Playwrights’ Center Announces 2023–24 Public Season, Last Full Season in its Long-Time Home

Playwrights’ Center announces its 2023–24 public season of new play readings. These offerings welcome the public into the new play development process and allow playwrights to experience audiences’ reactions to their works-in-progress. 

The playwrights featured in the public season include Benjamin BenneSteph Del RossoSteven DietzMathilde DratwaEmily FeldmanPeter Gil-SheridanAnna Ouyang MoenchAriDy NoxJanaki RanpuraMat Smart, and Playwrights’ Center’s current Jerome Fellowship, Many Voices Fellowship, McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting, and McKnight National Residency & Commission recipients.

The upcoming season is already marked by significant moments in Playwrights’ Center’s history. It will be the Center’s last full season in its current home on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, during which construction of its new home, a 19,000 square foot arts center custom-designed to serve playwrights, theater artists and the community, will be underway in Saint Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone. It is also the final season programmed under Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen, who will complete his 14-year tenure in June 2024. Cohen’s successor will be named in the coming months, so the season will also see the welcome of the Center’s next artistic leader.

“Serving in this role has been one of the great joys of my career and I’m thrilled to conclude it with such an exciting season of new work,” says Cohen. “The playwrights featured are representative of the ways that Playwrights’ Center lives out its mission: continually identifying and nurturing the most exciting new playwriting voices, while maintaining and supporting long-term artistic relationships. From early career playwrights who will be featured in our fellows showcase, to AriDy Nox, who became a Core Writer just last year, to Steven Dietz, whose affiliation with the Center began nearly 40 years ago – all of these storytellers are creating vibrant work that demands to be seen. Our current, beloved building, where we’ve been a home for thousands of playwrights over the last 50+ years, has supported new theatrical work that’s had an impact on communities across the country and around the world.”

“This season comprises a thrilling spectrum of plays that range from the most delicate and intimate to the most epic and sweeping in scope. What they have in common is that each playwright is bravely grappling with the fundamental struggles and pressing questions of our shared humanity,” shares interim Associate Artistic Director Pirronne Yousefzadeh, who goes on to highlight how the Center’s public season fits into the overall support it provides artists: “Our public offerings make up only a fraction of the more than 70 new play development workshops that we produce each year, but they offer an invaluable opportunity for playwrights, who learn from how the work resonates for audiences, and for the public, which gets an early glimpse at work before it arrives on stages across the country.”

Playwrights’ Center Managing Director Robert Chelimsky bids adieu to the Center’s current home, while heralding the ways that its new facility will expand its capacity to pursue its mission. “Our home on Franklin Avenue and the entire Seward neighborhood will forever hold a special place in our hearts. We have long recognized that there is significantly more demand for our services than we can provide in our current building, and felt called to welcome the public into our work in deeper ways. Our new home, in Saint Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone, will double the square footage we can dedicate to supporting new work for theater stages, but more importantly represents a dramatic expansion of our capacity to support playwrights, theater artists, and the community. This season will both honor our history and shepherd us to an exciting future for Playwrights’ Center.”

The public season features Playwrights’ Center Core and Affiliated Writers. The Core Writer program gives a diverse group of competitively selected playwrights three-year terms that provide the time and tools to develop new works for the stage. The Affiliated Writers group is open to all playwrights who have received Playwrights’ Center fellowships, residences, or been Core Writers; they receive ongoing support and access to Center resources. 

The season consists of the Ruth Easton New Play SeriesIn The Lab, the PlayLabs Festival, and Artists in Conversation

Ruth Easton New Play Series
The Ruth Easton New Play Series gives five playwrights 35 hours of development time to explore, evolve, and experiment with their new plays. The featured writers work with a team of artistic collaborators to workshop their plays-in-progress and share them through two in-person public readings. A filmed version of each play is then available online, giving audience members across the world the opportunity to experience these new works.

One of the most resource- and time-generous development opportunities in the theater field, this series is made possible by the Ruth Easton Fund of the Edelstein Family Foundation. More than half of the plays developed through this series have gone on to full productions at theaters around the world.

This season’s Ruth Easton series will support the following plays:

Precarious by Core Writer Steph Del Rosso  

Violet is newly retired and eager to spend more quality time with her daughter Tillie. But her visit goes sideways as New York is gripped by yet another oppressive heatwave. Inside Tillie’s cramped apartment, cabin fever sets in, revealing hidden truths and deep divides. Incisive and darkly humorous, Precarious explores mothers and daughters, and what we choose to leave behind in a world transformed by climate change. 

In-person readings: Monday, October 9 & Tuesday, October 10 at 7 p.m.
Filmed presentation available online: October 19–25

A Black-billed Cuckoo by Affiliated Writer Mat Smart

Over the span of 24 hours in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, a close-knit birding group is turned upside down when some of its members see a rare bird and some don’t. A comedy that explores the complexities of loss, the power of wonder, and how to move on after missing out.

In-person readings: Monday, November 6 & Tuesday, November 7 at 7 p.m.
Filmed presentation available online: November 16–22

Your Local Theater Presents: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Again
by Affiliated Writer Anna Ouyang Moench

Eddie is fresh out of Juilliard, and he’s ready to make his mark on the American Theater. But first, a quick stint at your local theater for a production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to keep his health insurance. As the years pass, Eddie finds himself back at your local theater, over and over and over again. Much remains the same: the play, the stage manager, the green room—though Eddie’s in different costumes as he ages through the play’s male roles over the course of his career. A love letter to actors, artists, and dreamers of all professions who make sacrifices large and small in service of their work…and ultimately wonder whether it was worth it.

In-person readings: Monday, December 11 & Tuesday, December 12 at 7 p.m.
Filmed presentation available online: December 21–27

Lore Segal’s Other People’s Houses adapted by Daniel Aukin and Affiliated Writer Emily Feldman

In December of 1938, Lore, age ten, fled her home in Vienna aboard the Kindertransport and arrived in England alone, tasked with securing visas for the family members she left behind. Almost thirty years later, she published her acclaimed first novel, fictionalizing her experiences with a piercing perspective on the paradoxes of her forced migration. Now, Emily Feldman and Daniel Aukin aim to capture Lore’s blazingly singular worldview in a theatrical epic that spans eighty-five years and examines the puzzle of human survival in a world that distinguishes us and others.

In-person readings: Monday, February 5 & Tuesday, February 6 at 7 p.m.
Filmed presentation available online: February 15–21

Vial Man (The Apothecary’s Story) by Affiliated Writer Steven Dietz

Four hundred years ago, a desperate Apothecary sold poison to a heartsick boy named Romeo. This Apothecary – still alive in the present – is determined to atone for his part in the death of this boy and his beloved Juliet. Encountering a troubled young woman and a guileless young man, the Apothecary contrives to build a romantic love that cannot be destroyed…with dangerously emotional results. Vial Man is a lively theatrical concoction of magic, loss and the consequences of true passion denied. What becomes of love that cannot say its name?

In-person readings: Monday, March 4 & Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m.
Filmed presentation available online: March 14–20

In The Lab
The In The Lab program is now in its fourth year of supporting artists as they develop experimental new works in a variety of forms. It is designed to meet the changing needs of artists exploring new theater pieces and new ways of working.

In The Lab features two writers as they create, explore, test, and try again, pushing the boundaries of form and content. Audience members are invited into the experiment for an open rehearsal presentation followed by a conversation with the artists on the process.

This season’s In The Lab projects are: 

Cyranoid, an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac by Affiliated Writer Janaki Ranpura
How can a gorgeous guy who’s tongue-tied around females get the girl? All he needs are the wily words of a willing friend! Or maybe chat-GPT would be easier, if he can figure out how it works. Through onstage interactions with actual artificial intelligence, Cyranoid offers ways to fathom the Robot Revolution. It might be an advantage to know some code and some Hinduism – or just get swept along in the wow.

In-person reading: Friday, January 12 at 7 p.m.

bayou by Core Writer AriDy Nox 

bayou is (chronologically) the first play in a series that explores relationships between community members, between generations, and between the village and Mother Bayou. It begins when the high priestess, Cove, finds herself in a precarious situation after she and fellow villagers go on a pilgrimage following a stream they believe to be a manifestation of their deity, the Sweet Goddess of Rivers and Rain. It turns out, the stream is actually Sweet Goddess’s daughter, Little Goddess, a young deity who wants to strike out on her own and has no interest in or allegiance to her new worshippers.

In-person reading: Friday, January 26 at 7 p.m.

PlayLabs Festival
Playwrights’ Center’s public season culminates with PlayLabs, one of the nation’s most comprehensive new play festivals, during which three playwrights, working with artistic collaborators of their choosing, enjoy an extended workshop of their new plays, two public readings, and time for rewrites in between. The festival will close with a showcase of scenes from plays-in-progress by ‘23–’24 Playwrights’ Center Fellows, featuring works by Jerome, Many Voices, and McKnight Playwriting Fellows.

The Center hosts artistic leaders from theaters across the country during PlayLabs, inviting them to spend time with festival playwrights and get to know their work, with the goal of moving more new plays to production. Artistic leaders and theater lovers across the country and around the world are invited to experience the PlayLabs Festival virtually as video recordings of the three featured plays and the fellows’ showcase are made available for a limited time after the festival.

The 2023–24 PlayLabs Festival will feature:

Fantasma by Core Writer Benjamin Benne 

It’s Christmas Eve in Southern California and Rosie’s family gathers in her newly-renovated kitchen to make chuchitos. Her grandchildren are eager to learn and document every part of the recipe for this traditional Guatemalan dish she has prepared her entire life. But Rosie’s cooking has more to do with intuition than metrics, and recording and remembering are entirely different things. An expansive and lyrical intergenerational story that spans nearly two decades, Fantasma explores how we preserve our culture, how we assimilate, and the cost of what we leave behind.

Esther Perel Ruined My Life by Core Writer Mathilde Dratwa 

Aaron wants to spice things up in the bedroom while Andrea is preoccupied with a potential lice outbreak at their son’s school. Then Aaron’s proposal of an open relationship upends their marriage and leads Andrea to a mid-life coming-of-age. Erotic and thoughtful, Esther Perel Ruined My Life bravely explores oft-unspoken questions about love and desire post-childbirth and an approach to partnership that embraces our human capacity to continually evolve, grow, and change.

Pirates Steal by Affiliated Writer Peter Gil-Sheridan

A pair of pirates, Pegleg and Legup ponder pain, trauma, and the greatest complexities of life while sailing the high seas. Snap to Penny, Pancho, and Morgan, teenagers on the schoolyard switching from being the worst of enemies to the best of friends in an adolescent instant. Penny learns new truths about her family, Morgan prepares for an incalculable loss, and Pancho writes about it all for his dearest friends. Pirates Steal is an irreverent and poignant look into the lives of three teenagers and their moms as they navigate loss, identity, and growing up.

The full festival schedule and details about both in-person readings and online presentations will be announced at a later date. 

Artists in Conversation
Playwrights’ Center’s Artists in Conversation series offers a uniquely intimate look at playwrights and their process. This series brings audiences together with artists who share their behind-the-scenes thoughts on their craft, the field, and the world. These conversations are open to all and provide an exciting opportunity to hear directly from exceptional playwrights and theater artists. Participants, topics, and times will be announced throughout the year.