Playwrights’ Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy Cohen to Step Down After 2023–24 Season

Playwrights’ Center announces today that its Producing Artistic Director, Jeremy B. Cohen, will step down from his position when his current contract ends in June 2024. When he departs the Center, he will have served in the role for 14 years. During his tenure, Cohen has reconceived how the Center supports playwrights and dramatically expanded the number of artists receiving support, including: 

  • expanding the number of playwrights who receive the Center’s most comprehensive annual support to over 50, 
  • more than quadrupling the number of playwright members the Center serves to over 2,400 in 23 countries internationally, 
  • developing programs that expand support for traditionally marginalized and underheard voices in the theater, with an intentional focus on LGBTQIA+ playwrights as well as Black, Indigenous and playwrights of color, 
  • building a network of over 100 producing theaters that are committed to commissioning, developing and producing new work for the stage,
  • launching a one-of-kind partnership with Augsburg University that provides greater access to extraordinary writing courses for students around the world.

In his final year at Playwrights’ Center, Cohen, alongside Managing Director Robert Chelimsky, will oversee the completion of the Center’s $19 million comprehensive fundraising campaign, A Campaign for All Narratives, and the construction of the Center’s new home in Saint Paul, Minnesota’s Creative Enterprise Zone.

“Being the Producing Artistic Director of Playwrights’ Center has been one of the greatest joys of my career. It has been an honor to work with the tremendous people, past and present, who have served on the Center’s staff and our board of directors, and to support the artistry and livelihoods of so many brilliant playwrights,” says Cohen. 

Harrison David Rivers, President of the Board of Directors and a Playwrights’ Center Affiliated Writer, shares, “Jeremy’s leadership and vision have helped build Playwrights’ Center into a game-changing organization. He has advanced an intensely personal approach to artistic development – putting playwrights at the center of the process – that is changing America’s theatrical landscape, deepening and diversifying our stages one playwright and one play at a time.”

The Center’s new home, a 19,000-square-foot, custom-designed artist center for the community that will dramatically expand the organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission, is slated to open as Cohen completes his tenure at Playwrights’ Center. 

Cohen further says, “By creating a longer transition plan now, I’m excited to be able to welcome and support our next artistic leader right as the organization is at its peak momentum.”

Ojai Playwrights Conference (OPC) also announces today that Cohen is stepping into the position of OPC’s Producing Artistic Director. Throughout the rest of his time at Playwrights’ Center, Cohen will serve in his roles at OPC and the Center simultaneously, supporting playwrights and new work for the stage in both positions. OPC, held each summer in Ojai, California, is known for fostering new work from diverse playwrights addressing the important social and political concerns of our time.

Playwrights’ Center’s Board of Directors will soon announce a national search for Cohen’s successor, who will have the opportunity to begin their tenure as Cohen concludes his. Rivers adds, “Jeremy’s decision gives the Center time to undertake a deliberate, thoughtful leadership transition process. Our dual leadership model means that even as a new artistic leader brings in fresh energy, Robert, as Managing Director, will provide consistency and continuity of leadership.”

Offers Playwrights’ Center Managing Director Robert Chelimsky: “Jeremy has done so much to expand and deepen the vision and build a vibrant community for Playwrights’ Center. It’s been an honor to partner with him to strengthen and grow the organization through this transformational moment in our history–and now to build this incredible new arts center. This is a wonderful opportunity to build on the Center’s 50-year history as Jeremy’s successor shapes its future in our new home.” 

During his tenure, Cohen has fostered sustainable livelihoods for playwrights and theater artists by increasing Playwrights’ Center’s offerings in both its fellowship and membership departments and by forming strategic partnerships that have helped the organization grow to its current size and stature. The Center now supports over 50 playwrights on fellowship each year and, this year, will put over $450,000 directly into the pockets of playwrights, through fellowships, teaching, and developmental opportunities. The Center has pursued other means of helping playwrights make a living by connecting them with opportunities elsewhere, including teaching jobs, television and film writing, and new play commissions.

Cohen also led a significant expansion of the resources and learning tools that Playwrights’ Center offers writers. Today Playwrights’ Center serves more than 2,400 playwright members from over 23 countries, with a host of classes, seminars, and an ever-growing database of playwright opportunities. He also oversaw the launch of the Center’s University Courses program, offering accredited college-level courses to students across the country who are interested in playwriting.

Cohen dramatically increased the Center’s profile in the theater community and amongst the general public. He created the Center’s public season, which now includes the Ruth Easton New Play Series, PlayLabs Festival, In the Lab, and the Artists in Conversation series. The workshops, readings, and events that make up the season bring members of the public into the new play development process, and showcase the work of playwrights that the Center supports. 

Cohen also founded The Regulars program to connect over 100 producing theaters across the country with playwrights and resources to support the production of new plays. The Center hosts visits for these theaters’ artistic leaders so they can see new work and meet playwriting fellows, and offers co-development opportunities through which the Center subsidizes the development of plays in which theaters are interested. This support has significantly reduced the length of time it typically takes new plays to make their way to the stage.