PlayPenn Announces Summer 2019 Education Classes, Including a Special Workshop with J.T. Rogers and Ayad Akhtar

The semester also includes courses led by Sheri Wilner, John Yearley, L M Feldman, and PlayPenn’s Associate Artistic Director Michele Volansky.


PlayPenn, the nationally-recognized new play development organization based in Philadelphia, is excited to announce their Summer 2019 Education Program courses. Curated by Director of Education Julia Bumke, the semester features a variety of courses and workshops designed for writers of all skill levels.


This year, PlayPenn is proud to present a special one-night only workshop with acclaimed playwrights J.T. Rogers and Ayad Akhtar titled “Political Theatre in the United States” on June 24, 2019 starting at 7PM at The Bluver Theatre at The Drake.  Rogers (The Overwhelming, Blood and Gifts; Tony Award, Oslo, PlayPenn Conference, 2015) and Akhtar (Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Nomination, Disgraced; The Who and the What, Junk) have transformed the American theater scene with their searingly political works, which have been produced all over the world. In this workshop, Rogers and Akhtar will cover everything from the nitty-gritty of playwriting to broader questions about the American and world theatre.


Additional courses include:


Playwriting for Playgoers with John Yearley: Any theatregoer can tell you about a play they saw that they’ll never forget. But how much do even lifelong theatregoers know about the art of playwriting itself? Playwriting for Playgoers will mix the educational and the experiential so that students will really understand the practice and experience of playwriting. First, students will read and discuss a great play, breaking down how and why it works so well. Then students will do exercises to explore how to write for plays, how to write in the voice of other characters and create conflicts that reveal their deepest truths. After taking Playwriting for Playgoers, students will never look at a play the same way again. (July 10 and July 16, 6:30 – 9:30pm, Bluver Theatre at The Drake, $125)


Diving into the PlayPenn Conference with Michele Volansky: In celebration of PlayPenn’s 15th Anniversary New Play Development Conference, join Associate Artistic Director and Conference Dramaturg Michele Volansky in an exploration of the six extraordinary plays in our 2019 roster. This course will meet to discuss each of the Conference plays during their second week of public readings, teasing out thematic links and talking through the Conference season as a whole. Students will also read the starting drafts of each script, examining how the projects grow and evolve over the course of the Conference. (Class: Tuesday, 7/16: 7-8pm (online) Reading: STRANGE MEN on 7/25 at 7pm Class: Thursday, 7/25, 9-10p  Reading: THE PIPER on 7/26 at 8pm Class: Saturday, 7/27: 12:30-1:30pm Reading: INCENDIARY at 4pm and ARCHIPELAGO at 8pm on 7/27 Class: Sunday, 7/28: 11:30a-1:30pm Reading: CAVE CANEM at 2pm and WAYFINDING at 5pm on 7/28 Class: Monday, 7/29: 6-8pm (online), The Drake Theatre, $135)


21-Hour Summer Playtime Intensive with L M Feldman: Write, play, and discover with PlayPenn instructor L M Feldman in this immersive summer intensive. Students will spend each session in the spark and buzz that comes from writing a lot in a short period of time among a community of other writers who are doing it with them. Each time the class meets, students will have a prompt or two to run with, a hefty chunk of time to write, and then time at the end for half of the class to share their writing aloud and hear immediate responses on what’s landing, what’s exciting, and what we’re hungry for more of. Prompts will be open-ended enough to use however is most useful to writers. (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5:30-8:30p: July 29, July 31, August 2, August 5, August 7, August 9, August 12, Rehearsal Studio at The Drake, $450)


Creating Character with Sheri Wilner: This weekend-long intensive is designed to help writers create lucid yet complicated three-dimensional characters.  Together, Wilner and students work on multiple in-class and at-home writing exercises that help develop a deep understanding of a character’s wants and needs, psychology and back stories and then how to transmit that understanding to audiences through action and dialogue rather than exposition. Wilner’s class will deepen your knowledge of a writer’s current characters and provide tools to create vivid, distinct, three-dimensional characters in future work. Whether you’re revising a completed draft of a play, at the early stages of beginning a new one, or have a character but no story, the course’s exercises and discussions will apply to you. (Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11, 1-5pm, Location in Center City Philadelphia TBA, $170)


Registration and more information can be found at



Ayad Akhtar is the author of Junk (Lincoln Center, Broadway; 2018 Kennedy Prize for American Drama); Disgraced (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony nomination); The Who & The What (Lincoln Center); and The Invisible Hand (Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Olivier and Evening Standard nominations). As a novelist, he is the author of American Dervish (Little, Brown & Co.) published in over 20 languages. Recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2017 Steinberg Playwriting Award, 2017 Nestroy Award, as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, the Sundance Institute, and Yaddo, where he serves as a Board Director. He is a Board Trustee at PEN/America and New York Theatre Workshop.


L M Feldman is a queer, feminist playwright (and circus artist) who pens plays that are wildly theatrical but deeply intimate. Formally ambitious plays that move, take up space. Plays that are questing, wrestling, asking. Plays without answers. Plays about women and queers, plays about outsiders and searchers. Plays grappling with voice and agency, opportunity and access, history and its wake. Plays about the human connection. Plays that seek to be a greater, communal, rare theatrical event in which something transcendent transpires – for those both onstage & off. Her plays include THRIVE, OR WHAT YOU WILL (Page 73 Residency, New Georges Audrey Residency); ANOTHER KIND OF SILENCE (Magic Theatre Virgin Play Festival, PlayPenn Conference, Playwrights Realm Fellowship, FEWW Prize Honorable Mention); AMANUENSIS (Georgetown University); A PEOPLE (Orbiter 3, Jewish Plays Project); THE EGG-LAYERS (Jane Chambers Honorable Mention, New Georges/Barnard College commission); GRACE, OR THE ART OF CLIMBING (Denver Center, Art House Productions, Nice People Theatre, ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award Nomination, Barrymore Nomination); ensemble-devised works, including GUMSHOE (New Paradise Labs + Free Library of Philadelphia + Rosenbach Museum), WAR OF THE WORLDS: PHILADELPHIA (Swim Pony + Drexel University), AND IF YOU LOSE YOUR WAY, OR A FOOD ODYSSEY (The Invisible Dog, New York Innovative Theatre Award Nomination), and others; and a baker’s dozen of short plays. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, L is also a New Georges Affiliated Artist, a devised-work collaborator, a teacher of playwriting (Bryn Mawr College, Lantern Theatre/Jefferson Medical School, PlayPenn), and a freelance dramaturg.


J.T. Rogers’s plays include Oslo (Lincoln Center Theater, then Broadway; National Theatre, London, then West End); Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center Theater; National Theatre); The Overwhelming (National Theatre, then UK tour with Out of Joint; Roundabout Theatre); White People (Off Broadway with Starry Night Productions); and Madagascar (Theatre 503, London; Melbourne Theatre Company). He is a three-time PlayPenn Conference writer, where he developed Oslo (PlayPenn, 2015), Blood and Gifts (PlayPenn, 2009), and The Overwhelming (PlayPenn, 2005). For Oslo he won the Tony, New York Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Drama League, Lortel, and Obie awards, and was nominated for the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards. As one of the playwrights for the Tricycle Theatre of London’s The Great Game: Afghanistan he was also nominated for an Olivier Award. His works have been staged throughout the United States and in Germany, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Israel, and Norway. Rogers’s essays have been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, and the New Statesman.  He is a Guggenheim fellow and has received three NYFA fellowships in playwriting. Rogers is a member of the Dramatists Guild, where he is a founding board member of the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund. He is an alum of New Dramatists and holds an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.


Michele Volansky is Chair and Associate Professor of Drama at Washington College (MD), from which she earned a B.A. in English. She has worked on nearly 200 new and established plays in her professional career, developing new works by such writers as Sam Shepard, Daniel Stern, Warren Leight, Jeffrey Hatcher, Bruce Graham, Tina Landau, Charles L. Mee and Bruce Norris, along with many others. Her work on Shepard’s rewrite of Buried Child (directed by Gary Sinise) and Dale Wasserman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (directed by Terry Kinney and starring Gary Sinise) earned her two Broadway credits and participation in the Tony Award for Best Revival of Cuckoo’s Nest. She has guest dramaturged at the Arden Theater Company, South Coast Rep, the Atlantic Theatre Company, Victory Gardens and Next Theatre, in addition to her staff time at Actors Theatre of Louisville (1992-95), Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1995-2000) and Philadelphia Theatre Company (2000-2004). Her own play Whispering City was produced as part of the Steppenwolf Arts Exchange Program in the Fall of 1999. Since its inception, Dr. Volansky has served as Conference Dramaturg and Associate Artist for the Philadelphia-based new play development conference PlayPenn. She has served as an artistic consultant for the TCG playwright residency program, a reader for the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference and the New York Shakespeare Festival/The Joseph Papp Public Theatre’s Emerging Voices Program, as well as a grants review panelist for Philadelphia-area arts organizations. She is the 1999 inaugural co-recipient of the Elliot Hayes Award for Dramaturgy and was the President of LMDA, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (2002-2004). Volansky’s book on playwriting and collaboration with Bruce Graham entitled The Collaborative Playwright was published in March, 2007 by Heinemann Press. She holds an M.A. from Villanova University and a PhD from the University of Hull (England); her dissertation explores the politics and advocacy of the critics Kenneth Tynan and Frank Rich.


Sheri Wilner’s plays include Kingdom City, Bake Off, Father Joy, Relative Strangers, Labor Day, Joan of Arkansas, The End, A Tall Order, Equilibrium, Little Death of a Salesman, and Hunger, and have been performed at such major theatres as the La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe, Guthrie Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Williamstown Theatre Festival, the O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, City Theatre (Miami), Naked Angels, Primary Stages, New Georges, Contemporary American Theatre Festival and Old Vic/New Voices in London. Her work has been published in over a dozen anthologies and have received over four hundred productions across the United States as well as in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, United Kingdom and India. Also an established playwriting teacher, Sheri is currently on the faculty of New York University, the Dramatists Guild Institute and is the Master Playwright for the Miami Dade Department of Cultural 2017-19 Playwrights Development Program.


John Yearley is the author of The Unrepeatable Moment (“Thought provoking…exhilarating…painfully hilarious” – New York Times, “Yearley is a master” – Huffington Post), Leap (Mickey Kaplan New American Play Prize), Ephemera (John Gassner Award), Another Girl (PlayPenn), and Bruno Hauptmann Kissed My Forehead (Abingdon Theatre). His latest play, Eight Minutes, Twenty Seconds, was workshopped by LABryinth Theatre Company and performed at Temple University. Work for young audiences include The Last Wish (Macy’s New Play Prize for Young Audiences) and an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone. Short plays All in Little Pieces and A Low-Lying Fog are available through Samuel French. He currently writes for the animated TV show Treasure Trekkers. Previous TV/film work include the PBS Kids show Arthur, and a stint as a “script doctor” for New Line Cinema. He teaches playwriting and TV writing at Temple University, Drexel University, and the Barrow Group in NYC.  Member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, and twice a MacDowell Fellow.

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