Here's the lineup:

2007 Bay Area Playwrights Festival
Magic Theater, San Francisco
August 3rd - 12th

Zakiyyah Alexander SWEET MALADIES
Christopher Chen INTO THE NUMBERS
Samuel D. Hunter I AM MONTANA
Julie Hebert TREE
(scroll down for bios)

Detailed Festival schedule will be posted soon.

Zakiyyah Alexander is a writer and performer whose plays include SICK? (Summer Play Festival), THE ETYMOLOGY OF BIRD (Hip Hop Theater Festival), BLURRING SHINE (Market Theater, Johannesburg), SWEET MALADIES (Rucker Theatre), AFTER THE SHOW: A PLAY IN MASK, PRALYA, ELECTED, ghost, and (900). She has received developmental support from The Rattlestick Theater, Hartford Stage, The Providence Black Repertory Company, 24/7 Theater Company, the Hip Hop Theater Festival, Vineyard Theater, the Women's Project, GAle GAtes et. al, La Mama Theatre, Greenwich Street Theater, etc. Awards include: the Theodore Ward Prize, Jackson Phelan Award, Drama League New Directors/New Works, New Professional Theatre Playwriting Award, Young Playwrights Inc., etc. Her work is included in the current New Monologues for Women by Women and in the upcoming book of essays, Girls who like Boys who like Boys. She is a resident member of New Dramatists and the Dramatists Guild. Past residencies and fellowships include: EST's Youngblood, the Women's Project Writer's Lab, the Women's Work Project, the Drama League, and New Dramatists. Current commissions include: The Philadelphia Theater Company, Second Stage Theater Time Warner grant, a Playground commission from the Children's Theater Company, and the University of Wisconsin. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama (MFA in playwriting) Zakiyyah is a native New Yorker and was raised in Brooklyn.

Annie Baker's plays have been developed and performed at the Soho Repertory, Atlantic Stage 2, the Ontological-Hysteric, Ensemble Studio Theater, the Kraine, and the Brick Theater in Williamsburg. She is the recipient of a Sloan Foundation Grant for Screenwriting and a Michener Playwriting Fellowship. She has a B.F.A. from the Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and is a member of EST's Youngblood Playwrights Group and the 06/07 Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab.

Christopher Chen was born and raised in San Francisco. His first full-length play, Maya, was developed at the Asian American Theater Company’s New Works Incubator program, mentored by Philip Kan Gotanda. Additionally, many of his shorter works and one-acts have been produced at venues such as the Jon Sims Center, S.F. Fringe Festival, Theatre Rice, Brown Bag Theater, S.F. State One-Act Fringe, and Brooklyn College/Harrogate Theater Company. He was a member of Playground’s 2005-2006 Writer’s Pool. Chris is also a director and actor, and at U.C. Berkeley, from which he graduated in 2004, he led Theatre Rice’s playwriting workshop for one year. He is currently pursing an M.F.A. in playwriting at S.F. State.

Julie Hebert is a writer/director working in theater, film and television. Her first play, TRUE BEAUTIES, premiered at the Magic Theater in San Francisco in 1987, winning the Critics Circle Best Play Award and going on to other productions in Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, Canada and several universities. Her other plays including The Knee Desires The Dirt, Ruby’s Bucket of Blood, St. Joan of the Dancing Sickness and Abe Lincoln’s Dog have been developed and produced at theaters around the country and won numerous awards. Julie has directed new plays with Steppenwolf, Seven Stages, Provincetown Playhouse, LaMaMa, Eureka Theater, Magic Theater, Los Angeles Theater Center, San Diego Rep, and many others. In 2002, Julie received a Georrge Foster Peabody Award for co-directing “In Their Own Words” a documentary of interviews with survivors of the 9/11 attacks in New York. She has received grants from the NEA, TCG, California Arts Council, Marin Arts Council and others for writing, directing, and inter-disciplinary arts.
In television, Julie has written and directed for THIRD WATCH and ER, directed multiple episodes of THE WEST WING, and currently works as Co-Executive Producer for NUMB3RS, serving as both writer and director. Julie is a member of New Dramatists as well as several Guilds-- Dramatists; Writers; Directors. She was an early member of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and taught in the MFA Theater Program at UCLA.

Samuel D. Hunter is originally from Moscow, Idaho, Samuel D. Hunter received his BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2004 where he was the recipient of a John Golden Playwriting Prize. In May 2007, he received his MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop where he was the recipient of an Iowa Arts Fellowship and the 2007 Richard Maibaum Award. His plays include: NORMAN ROCKWELL KILLED MY FATHER at the 2005 O'Neill Playwrights Conference, ABRAHAM (A SHOT IN THE HEAD) at Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theater, ABRAHAM (I AM AN ISLAND) in Studio 42's Scattered Festival at Collective: Unconscious, PIGHEART at the 2006 Iowa Playwrights' Workshop New Play Festival and a 2007 PlayLabs semi-finalist, and RADIOPLAY and AMERICAN TRIPTYCH at the HomoGenius Festival at Manhattan Theater Source. He has taught playwriting courses at the University of Iowa and, over the last two summers, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories at Ayyam al-Musrah in Hebron and Ashtar Theater in Ramallah. At Ashtar, he co-wrote THE ERA OF WHALES, which was produced in the West Bank and at the International Istanbul Theater Festival.

Kevin Oakes’ plays include The Vomit Talk of Ghosts, The High Priest of Bad Math, and All Spoken By A Shining Creature: a hypertext punk tragedy. The Vomit Talk of Ghosts was developed as part of Soho Rep's Writer/Director Lab (Soho Repertory Theatre, NYC) and was produced by The Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco for a successful six week run in the summer of 2003 and subsequently by the Flea Theater in New York City in June-July 2004. His play The High Priest of Bad Math was produced by Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre and All Spoken By A Shining Creature: a hypertext punk tragedy, was produced by The Perishable Theatre of Providence, RI and by Todo Con Nada in New York City. Oakes’ productions also include text for The World part IV: a game in 26 parts produced by GAle GAtes et al. at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as text for GAle GAtes’ So Long Ago I Can't Remember: a divine comedy, a thirteen scene performance installation based on Dante's Inferno. Oakes’ text for So Long Ago… was published in TheatreForum Magazine Summer/Fall 2002 issue. The Vomit Talk of Ghosts is published in Theater Magazine 35:2 and is included an anthology of new plays, New Downtown Now, published by the University of Minnesota Press and edited by playwright Mac Wellman. His play the evolutionist’s club, developed with support from Soho Rep, was recently in Risk is This…The Cutting Ball New Plays Festival.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We're Very Very Close

To being able to announce this year's Festival.

Check back very soon... You'll hear it here first.

Over the past couple weeks I've been in touch with our colleagues at the O'Neill, PlayPenn etc... comparing our finalist lists, to see if there was overlap and potential conflicts. In the past we've selected the same plays as other festivals and because of timing issues the writer has had to chose which to attend. This year everyone I spoke to had an almost completely different list of finalists from each other. I'm not sure exactly what to make of this, but I think it means it's been a really great year for playwrighting, with so many fantastic plays out there to chose from.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

An Interview With Geetha Reddy

Our In The Rough Reading Series picks back up this week with Geetha Reddy's ME GIVEN YOU. Readings are Monday April 9th at Ceras Hall in Stanford, and Tuesday April 10th at Traveling Jewish Theater in San Francisco. Full details here.

This is the second in our series of e-interviews with the writers in the series.

Jonathan Spector: What was your initial impulse to write ME GIVEN YOU?

GEETHA REDDY: I wrote ME GIVEN YOU as a reaction against what I think of
as the 'Mistresses of Spices' era of Indian stereotypes. Since the
multi-culturalism of the '90s Indians have been portrayed as spiritually
enlightened, magical and nonthreatening. These concepts have been propagated
by both Indian and Western authors, yet when I bumped into them I never
identified them with my personal experience.

Hypocritically, I have always enjoyed the benefits of this kindly version of
my cultural stereotype, acting as the demure Indian girl when it is useful
and discarding it as necessary. So when PlayGround asked me to pitch them
ideas for my commission I wondered if it would be possible to write a play
that was a send-up of these new Indian stereotypes by portraying an Indian
women who is manipulative, willful, and even ruthless. All the while I
wanted to rely on the friendly stereotypes to keep my crazy Indian character

JS: You originally wrote this play as a commission for PlayGround. What was
that development experience like?

GR: ME GIVEN YOU is my first full length play, and without PlayGround it never
would have gotten written. PlayGround provided deadlines, a supportive
dramturg (the playwright Garret Groenveld), a table reading, and a staged
reading. More importantly Jim Kleinmann, the artistic director, encouraged
me to work on this play instead of other ideas I pitched. He assured me that
finding Indian actors and an audience was possible and that I had to stop
fretting and write the damn play.

The table reading followed by the staged reading was a good evolutionary
process for me as new playwright. After the table reading I was able to do
revisions focusing mostly on the themes and characters. It wasn't until the
staged reading that I was confronted with the staging difficulties in the
play. Having the issues unfold in this order made the whole process of
rewriting less overwhelming.

JS: Which older writers have most influenced your work, and who among your
contemporaries are you most excited about at the moment?

GR: What a question. It is funny, for me there are writers I love, like
Robertson Davies and Jane Austen, but I don't think I am influenced by them.
As a writer I suppose I have been most influenced by the humorists I read as
teenager: Woody Allen's writing, Jon Waters, Mad Magazine, and P.G.

As a native of Pittsburgh I was drawn to August Wilson's life and work. But
really, if I am being honest, I am a child of television. I grew up in Mr.
Roger's neighborhood (he really was my neighbor), but I hated the slowness
of the program- I was more of Electric Company kind of kid. Similarly as an
adult I like '30 Rock' more than 'Studio 60', although I admire Aaron
Sorkin's writing on 'Sports Night' and 'West Wing'.

I just read an amazing book called "The Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin
Brockmeier and I am looking forward to the new White Stripes album. It's a
mixed bag.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Big Wonderful Weekend

It's been a pretty crazy fews days here at PF.

On Sunday, we had a huge fundraiser "Brunch with a Playwright". Almost three hundred people attended, including 30 playwrights spread out at tables among the masses. It was a really lovely event, on a much larger scale than anything we'd done in the past and thanks to an incredible amount of hard work from the board and army of volunteers, it went off without a hitch.

My four personal highlights:

1) Prince Gomolvilas saying that he wished Playwrights Foundation was a person so that he could make sweet love to it in every imaginable position.

2) Philip Kan Gotanda's story about trying to talk to Sam Shepard at one of the first festivals. He followed him into the bathroom, sidled up next to him at a urinal and told him how much he liked his work. He was ignored.

3) Marcus Gardley's beautiful story which I can't really do justice to here, but the gist of this: When he had a play in the festival, a bunch of people from his old West Oakland neighborhood showed up at the reading, even though he hadn't invited them. After the first reading, an old wise black woman walked up to him and said "I'll be back". After the second reading, she walked back up to him, this time with a young boy in tow. "You see", she said to the boy "you can be anything you want to be, you can be a playwright."

4) A friend of my girlfriend's parents, who sat next to Peter Nachtreib at the brunch, asking me if he was seeing anybody, because she knew this nice Jewish girl who would be perfect for him.

The next day we kicked off our In The Rough Series, with Jason Grote's play- Box Americana, which had a fabulous cast and went really well.

Now back to the grind - we're trying to narrow our twenty-five finalists down to ten or twelve tomorrow. More on that later...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

An Interview With Jason Grote

Jason Grote's play BOX AMERICANA:A WAL-MART FANTASIA will kick off the 2007 In The Rough Reading Series, with a pair of readings Stanford and San Francisco on March 26th and 27th.

He will also be teaching a three-day playwrighting intensive at PF. Full details for both can be found on the main site

This will be the first in a series of e-interviews with the writers in our ITR series.

Jonathan Spector: For BOX AMERICANA, you were commissioned to write a play on a specific topic. How did that process differ from other plays you've written?

Jason Grote: I actually pitched the show to the Working Theater, to my ongoing - well, regret is far too strong a word, but it's proven to be one of the more difficult things I've ever written. My original idea was to adapt one of the many recent books about neoliberal economics, like
FAST FOOD NATION or NO LOGO. Perhaps thankfully, the rights for those books proved unavailable, and I had just read Liza Featherstone's SELLING WOMEN SHORT, about the class-action suit against Wal-Mart for systematic discrimination against female employees. The research became voluminous, far beyond that original book, one of the reasons
why the play has been so hard to write.

There are ironies here - I worked in retail for years, and have been working-class most of my life, but as a playwright I'm interested in what I used to call "lifers" - that is, people both in and out of management who had no other options than their retail jobs. So partially, the play is psychically difficult because it's forcing me to return to a place I'd really rather forget; it's also difficult because, even though retail as a job category is ascendant, especially for women, it doesn't pack the dramatic punch that, say, an organizing campaign in a coal mine might. In fact, boredom and stillness are intrinsic parts of the retail experience. This might be an interesting way into an avant-garde performance piece, but I am after all a playwright.

The other challenge has been "writing the Other." The characters that most reflect my upbringing are Danae and Janelle; my formative years were spent on welfare, in a ghetto in New Jersey, while my mom worked a crappy retail job. Of course, there are fundamental differences, one of them being race, another being opportunity; we got out of that situation, mostly because of education, but also because whiteness is worth something in our society, it has a price-tag. And, of course, race in our society, particularly blackness/whiteness, is a fundamental taboo.

JS: You've said that with each play you write, you consciously go in a different direction than the previous play you've written. How does BOX AMERICANA fit into this pattern?

JG: It doesn't, at least not consciously. I tend to look to other plays for structural ideas, but none seemed to apply to BOX. Also, there is the aforementioned racial dynamic. In 1001, I was writing Arab characters, but because the play was about identity and the creation of the "Other," it came more easily, plus the fact that - despite the years of history and the current geopolitical situation - that particular divide is not as loaded as the black/white one is. Of
course, in both cases, I have had really constructive dialogues with actors of color, but in a sort of quiet, non-public way, once trust has been established.

A funny sidebar; I have noticed that sometimes well-intentioned people will try to "protect" me when someone calls me on the self-evident fact that I am a white guy writing non-white characters, as if I'm suddenly under attack by the PC police. I believe that sometimes this
discussion is constructive and sometimes it's just knee-jerk, but it's a conversation I'm actually eager to have, and one that can only help the play. I am far more aggravated by the "dramaturgy police," who want my work to fit into the neat little well-made play box.

JS: Your play 1001 just ended a tremendously successful run at the Denver Center Theater Company, after a series of developmental workshops. How did the play benefit from it's development process? Were there times you were concerned all that development was going to damage the play?

JG: I was never really concerned about it, though I was often annoyed by it. I'm pretty good and sussing out bad advice and refusing it. I would rather lose out on an opportunity and keep my play intact than overdevelop it and put yet another predictable, mediocre play out there (which is not to say that I am infallible, just that I would rather fail on my own terms). But the fact is - and I say this with great respect and appreciation for the places which helped me develop the piece - most of the work was done by the time it emerged from the Soho Rep Lab in 2005. The irony of "play development" is that, the more a play needs work, the fewer places want to develop it; success has a thousand fathers and all that.

Most of the development was very pragmatic and related to production - for example, the first reading was three hours with no intermission, so I had to find places to make internal cuts without altering the structure. I also wanted to find places to introduce visual and textual cues to link the various stories Scheherezade tells (many of which are anachronistic and related by association rather than cause-effect linearity).

In the end, though, there was relatively little interference. Most artistic directors I've encountered will reject a play rather than try to change it, especially at the LORT level. If they took any interest at all in 1001, it means they understood it on some fundamental level.

JS: Prior to 1001, most of your work had produced in small downtown venues. What was the difference in working in an environment with so many resources?

JG: It was great. Contrary to the horror stories one hears about LORT theaters, they were generous, they understood the play, and they knew when to get out of the way but they also made themselves available when needed. I was worried that the play might get overproduced, but certain realities of the space (it was in the round), the set budget, and the play itself prevented this (though much credit is due to the director, Ethan McSweeny). I feel uniquely lucky, as I got to work in a well-funded institution that is in the process of reinventing
itself. I feel like these are the places where the exciting work is happening, as many of our more storied institutions are becoming ossified and predictable. Of course, it can be frustrating - many New Yorkers don't give Denver enough credit (or the rest of America for
that matter), when so much of New York theater has become deadly dull, in part due to the suburbanization of New York, which its own separate discussion.

JS: In addition to being a playwright, you also co-chair the writer the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Has delving into the processes of so many other writers affected the way you work? What do you gain out of writing a play in this environment?

JG: Communities of writers are invaluable, when they're really communities. The Soho Rep Lab has been a huge part of my development as a writer, largely due to the opportunity to watch how other writers work. I've also found community at places like the O'Neill and New
Dramatists. In a nutshell, my approach is what Jonathan Lethem recently called "The Ecstacy of Influence;" rather than try to try and be totally original, I try to have as many, varied influences as possible.

JS: Which older writers have most influenced your work, and who among your contemporaries are you most excited about at the moment?

JG: At the moment, I think we're living in a comedy renaissance - ours might be the funniest generation to come down the pike in a while. The names I give won't surprise anyone; Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, The Onion, The Office, Mr. Show. I like this group Kaspar Hauser a
lot. I've been really into short stories lately, mostly George Saunders and Deborah Eisenberg. I just read a book called DREAM by Stephen Duncombe, which is all about how progressive movements have, mostly in reaction to consumerism and co-optation, become staid and
medicinal and need to embrace laughter, joy, and fantasy. I think this applies to theater as well. I tend to like philosophers on the margins, like Slavoj Zizek, Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson, Noam Chomsky, Subcommandante Marcos. The French Marxist and post-Marxist
thinkers like Foucault, Baudrillard, and Guy Debord are out of vogue at the moment, but I still adore them, ditto for Edward Said. I like Hannah Arendt a lot, even though she's sort of neo-classical, and of course Walter Benjamin is great.

I tend to look outside of theater for influences, mostly to film, fiction, and contemporary art, though I am influenced by a lot of my peers' work. I really like Sheila Callaghan, Anne Washburn, Lisa D'Amour, Erin Courtney, Thomas Bradshaw, Young Jean Lee, Stephen Adly Guirgis. Then there is the recent avant-garde: Mac Wellman, Chuck Mee, Erik Ehn. I like a lot of what the Wooster Group does, as well as their progeny, like Elevator Repair Service, Radiohole, and the National Theater of the USA. I think Maria Irene Fornes is one of the most influential artists of the late 20th century and I think her legacy deserves to be remembered.
Then, the classics, of course: Euripides, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Brecht, Beckett, though every playwright should know them as a matter of course. I also like Arthur Miller, in part because he's so uncool.

You can visit Jason online at

(This Spring in the Bay Area you can see work by these writers mentioned above: a reading Sheila Callaghan's brand new play, That Pretty Pretty, also in Playwright Foundation's ITR Series; Anne Washburn's I Have Loved Strangers at Just Theater; Lisa D'Amour's Anna Bella Eema at Crowded Fire; and Stephen Adly Guirgis's Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train, currently running at the SF Playhouse.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Home Stretch (Nearly)

I spent most of the day going through the stacks of submissions, reorganizing, shifting, reading through ones we're passing on to make sure we aren't missing any gems.

We're entering a really exciting phase in the selection process, as we've now narrowed it down to a manageable number to really talk about in our committee meetings.

As it stands now, we've got about 20 plays that at least two of our readers really want to champion, and another 30 or so that at least one reader feels really strongly about.
The first group will get read by the whole committee, and the second will be read by two more readers, who will help determine if it ends up in that final group. Then they'll be a lot of arguing, a lot of teeth gnashing, some voting, more arguing, and eventually a decision. Theoretically we're going to finish the selection process by the end of the month, although that's looking a little too optimistic.

At this point, every play I'm reading is really strong, which is both invigorating and anxiety inducing. If you've ever been a reader of any kind, you know there's no better feeling than picking up a play by someone you've never heard of and being astounded by the quality of the writing. It's happening a lot right now, and we only have five slots in the festival. Hence the anxiety...

Friday, March 2, 2007

My Favorite New Advice Column

I just discovered a wonderful new forum/blog that The Playwright's Center is running on their website.

It's called Litup, and is sort an "Ask a Literary Manager" column where playwrights and others can get direct answers to their questions and discuss new play issues they want to bring forward. It's moderated by a Adrien-Alice Hansel from Actor's Theater of Louisville, Mead Hunter from Portland Center Stage, and Elissa Adams for The Children's Theater Company. Check it out.

Monday, February 5, 2007

In The Rough Reading Series - All The Details!

Playwrights Foundation joins forces with the Lark Play Development Center (NYC) and the National Center for New Plays at Stanford U to bring eight brand new plays to the stage though our developmental reading series, In The Rough.

San Francisco Readings: Traveling Jewish Theater, 470 Florida St., (between 17th and Mariposa) $10 - $20 sliding scale by donation. Info & reservations: or call (415) 626 045 x110

Stanford Readings: CERAS Hall, Stanford University, $20

Box Americana: A Wal-Mart Fantasia by Jason Grote
Mon 3/26: 7:30pm, Stanford University
Tue 3/27: 7:00pm, San Francisco

Me Given You by Geetha Reddy
Mon 4/9: 7:30pm, ,Stanford University
Tues 4/10: 7:00pm San Francisco

Love Song for the Night in Gail by Marcus Gardley
Mon 4/16: 7:30pm, Stanford University
Tues 4/17: 7:00pm, San Francisco

Untitled by Sheila Callaghan
Mon 4/23: 7:30pm, Stanford University
Tues 4/24: 7:00pm, San Francisco

Sid Arthur: A Tale of a Modern Buddha by Tanya Shaffer
Mon 4/30: 7:00pm, Stanford University
Tues 5/1: 7:00pm, San Francisco

Layla and Majnun by Nastaran Ahamdi
Mon 5/7: 7:30pm, Stanford University
Tue 5/8: 7:00pm, San Francisco

Smudge by Rachel Axler
*Sun 5/13: 7:00pm, San Francisco,
Mon 5/16: 7:00 pm, Stanford University
*Please note this reading is held on Sunday

Boom by Peter Nachtrieb
Mon 5/21: 7:30pm, Stanford University
Tue 5/22: 7:00pm, San Francisco


Jason Grote’s plays include 1001, This Storm is What We Call Progress, Hamilton Township and Box Americana. His work has been presented at Denver Center Theater Company, The 92nd Street Y’s Makor/Steinhardt Center, Baltimore Center Stage, The Brick, Circle X, Clubbed Thumb, CUNY’s Prelude ’06 Festival, The Glej Theater in Ljubljana, Slovenia, HERE, The Lark, The Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, The New York Fringe Festival, The O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, Soho Rep, The Williamstown Theater Festival workshop, and The Working Theater, and published in various anthologies. Honors include a nomination for the 2007 Kesselring Prize, finalist for the Weisssberger Award (still under consideration), an NEA Grant via Soho Rep, a Sloan Commission from Ensemble Studio Theatre and The P73 Playwriting Fellowship. He teaches playwriting and screenwriting at Rutgers University and is a member of PEN and New Dramatists.

Geetha Reddy is a three-time recipient of PlayGround's Emerging Playwright Award. In 2005 she was awarded PlayGround's June Anne Baker Prize and in 2006 she was awarded a PlayGround Alumni Commission. Her play "Honey, I'm Home" was showcased at the inaugural San Francisco Theater Festival and featured in PlayGround's 10th Anniversary production The Best of the Best of PlayGround. Recently her plays were performed in the Santa Rosa Actor's Theatre "Quickies" festival and the Best of SF Fringe Show "Three Plays About Your Mom."

Marcus Gardley is a poet-playwright who teaches Creative Writing at Columbia University. His play dance of the holy ghosts just premiered at the Yale Repertory Theater in March. He has had five plays produced some of which are: (L)imitations of Life, March 2004 at the Empty Space Theater in Seattle; like sun fallin in the mouth, August 2003 at the National Black Theatre Festival Winston-Salem, North Carolina and livin tired, July 2003 at the Yale Summer Cabaret. He was a finalist for the Alliance Theatre Graduate Playwriting Competition 2004, the sole runner up for the Princess Grace Award 2004, a Sundance writer in residence at Ucross in 2003 and the summer lab in 2006. He is the recipient of the Eugene O’ Neil Memorial Scholarship, the Bay Area Playwright’s Foundation Fellowship and the ASCAP Cole Porter Prize. His play Love is a Dream House in Lorin premiered at Shotgun Players last fall. He holds an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama and he is a member of New Dramatists.

Sheila Callaghan's plays have been produced and developed with Soho Rep, Playwright's Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Clubbed Thumb, The LARK, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, New Georges, Annex Theatre, Moving Arts, and LABrynth, among others. Sheila is the recipient of a 2000 Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, a 2001 LA Weekly Award for Best One-act, a 2001-02 Jerome Fellowship from the Playwright's Center in Minneapolis, a 2002 Chesley Prize for Lesbian Playwriting, a 2003 Mac Dowell Residency, and a 2004 NYFA grant. Her plays have been produced internationally in New Zealand, Norway, and the Czech Republic. She has been commissioned by Playwright's Horizons, South Coast Repertory, and EST/Sloan. Her full-length plays include Scab, The Hunger Waltz, Crawl Fade To White, Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), We Are Not These Hands, Dead City, Lascivious Something, Kate Crackernuts and her opera Elemental with music by Sophocle Papavasilopoulos. Sheila is a member of the Obie winning playwright's organization 13P.

Tanya Shaffer’s original plays and solo performances have been produced at the Berkeley Rep, the San Diego Rep, A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle, and TheatreWorks, and have toured to colleges and festivals across the country. Her most recent play, Baby Taj, which premiered at TheatreWorks in 2005, was chosen by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, and the San Jose Mercury News as one of the Top Ten Shows of the Year and nominated for an American Theatre Critics Steinberg Award. Her book “Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in Africa” was profiled in Vogue and USA Today and chosen by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2003. Her stories and essays have appeared on and in numerous anthologies.

Nastaran Ahmadi received her MFA in Playwriting from Yale School of Drama in May 2006. Her plays have been produced in Louisville, New York, and New Haven. They include: The War Is Over (Yale Cabaret), Layla and Majnun (Yale School of Drama, Carlotta Festival), For Art (Shalimar Productions, NYC), Red Town, Utah (The Flatiron Playhouse, NYC), Pardon My Queen (Yale Cabaret), Broomer’s Gym (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Devil Caught Rope (YSD), …and Fishes (Yale Cabaret),and One Long Comfortable Gulp (Shalimar Productions, NYC). Nastaran is the co-recipient of the 2006 ASCAP Cole Porter Prize in Playwriting.

Rachel Axler is an Emmy award-winning writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her plays have been produced by Vital Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Spring TheatreWorks, Slant Theatre, NY Int'l Fringe, Brooklyn Rep and Cal Arts, and she wrote the screenplay for a short musical film, 11 (music: Brad Alexander, lyrics: Jim McNicholas) which was produced by Raw Impressions. Short pieces of hers are published in editions of Monologues for Women, By Women (Heinemann), McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and In Character. 2004-2005 Dramatists Guild Fellow. B.A., Williams College. M.F.A., UCSD. Member, Dramatists Guild.

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is a San Francisco-based playwright whose works include Hunter Gatherers, Colorado, Meaningless, Multiplex and The Amorphous Blob. Hunter Gatherers, which was developed at the 2005 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, had it's world premiere this past summer, produced by Killing My Lobster, and was hailed as one of the Top 10 Bay Area Theatre events in 2006 by the SF Chronicle and several other newspapers. His work has been also been seen Off-Broadway at SPF, the Bailiwick Theatre (Chicago), South Coast Rep, Seattle Fringe Festival, and at many other Bay Area Venues such as Impact Theatre, Playground, and several others. He was a recipient of one of the first ever TBA/New Works Funds grants, and has also won a Playground Emerging Playwright Award, the Highsmith Prize, and placed first in the Scene Competition at the Mother Lode Drama Festival in 1992. He holds a degree in Theater and Biology from Brown and an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He is currently under commission from Encore Theatre Company (full length) with whom he recently received an Emerging Playwright Award from the Gerbode and Hewlett Foundations. He’s also working on a short play about Nanotechnology for The Magic Theatre/Sloan Initiative. He frequently writes at the Z Space Studio and promotes himself online at

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Friday was our first selection committee meeting. Or actually the second, but the first was more of a meet-and-greet and as no one had read any of the plays yet, there wasn't all that much to talk about.

I'm going to try to blog through the festival selection as we proceed this next couple months in an attempt to shed some light on what may appear to be a somewhat mysterious process.

First the numbers:
Number of plays submitted - around 400.
Number of selection committee members - 13
Number of months until selection deadline - 4

The selection process is roughly divided into three stages.

In the first stage, every play reviewed read by two people, is given a brief summary and is marked by each reader in one of four categories - Strong consider, Consider, Weak Consider, or Return. If both readers give the play a consider or strong consider, it gets promoted to the next phase. If two readers disagree the play gets read by a third reader. Weak Consider is a new category and we haven't exactly decided how it plays into things yet.

If both readers give the play a return, it is then read by a staff member before being cycled out of the selection process. We try to be very vigilant about this - on more than one occasion, plays that have gotten two returns have been caught by a staff member and ended up in the festival.

In the second stage, we have about 50 plays that at least a couple people on the committee think are really valuable and deserve to be on the festival. When we're at this stage, most people on the committee will read most of the plays. Then we'll debate, champion, deride, prosthelytize, and throw food at each other until we can form some kind of a consensus.

In the third stage, we'll have clawed each others eyes out enough to have widdled these 50 excellent plays down to about 10 - 15. Everybody picks the 5 they think should be on the festival and tries to convince the other 12 people why they are the most right. It'll be fun.

More details soon. For now, I should do less blogging and more reading.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

UCSD New Play Contest on the African-American Experience


The University of California San Diego’s Theatre and Dance Department seeks from all enrolled undergraduate students submissions of previously unproduced, unpublished scripts highlighting the African-American experience in contemporary or historical terms. Adaptations from books and other forms not allowed.

A $1000 honorarium will be awarded to the winning playwright.

Find all the info here

In The Rough Reading Series

We've just got our spring reading series put together. It's a really great group of writers, five of whom are coming out from New York (and three of whom happen to be fanatastic bloggers, if you're into that kind of thing).

The schedule is still tentative, pbut here's a sneak peek. Our ITR series is a partneship with Stanford University and The Lark in NYC. Each play gets read twice, once in Stanford and once at Traveling Jewish Theater in San Francisco.

March 26th/27th: Jason Grote
April 9th/10th: Geetha Reddy
April 16th/17th: Marcus Gardley
April 23rd/24th Sheila Callaghan
April 30th/May 1st Tanya Shaffer
May 7th/8th Nastaran Ahmadi
May 13th/14th Rachel Axler
May 21st/22nd Peter Nachtrieb

Play titles and blurbs will be up soon.