Playwrights’ Center Announces Core Writers, Apprentices

Playwrights’ Center proudly announces our exciting new cohort of Core Writers and Core Apprentices.

Cris Eli Blak, Brandy N. Carie, Chloé Hung, Charlie Oh, Alejandro Rodriguez, Jasmine Sharma, and Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay are committed professional playwrights who have demonstrated a sustained body of work and artistic merit. These Core Writers will receive three years of support as they develop new works for the stage. 

The headshots of our three new Core Apprentices float in circles against an orangish-red backdrop. All three look directly out, smiling, Elle in a necklace and teal top, Ro in glasses and a multi-colored shirt, and Salwa against a background of leaves.

Salwa Meghjee, Ro Reddick, and Elle Thoni will join the Center as Core Apprentices for the upcoming season. Offered in partnership with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, this program will fund and support play development workshops for all three early-career playwrights, and establish each as the recipient of a nine-month mentorship.

Associate Artistic Director Pirronne Yousefzadedh is eager to begin collaborating with the Core Writers, noting that “each exhibits unique and critical perspectives, excellence in their craft, and a profound generosity of spirit.”

These are writers who meet the moment, adding their presence to Playwrights’ Center at a key time of transition.

As Playwrights’ Center prepares to move into a larger physical space and expand our community, we’re welcoming writers who engage with an adventurous and ranging constellation of themes and forms—from witches to Kung Fu Zombies, dance theater to “a video adaptation of Jane Austen’s oeuvre using puppets.” Works they’ll explore during this cycle may include “an absurd look at the process of getting an American work visa” and “an original hip hop saga exploring rap beefs.”

Artists tell us that their need for assistance has never been greater, while institutions offering that assistance have become harder to find. Each writer in the new cohort affirmed their gratitude to the Center for consistently caring for playwrights in tangible ways.

Chloé Hung says, “The Core Writers program offers playwrights a treasure trove of resources and support that is, unfortunately, quite rare in our industry.” Charlie Oh adds, “Having the commitment of this organization for an extended period of time allows me to take big swings and let work develop at its natural pace.”

Alejandro Rodriguez isexcited to be in a community of practice,” emphasizing that “being a Core Writer means a place has been set aside for me at the table. As someone who’s scribbled plays under the dang table and even hurled them through the window when I’ve had to, it’s a huge relief and a massive vote of confidence.”

Each writer also noted that the Center’s commitment to fostering community was a powerful draw, and anticipated the ways in which conversation with other artists will enrich their work.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is looking forward to continuing her fruitful, longstanding involvement with the Center, noting that “one of my favorite steps in the process of developing new work is the focused time I’ll have with actors and directors around a table.”

Jasmine Sharma agrees. “As a performer/writer, workshop is always my favorite part of the process, though so often, due to financial and logistical constraints, it is rushed. Three years of continued support is space and more to mindfully develop work. Never have I ever been this down to enter a long-term relationship.”

Producing Artistic Director Nicole A.Watson looks forward to deepening her relationship with these writers as well. “As I begin my first season at the Center, I am overjoyed to welcome each of these writers here. Playwrights’ Center has supported and nurtured playwrights for over half a century and each of these current writers has a distinct and inspiring voice. We’re honored to provide the resources they will need to develop their plays, as well as the space to create community with one another and the artists they will work with. To support their creativity is a clear way to ensure a robust and vibrant future for the theater.”

Playwrights’ Center’s Core Apprenticeship provides essential support for artists as they begin their careers, and University Programs and Partnerships Associate Shalee Mae Cole Mauleón already sees a communal spirit among the three incoming playwrights. “They come to the Center with exciting writing that explores intersections of queerness and mental health within fandom culture, form-breaking reality-television studies of American fascism, and convening with deities while traveling backwards in time.”

These writers are ready to dive deeper into their adventurous work, and all agree that Playwrights’ Center is the place to do it.

Elle Thoni grew up in Minneapolis, and says “Playwrights’ Center was a lighthouse for me. It was one of my first indicators that it was possible to make a life as a playwright.”  Salwa Meghjee adds,As an early-career writer it can be difficult to find institutional support.”

Ro Reddick continues, “Writing can be so lonely. Being chosen means someone is listening, someone cares and is ready to invest in my growth as a writer. That’s awesome.”

Associate Artistic Director Pirronne Yousefzadeh concludes, “Now more than ever, artists need support and community, and I cannot think of a more deserving group.”

ARTIST BIOS

Cris Eli Blak is an emerging proud Black playwright whose work has been performed around the world. He was awarded the 2024 Charles M. Getchell New Play Award, the inaugural winner of the Black Broadway Men Playwriting Initiative, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s inaugural winner of the Muse of Fire BIPOC Playwriting Festival, and the recipient of the Emerging Playwrights Fellowship from The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. He is currently an artist-in-residence with Abingdon Theatre Company and a staff writer on the hit Starz series, Power Book III: Raising Kanan.

Brandy N. Carie is a playwright, screenwriter, and director based in LA but originally from Minnesota whose work explores witches, apocalypse, and what happens when nice girls get mad. She won the Kennedy Center ACTF Steinberg Playwriting Award and the AFF Abortion Pipeline Project and was a finalist for the Princess Grace Award. Residencies have included SPACE on Ryder Farm and the Albee Foundation. Carie’s work has been supported by Barter Theatre, Mildred’s Umbrella, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Northlight Theatre, and Pittsburgh’s City Theatre, among others. Recently, her play TOMORROW GAME was published by Samuel French. MFA, Carnegie Mellon University.

Chloé Hung is a Chinese-Canadian playwright. Her plays include Three Women of Swatow (Tarragon Theatre, Centaur Theatre), Issei He Say (New Jersey Rep), All Our Yesterdays (Toronto Fringe Fest, Next Stage Theatre Fest), If I Only (Theatre By the Bay). She has workshopped plays with IAMA Theatre, Geffen Theatre’s Writers room, Banff Playwrights Lab, Great Plains Theatre Commons’ New Play Conference, and Tarragon Playwrights Unit. In TV and film, Chloé has written for Queen Sugar, Cherish the Day, The Watchful Eye, and developed for Netflix. She was a Film Independent and The Black List screenwriting fellow.

Salwa Meghjee is a playwright from Florida. Her plays include U-Haul Mesbians (2023 O’Neill National Musical Theater Conference Semi-Finalist), Ender’s Gay (2024 Fault Line Theater’s Irons in the Fire Finalist, 2024 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Semi-Finalist), The Conference of the Birds (Mudlark Theater), and, written with her twin sister Samah, The Mysterious Mystery of the Lost Letters (Brooklyn Publishers). She co-founded the feminist theatre company The Golden and served as its Artistic Director for three years. She will be a Core Apprentice at Playwrights’ Center and a fellow in the Playwrights Program at Juilliard. BA, UC Berkeley; MFA, Northwestern University.

Charlie Oh’splays have been developed at Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Rep, The Lark, Second Stage, The Goodman, among others. His plays include Long (Kennedy Center’s Paula Vogel Award in playwriting, Mark Twain Prize, Relentless Award Honors), Coleman ’72 (Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award, Los Angeles Drama Circle Award nominee), White Monkey (Goodman New Stages, Future Labs), and The Disruptors. Charlie is a member, past fellow, or alumni of Ensemble Studio Theater’s Youngblood, Ars Nova Play Group, Page 73’s Writers Group, The Lark, and the Catwalk Writer’s Residency, among others. He currently holds commissions from Manhattan Theater Club and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, South Coast Rep, and is developing projects for television with Amazon Studios and Universal Studios. A recent graduate of The Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program.

Ro Reddick (she/her) is a queer Black playwright/songwriter and recent grad from Brown’s MFA Playwriting program. She writes off-kilter, dark comedies; the theme songs to your late capitalist nightmares. Her plays have been read/developed at The Ground Floor, The Bushwick Starr Reading Series, and Williamstown Theatre Festival (NYC Reading), and Clubbed Thumb’s MFA Showcase. Fun stuff: 2024-2025 Playwrights’ Center Core Apprentice, 2x O’Neill Finalist, Venturous Fellowship Nomination, Lambda Literary Playwriting Fellow, La Mama Umbria Playwright Retreat. She is currently under commission at the People’s Light Theatre.

Alejandro Rodriguez is a Cuban-American theater artist from the planet of Miami. His first evening-length work, Sorry, enjoyed two sold-out runs at LPAC in New York. His next show, In My Body, a collaboration with the Canadian street dance company, Bboyizm, is currently on tour and was the recipient of four Dora Awards in 2022. His most recent play, Alba, was a 2024 Finalist for the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and is set to be produced by Teatro Chelsea in Fall 2024. Formerly, he served as the Associate Artistic Director for PlayMakers, and as Deputy Executive Director for Arts Ignite. A graduate of Juilliard.

Jasmine Sharma (she/her) is a South Asian-American performer/writer/activist. She aims to focus her work at the intersection of race/femininity/Americanness. The world premiere of her play RADIAL GRADIENT at Shattered Globe Theatre was nominated for The Kilroys Web. Her play PEACHY: a sorta chekhovian traumedy (O’Neill finalist) will be taught and produced at Yale University, directed by Shilarna Stokes, spring, 2025. Other plays have been commissioned/supported/seen at Center Theater Group, Goodman Theatre, IAMA, Ashland New Plays Festival, Jackalope Theatre Company, Moxie Arts NYC, Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference, among others. Northwestern University. jasminesharma.org | @jasminesharmaa

Elle Thoni is a femmebeast playwright and public artist from Dakota land in Minneapolis. In search of wildness amidst this Great Unraveling, they write about queer shapeshifters, emergent ecologies, and unlikely kinship. Drawing from a divergent background in ensemble-devised performance, puppetry & mask, and documentary theater, their plays are as lush and dynamic as the living systems they’re inspired by. Elle is a four-time Kennedy Center awardee and the recent recipient of a $25,000 screenwriting grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. They keep bees, and vice versa. M.F.A. Dramatic Writing: Carnegie Mellon University. ellethoni.com

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is an award-winning Lao American playwright. CNN’s “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell called her work “revolutionary” and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts honored her with a Sally Award for Initiative which recognizes leadership never before seen in Minnesota that significantly impacts Minnesota. She’s best known for her Kung Fu Zombies play cycle. She’s currently a Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Theater Mu, Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow, and Jerome Foundation/Camargo Foundation Artist in Residence in Cassis, France. She’s working on commissions for Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), Theater Mu (MN), and InterAct Theatre Co. (PA).