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Playwrights' ArenaNurturing the development of emerging playwrights

Playwrights’ Arena is the newest new play initiative developed by the American Voices New Play Institute. Centering on a small collaborative group of local playwrights dedicated to the support and development of each other’s work, Playwrights’ Arena, facilitated by Director of Artistic Programming Robert Barry Fleming, meets throughout the year to investigate each other’s work and develop their dramaturgical practice as playwrights while creating new work. Playwrights’ Arena launched at Arena Stage in January 2013 and began a second round in February 2015.

Playwrights' Arena Group Two

Steven ButlerSTEVEN A. BUTLER, JR. is a playwright, actor and the co-founder of Restoration Stage, Inc., which he launched with partner Courtney Baker-Oliver in 2005. His plays include Chocolate Covered Ants, The Truth (About the Down Low), All That Glitters, Drag On!, The Katrina Project and The First Lady. His plays have been produced at Restoration Stage, Gusman Center for the Performing Arts (Miami), Bowie Center for the Performing Arts (Maryland) and Greensboro Coliseum (North Carolina). He has had readings and workshops at Howard University and Prince George’s Community College. His work has been commissioned by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). He is a graduate of Howard University and a veteran of the United States Air Force.

Patricia DavisPATRICIA DAVIS writes plays, poetry and nonfiction. Her first play, Alternative Methods, was produced in the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival, winning a Pick of the Fringe recommendation from New York Theater Review and a Best Director award. It was selected for readings at Urban Stages, Georgia College & State University and Catholic University, and also included in the Beltway Drama Series. Her newest play After the Blood recently received a reading at La MaMa Experimental Theatre. Her short play Cleared was selected by Theater Alliance for presentation in the Kennedy Center’s 2013 Page-to-Stage Festival. With Dianna Ortiz, she co-authored The Blindfold’s Eyes, winning Best First-Time Author and Best History/Biography awards from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada and a Best Book of the Year Award from Spirituality and Health magazine. She published a collection of poetry, The Water that Broke You, in 2014. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has published articles in The NationForeign Policy in Focus, Counterpunch and Common Dreams and writes regularly for HowlRound. Former director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, she earned an MFA from American University and a BA from Carleton College.

Joshua FordJOSHUA FORD is the Helen Hayes Award-nominated playwright of Miklat, which received its world premiere at Theater J in 2002 and was nominated for the Charles MacArthur Award for Best New Play. Miklat went on to subsequent productions at Florida Stage, Jewish Theatre of the South and several other regional theaters. His new play, To Kill a King, has been recognized as a “Top Ten Play” by the 2015 Jewish Plays Project, was a semifinalist for the 2014 Eugene O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference and has received workshop readings as part of the 2014 Locally Grown Festival at Theater J and at the Baltimore Playwrights Festival in February 2015. For many years he oversaw the arts programs at the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center, where, among other positions, he was an associate producer at Theater J, directed the Washington Jewish Film Festival, served as chief program officer and worked on bringing artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians to D.C. audiences. Born in New Jersey and educated at Grinnell College in Iowa, he lives in Montgomery County, MD with his wife, the writer and blogger Melissa Ford, and their boy-girl twins. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Mary Stone HanleyMARY STONE HANLEY, Ph.D. is a playwright, poet, educator, scholar and researcher. As a playwright she has written nine plays for young people and two screenplays produced as films. She wrote and produced The Name Game in the 2013 DC Black Theater Festival and a revised version in the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival facilitated by grants from the D.C. Arts and Humanities Commission. Her plays, Street Life and Sunshine and Rain, have been chosen for readings by The African Continuum Theatre, Black Theatre Festival, Inkwell Theater and Spooky Action Theater. She has also been a member of the Black Women Playwrights’ Group. She began her theater life as an adolescent at Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio; attended Syracuse University, majoring in Drama; and received a B.A in Children’s Drama at the University of Washington. She has a M.Ed. in Educational Communications (emphasis in television and film) and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Multicultural Education and Drama from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. Presently she is a graduate student in creative writing at American University in D.C., with a focus on poetry, a form and language she often uses in playwriting. 

Liz MaestriLIZ MAESTRI’s full-length plays include Sinner-Man, House Beautiful, Fallbeil, Condo Condo Condoland, Somersaulting and Owl Moon (Original Works Publishing). Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at The Artists’ Bloc, Capital Fringe Festival, CENTERSTAGE 50Fest, E.M.P. Collective, Field Trip Theatre, Forum Theatre, Glass Mind Theatre, Great Plains Theatre Conference (PlayLab), INTERSECTIONS Festival, One-Minute Play Festival, The Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival, Primary Stages/ESPA, Sewanee Writers' Conference, Source Festival, SWAN Day, Taffety Punk Theatre Company, Theater Alliance and Theater J. She was awarded a D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowship, Horton Foote Scholarship, Weissberg Foundation Award and a D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Young Artist Program Award. She has been a finalist for the Larry Neal Writer's Award and a semifinalist for the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. She studied playwriting with the 24 With 5 Collective at New Dramatists and is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

David Mitchell RobinsonDAVID MITCHELL ROBINSON’s goal to write a play about every place he’s ever lived has resulted in Carapace (Minneapolis), The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn’t Exist (Chicago), Animals Nobody Loves (Southeast Ohio), Olympic Village (Atlanta) and Terminals (airplanes). These and other plays have been produced, developed or commissioned by the Alliance Theatre, Center Theatre Group, the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Primary Stages, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Actor’s Express, Theater J, B Street Theatre, the Inkwell, Rep Stage, Field Trip Theatre, the Source Festival and Ohio University, where he received his MFA. David is a past winner of the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition and the Scott McPherson Playwriting Award. He has also been a nominee for the PoNY Fellowship, the Lanford Wilson Award, the Terrence McNally Award and a Suzi Bass Award.

Playwrights’ Arena inaugural group

Norman AllenNORMAN ALLEN’s work has been commissioned and produced by the Kennedy Center, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the Washington Ballet, Olney Theatre and the Karlin Music Theatre in Prague. Recent projects include the inter-disciplinary Once Wild: Isadora in Russia, named “a bold new work of art” by the Washington Post. His work for television includes documentaries on artists Van Gogh, Cassatt, Sargent and Cezanne. He received the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play for In The Garden and his Nijinsky’s Last Dance won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Play. Allen’s work in musical theater includes the books for Frank Wildhorn’s Carmen; the concert adaptation of Sweet Adeline at Encores!, New York City Center; the national tour of Cirque Ingenieux; and The Christmas Carol Rag, featuring a classic ragtime score.

Randy BakerRANDY BAKER is a playwright, director and the co-Artistic Director of Rorschach Theatre which he founded with Jenny McConnell Frederick. Plays he has written include Forgotten Kingdoms, The Burning Road, The First Disobedience, wild42hold and Dream Sailors. His plays have been produced at Rorschach Theatre, Source Theatre, Forum Theatre (re)acts, Extreme Exchange, Three Leaches Theatre (Colorado), George Washington University and The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. He has had readings and workshops at National New Play Network, Inkwell Theatre, Theater J, The Arts Club of Washington, Wordsmyth Theater, MTWorks, Primary Stages, American University, Theater Alliance and Rorschach Theatre. He has directed productions at Rorschach Theatre, Source Theatre, Inkwell Theatre, First Draft, NCDA’s Actors Repertory Theatre, Imagination Stage’s Conservatory, Wayward Theatre, Cherry Red Productions and Young Playwrights Theater, among others. He received his MFA from Goddard College and is faculty at American University and the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. randybakerdc.wordpress.com

Jacqueline E. LawtonJACQUELINE E. LAWTON received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. Her plays include Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: the African Roscius; Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention; Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow. She has received commissions from Active Cultures Theater, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House Theatre and Theater J. Her play, Cinder Blocks, was published in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press). A 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color, she has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center.

Heather McDonaldHEATHER McDONALD’s plays include STAYAn Almost Holy PictureWhen Grace Comes InDream of a Common LanguageAvailable LightThe Rivers and RavinesFaulkner’s BicycleThe Two MarysRain and Darkness and the opera libretto for The End of The Affair. Current projects include Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and The Suppressed-Desire Ball. Her work has been produced on Broadway at The Roundabout Theatre, Arena Stage, The McCarter Theatre, Yale Rep, Center Stage, The Actors Theatre of Louisville – Humana Festival of New Plays and many others. Her work has been honored with a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, three NEA Playwriting Fellowships, the First Prize Kesselring Award and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her plays are published by Dramatists Play Service and Samuel French, Inc. She received her MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is Professor of Theater at George Mason University.

Danielle MohlmanDANIELLE MOHLMAN holds an MA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College. Recent credits include For Emma with Pinky Swear Productions as part of the Tiny House Plays at Boneyard Studios, Nexus (Playwrights' Arena) at Arena Stage as part of the Kogod Cradle Series, Glenmont and What We're Talking About When We Talk About Technology in the DC One Minute Play Festival, The Hollywood for Rorschach Theatre's Six Impossible Things benefit at the Uptown House, an open movement workshop of Dust (Artists’ Bloc) and Followed by a Sometime Cowboy at Forum Theatre’s Re(Acts). Other credits include Stopgap at the Capital Fringe Festival (Field Trip Theatre), Dust (The Inkwell and Artists’ Bloc), Our Father (Field Trip Theatre) and Jim and Paul Meet in Dreams (Field Trip Theatre) at the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival; John. John. John., Followed by a Sometime Cowboy, and The Bed (Guillotine Theatre) at the National Museum for Women in the Arts; Apocalypse at the Atlas Intersections Festival; and John. John. John. at Station Nation—a festival honoring the victims of the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island. The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities named Danielle a finalist for the Larry Neal Writers’ Award for Dramatic Writing in both 2012 and 2014. Upcoming productions include Nexus (dir. David Snider) at Hubbard Hall, and Squares with dog & pony dc.

Shawn NorthripSHAWN NORTHRIP is a playwright and composer with an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University and BA from Catholic University of America. His punk musical Titus X appeared at Source Theatre Company and Off-Off Broadway at Chashama and the Tank, and is anthologized by New York Theatre Experience. His middle school musical Lunch was developed with support from the Kennedy Center's Kenan Foundation, earned the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust Grant, premiered at the New York Musical Festival, and is published by Playscripts. Cautionary Tales for Adults and the Many Adventures of Trixie Tickles, his parody of children's shows, earned Best Musical at the Second Annual Capital Fringe Festival and appeared in Round House's Silver Spring Series. Shawn also has ongoing collaborations with DC’s Molotov Theater Group: The Horrors of Online Dating, The Red Velvet Curtain, An Adaptation of Julius Caesar, and (coming soon) Oedipus Rocks (working title); with comedian Katie Molinaro: On the Rag to Riches and R.I.P (really into partying); and with the Brazen-faced Varlets of Buffalo, New York. When not writing, Shawn teachers theater at George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.