Acclaimed PlayPenn New Play Development Conference Announces 2019 Plays and Haas Fellows

The internationally-known conference will take place in Philadelphia from July 9-28, 2019.


PlayPenn, the new play development organization which assisted in the development of the Tony Award-winning international hit OSLO by J.T. Rogers, has announced their 2019 New Play Development Conferenceplays and writers, which will constitute the inaugural class of Haas Fellows.The conference, which takes place July 9 through July 28, 2019 in Philadelphia, includes workshops and readings of six plays, plus two additional readings of works-in-progress.

The selection of this year’s six Haas Fellows follows an exhaustive evaluation of over 700 applicants for spots in the 2019 15th annual New Play Development Conference. Conference playwrights represent a range of cultural and career experience, which contributes to the creation of a dynamic and diverse community. The plays that will be developed at the Conference are likely to find production on stages across the country, as has been the case for 60% of PlayPenn’s over 140 developed plays since 2005.

This year’s conference playwrights are a celebrated collective of noteworthy theatre artists from the United States. The playwrights will develop their plays through in-depth workshops with directors, dramaturgs, and professional actors.  Ample rehearsal time is interspersed with significant amounts of time for writing and for meetings – both formal and informal – between the writers and their creative teams. Each of the six plays is given two free public readings at Philadelphia’s Drake Theatre, one at the Conference midpoint and the other at the end of the development period.


This year is the first Conference where the six invited PlayPenn writers will receive the designation of Haas Fellows.  As a result of substantial support from the Wyncote Foundation, the Haas Fellow Program allows PlayPenn to strengthen its role developing new works for the American theater and ensuring that the Haas name is linked to exceptional artists for years to come, recognizing Haas’s extraordinary decades-long commitment to the arts and celebrating the support the organization has received from Leonard Haas and Wyncote since its very beginning.

The 2019 Conference plays and Haas Fellows are:


ARCHIPELAGO by Amy E. Witting: Three individuals isolated in their own pain come together in hopes of raising each other up before tearing each other down.


Amy E. Witting resides in Queens where she received a QAF New Work Grant for her documentary play, Sunnyside Impressions. Other work includes Anne Page Hates Fun(American Shakespeare Center World Premiere), The House on the Hill (CATF World Premiere, Atlantic Theater Commission, NNPN Showcase, The Kennedy Center ACTF/NNPN MFA Alumni Playwright Workshop), and A Bad Night (NY Rep Workshop, MTC Creative Space). Her plays have been developed at Atlantic Theater, The Lark Play Development Center, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Tofte Lake Center, Roundabout Theatre, National New Play Network, Abingdon Theatre, and The Kennedy Center. She received her MFA in playwriting from Hunter College.


CAVE CANEM by A. Emmanuel Leadon: After a shocking confession from Clayton on the night of the presidential election, his next-door neighbor Jermichael cut off their lifelong friendship. In the present, Clayton has been caring for his brother’s obstreperous and possibly bigoted dog, while Jermichael has just been granted partial custody of his estranged son. They struggle to bottle their resentments before their collective rage takes complete control.


A. Emmanuel Leadon is a writer, portraitist, and cartoonist from Dallas, whose art investigates mythologies and reframes them around topics of sexuality, class, and race. His theatrical works have been developed at Sitting Shotgun, Quick Silver Theater Company, and Yale University. He has been a finalist for the Downtown Urban Arts Festival and Young Playwrights Inc. Competition, a two-time semifinalist for the Blue Ink Award, and shortlisted for the Relentless Award. He is an alumnus of Yale College and the Townview School for the Talented and Gifted.


INCENDIARY by Dave Harris: Incendiary tells the journey of a Black single mother who is preparing to break her deathrow-bound son out of prison. She navigates the practical steps of planning her son’s prison break, like purchasing guns, getting a personal trainer, and preparing her daughter for a lonely life ahead. A collision between the absurd and the tragic, Incendiary explores generational violence, heroism, and the gendered expectations of emotional labor in Black families.


Dave Harris is a poet and playwright from West Philly. His plays include Everybody Black (WORLD PREMIERE: Actor’s Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival 2019, Kennedy Center Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award and Mark Twain Playwriting Award), White History (Manhattan Theater Club Reading Series, Victory Gardens Ignition Festival), Incendiary(Venturous Fellowship at The Lark, NNPN/The Kennedy Center MFA Workshop), Exception to the Rule (Roundabout Underground Reading Series), and Tambo & Bones (Black Swan Lab at Oregon Shakespeare Fest, SPACE on Ryder Farm) amongst others. His first full-length collection of poetry, Patricide, will be published in May 2019 from Button Poetry.


STRANGE MEN by Will Snider: Harish lives a modest life running a restaurant in a small market town in Uganda. A member of the Indian minority, he is estranged from his family for reasons he prefers not to discuss, and at night he cooks elaborate dinners that he eats alone. When an openly gay Peace Corps volunteer comes to town looking for more than a good meal, Harish’s comfortable routine is broken, and his life is put in danger. Strange Men explores the limits of good intentions and the uneven stakes for Americans living abroad and the people whose lives they touch.


Will Snider’s play How to Use a Knife received a Rolling World Premiere through National New Play Network, won the Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play, and was a finalist for a PEN Center USA Literary Award. Other plays include Death of a Driver (Urban Stages, NYC) and The Big Man(EST’s 35th Marathon of One-Act Plays). He earned a BA in History from Columbia with a specialization in post-colonial East African political history and spent three years working in agricultural microfinance in Kenya and Ethiopia before earning an MFA in Playwriting from UCSD.


THE PIPER by Kate Hamill: See Jane. Plain Jane. Poor Jane. See Jane suffer. See Jane find Harmonix. And then – watch Jane bloom…. Harmonix makes you feel good – better than you’ve ever felt before. With Harmonix, you belong. With Harmonix, you are loved.  But at what cost? A woman in crisis finds a spiritual home – and encounters the darkest parts of human (or inhuman?) nature – in this exploration of how groupthink enables cycles of toxic masculinity.


Kate Hamill is an actor/playwright and Wall Street JournalPlaywright of the Year, 2017. Plays include Sense & Sensibility(in which she originated the role of Marianne)—Winner, Off-Broadway Alliance Award; Nominee, Drama League Award; Vanity Fair at the Pearl (originated role of Becky Sharp; Nominee, Off-Broadway Alliance Award), Pride & Prejudice at Primary Stages & HVSF (originated role of Lizzy; Nominee, Off-Broadway Alliance Award); Mansfield Park at Northlight; Little Women at Jungle Theater, Primary Stages. Currently developing: The Odyssey and Scarlet Letter; a Christmas play called Scrooge for Senate; and several original plays (Prostitute Play, In the Mines, The Piper). Kate was one of the 10 most-produced playwrights in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.


WAYFINDING by Whitney Rowland: Jane is an emotionally-numbed new widow. Harrison is an inattentive, self-sabotaging husband. These two strangers collide – both literally  and figuratively – tangling their life lines and setting them on a  time-bending journey involving an intercontinental plane crash, a magical forest, and a choice that leads them both to an unexpected destination.


Whitney Rowland is a Minneapolis-based playwright and screenwriter. She has been a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill NPC, UMass PlayLab, Jerome Playwriting Fellowship, and shortlisted for the Theatre503 New Play Award. Her screenplay The Buzzbots was a winner in the CMU/Sloan Screenwriting Contest. Her work has been produced at the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, Minnesota Shorts, Northwest Children’s Theater & School, among others; developed at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Mid-America Theatre Conference, Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and the Great Plains Theatre Conference. MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon, Bachelor’s from the University of Kansas.


An additional offering this year includes a reading of ESTHER CHOI AND THE FISH THAT DROWNED by The Foundry playwright Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters.  The Foundry is PlayPenn’s professional development and membership program for emerging Philadelphia-area playwrights. Also, BUFFALO BILL OR HOW TO BE A GOOD MAN, a work-in-progress by Meghan Kennedy, will receive a reading.


A detailed schedule of conference events will be available in May. All readings are open to the public, free of charge.

Registration for attendance at the 2019 PlayPenn Conference will begin on July 1 by visiting Priority reservations, beginning two weeks earlier, are afforded to Priority Access Donors making annual gifts to PlayPenn of $200 or more.


ABOUT PLAYPENN: PlayPenn, in its 15th year, is an artist-driven organization dedicated to the development of new plays and playwrights. PlayPenn fully supports the needs of the writer and the demands of the play in an ever-evolving process within which playwrights can engage in risk taking, boundary-pushing work. The organization’s flagship annual new play development conference and year-round development workshops in cooperation with producing theatres result in staged readings of at least 10 new plays each year for over 2000 artists, producers, and theatergoers. Additionally, PlayPenn’s rapidly expanding educational programs—which include 17-20 in-person and online classes annually with notable instructors, application assistance, personalized dramaturgy services, plus The Foundry, a three-year membership group for emerging playwrights resident in Philadelphia—serve another 230+ playwrights from the region and across the nation. PlayPenn supports artists at all career stages across a broad spectrum of cultural, economic, ethnic, and gender experience. Since 2005, PlayPenn has helped to develop over 140 new plays from infancy to a state closer to production-readiness. Nearly 60% of these plays have gone on to more than 360 professional productions at esteemed institutions in the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere around the world, including the London’s National Theatre, National Theatre of Israel, English Theatre Berlin, Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center Theatre, Atlantic Theatre, Second Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, LaJolla Playhouse, Denver Center Theatre, South Coast Repertory, and a host of theatres in the Philadelphia region, in cities across the country and around the world. In 2017, PlayPenn celebrated the first of its developed plays to hit a Broadway stage, and win a Tony Award—JT Rogers’ Oslo at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.  Find out more at

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