PlayPenn New Play Development Conference Moves Online for 2020, Will Serve as Benefit for Theatre Philadelphia’s Emergency Relief Fund

PlayPenn, Philadelphia’s new play development organization, is re-thinking what it means to gather and support artists during the COVID-19 crisis. Their acclaimed New Play Development Conference, scheduled for July 2020, will now be moved into a virtual format, offering artists the ability to nurture and develop new works during this time of social distancing.  Additionally, their popular reading series of plays in development will be moved to a digital platform and be presented as a benefit for Theatre Philadelphia’s Emergency Relief Fund.  Audience members will be able to support Philadelphia’s vast theatre community by taking part in the readings.


The Conference plays written by this year’s 6 Haas Fellows and two additional playwrights, previously announced in April, will be developed through online workshops.  The online conference will employ approximately 80 regional artists and actors, in addition to the entire PlayPenn staff.  This ensures that these dedicated individuals receive much needed compensation throughout this uncertain time.


Additionally, PlayPenn has teamed up with Theatre Philadelphia, an organization that unites, celebrates, and promotes the Philadelphia region’s diverse and growing theatre community, to offer online benefit readings of the new plays in development.  Support from the readings will benefit Theatre Philadelphia’s Emergency Relief Fund, which awards micro-grants of $300 to individuals who live in the Philadelphia region, work in theatre, and whose theatre income has been impacted by COVID-19.


“This natural partnership with one of the nation’s most renowned play development programs is an excellent way to showcase one of Philadelphia’s greatest cultural strengths,“ says Theatre Philadelphia board president Jason Lindner.  “That is, Philly’s substantial commitment to the development of new and burgeoning theatre artists. The ability to utilize the prestige of PlayPenn as a resource toward helping the theatre community as a whole is truly a remarkable gift.”  PlayPenn Artistic Director Paul Meshejian, adds “We feel such a great responsibility to every member of the Philadelphia theater community and can’t think of a better way, at this challenging moment, to make our support become concrete.  None of us are whole without the depth and breadth of this remarkable community of theater workers.”


Audience members who are interested in registering for the online reading of plays will be able to do so via later this summer.  After registering, they will receive a link to a digital streaming platform where they will be able to watch the online readings.  Unlike previous years of the conference, the readings will only occur once.  Information on the 2020 New Play Development plays and Haas Fellows is below.  Please stay tuned to for updates on registration and viewing.  Haas Fellows are underwritten thanks to meaningful support from the Wyncote Foundation.



PlayPenn presents New Play Development Conference 2020 Online

Readings to benefit Theatre Philadelphia’s Emergency Relief Fund

July 2020


Website for details:


Theatre Philadelphia’s website:



how it feels to fall from the sky by Dominic Finocchiaro: After witnessing a woman plummet from the sky, five strangers in New York form a support group to process what they have seen. A melancholic dramedy about loneliness, loss, and the unending possibility of salvation inside human connection. Virtual Reading: Sunday, July 26th at 2pm


Dominic Finocchiaro’s full-length plays include angel’s share, brother brother, brut, complex, The Found Dog Ribbon Dance, Gold Person, how it feels to fall from the sky, The Lucky Ladies, mother’s son, and Trees in their youth. His writing has been produced and developed around the country, including with Roundabout Theatre, the New Group, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Echo Theater, the Civilians, Clubbed Thumb, the Lark Play Development Center, the National New Play Network, Portland Center Stage, the Flea Theater, the Kennedy Center, PlayPenn, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Dixon Place, and the Amoralists. MacDowell and UCross Fellow. BA Reed College, MFA Columbia University, Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at the Juilliard School.


Badlands by Nora Leahy: Summer, 2017. As the country prepares for The Great American Eclipse, Philadelphia prepares to shut down El Campamento, one of the largest open-air drug markets and shooting galleries on the East Coast. The play follows three library employees in the heart of “The Badlands” who have become first responders to the opioid crisis and witnesses to a changing neighborhood. Badlands examines what we owe to each other, and to the places we come from. Virtual Reading: Thursday, July 23rd at 7pm


Nora Leahy is a Chicago-based playwright and theatre artist. Nationally, her work has been developed or produced at Lean Ensemble Theater (Hilton Head, SC); The Shuler Theater (Raton, NM); Nashville Story Garden (Nashville, TN); The Arden (Philadelphia, PA); Actors Theatre of Charlotte (Charlotte, NC). In Chicago, her work has been seen at The New Colony, The Greenhouse Theater, Victory Gardens, and Jackalope Theatre Company. Her plays have been nationally recognized, including Badlands (Relentless Award Honorable Mention, 2019); If You Forget Me (Princess Grace Award Semi-Finalist, 2019); and The Bridge (Woodward Newman Award Finalist, 2017).    Nora currently serves as Managing Director of Jackalope Theatre Company in Chicago, a company committed to cultivating theatre that expands the American identity by producing new work that celebrates diverse perspectives. Previously, she served as Business Manager of Lookingglass Theatre Company and Managing Director of Two Pigs Productions. In 2018, Nora was named one of the “50 People Who Really Perform for Chicago Theatre” by NewCity Magazine.


My Mother the Sun by massi monfiletto: When her mother goes missing in the desert between the US/Mexico border, Solana must journey out with a group of activists to bring her back. As her past begins to haunt her, she must undertake an extraordinary transformation in the hopes of keeping her family together. Virtual Reading: Saturday, July 25th at 4pm


massi’s a playwright and essayist from Albuquerque, NM currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in theatre about borders and takes her influences from the many incredible Latinx playwrights and poets working to shake up the current theatre scene. My Mother the Sun was recently performed as part of the Echo Theatre’s Young Playwrights in Residence program. Check out her other plays at New Play Exchange, particularly Penelope Clefts Herself in Two Along an Invisible Line (NTI Fall 2017), Las Marthas (Drake University 2018), and Calypso in Harlem (Great Plains Theatre Conference.) Special thanks to Boni Alvarez, who gives sensational advice, and Lourdes Gutierrez-Najera, without whom this play could not have been made.


Take My Hand And Wave Goodbye by Tammy Ryan: When Stef is shot down in a random act of gun violence in Pittsburgh, her fifteen year old niece, Cassie, begins dreaming her back into existence. In the months after the shooting, each family member is confronted with the question: “if they had done just one thing differently would there have been a different outcome?” Told with humor and heart, Take My Hand And Wave Goodbye is about the impact of gun violence on one family in Pittsburgh and the difficult necessity of grief. Virtual Reading: Saturday, July 25th at 8pm


Tammy Ryan’s plays have been performed across the United States and internationally at such theaters as The Alliance Theater, Florida Stage, Marin Theater, People’s Light and Theater Company, Portland Stage Company, Premiere Stages, Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Repertory Theater of St. Louis among others. Plays include The Wake, Molly’s Hammer, Tar Beach, Soldier’s Heart, Baby’s Blues, and The Music Lesson which received the AATE Distinguished New Play Award. Other honors include The Francesca Primus Prize, and The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Creative Achievement Award. She is a resident playwright of New Dramatists class of 2025.


This Much I Know by Jonathan Spector: A man’s investigation into his missing wife launches us on a time-hopping fugue across the 20th century. This Much I Know is an explosively theatrical exploration of how we make decisions, how we change our minds, and how much responsibility we bear for things over which we have no control. Virtual Reading: Sunday, July 26th at 5pm


Jonathan Spector is a playwright based in Oakland, California.  His plays include Eureka Day (NY Times “Critics’ Pick”, Glickman Award, BATCC Award, TBA Award, Rella Lossy Award), Good. Better. Best. Bested., In From The Cold, and Siesta Key. His work has been produced and developed with Colt Coeur, Roundabout Theatre Company, South Coast Rep, Aurora Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Mosaic Theatre, InterAct Theatre, Custom Made Theater, Mugwumpin, SF Playhouse, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Crowded Fire, and Just Theater, where he is Co-Artistic Director. Jonathan has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Resident Playwright at Playwrights Foundation, and is a recipient of South Coast Rep’s Elizabeth George Commission.


Covenant by York Walker: Two years after his sudden disappearance, a guitar player returns to his small town as a blues star, setting into motion rumors that he may have made a deal with the devil to attain his musical genius. Based on the myth of Robert Johnson, Covenant explores the power of belief and tests the thin veil between rumor and truth. Virtual Reading: Friday, July 24th at 7pm


York Walker is a writer based in Harlem, New York. He is currently a member of Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Mentorship Program. His work includes The Séance (Winner of the John Singleton Short Film Competition, 48 Hours… in Harlem), Covenant (Fire This Time Festival, Access Theatre’s 4 Flights Up Festival), White Shoes (Fire This Time Festival), Summer Of ’63 (The Actors Company Theatre’s New TACTics Festival, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville’s Apprentice Reading Series) and Of Dreams To Come (American Conservatory Theatre’s New Work Series). York received his MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.


An additional offering this year includes When We Fall, a work-in-progress by Emma Gibson.  7.7 billion people on earth and everyone is lonely. Perhaps. Trina definitely is, even though tonight is her birthday and she’s going to party like it’s 1982. But when Andrew and Clare turn up as Superman and Little Bo Peep, the ache of loneliness fills the night. Even Dalir senses it from the rooftop, somewhere between London and Pakistan, and now he has to do something about it. When We Fall is a new play about learning to fly, telling stories, and finding friendship in unexpected places. Virtual Reading: Tuesday, July 21st at 7pm


Finally, Flor Underwater by Lori Felipe-Barkin  will also be developed.  Felipe-Barkin is a member of The Foundry, the three-year residency program for emerging Philadelphia playwrights.  In Florida, the water is rising, the climate is changing, and Flor and her children are looking to get theirs before it all goes to sh*t. Inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, and intended to be performed in slow rising water, Flor Underwater is a not-too-distant-future re-imagining of America’s loopiest state in crisis as its rednecks, Cubans, Miccosukee Indians, and Mar O Lagans struggle to claim a piece of the state they call home…or what’s left of it. Flor Underwater is a nightmare, yes, but it is above anything else a love song to Florida herself. Virtual Reading: Monday, July 20th at 7pm


ABOUT PLAYPENN: PlayPenn, in its 16th 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 2,200 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 150 new plays from infancy to a state closer to production-readiness. Nearly 60% of these plays have gone on to more than 400 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

ABOUT THEATRE PHILADELPHIA: Theatre Philadelphia unites, celebrates, and promotes the Philadelphia region’s diverse and growing theatre community. We lead efforts that expand audiences and engage the public to participate in this community’s work. Theatre Philadelphia envisions an equitable and inclusive region that champions and nurtures local artists. We aim to raise our city’s profile as a world-class city and enrich the lives of Philadelphia-area citizens. Founded in 2012, Theatre Philadelphia is dedicated to bringing together and celebrating Philadelphia’s diverse and growing theatre community. We are committed to leading efforts that grow audiences and promote the public participation in theatrical work. Over the past several decades, Philadelphia has transformed into a major regional theatre community, with a remarkable blossoming of new companies and new buildings, a growing pool of exceptional artists, and fiercely committed and curious audiences and supporters. Theatre Philadelphia envisions a region that celebrates this growing and ever-changing theatre community – nurturing local theatre artists, fostering the creation of extraordinary work, forging stronger connections between our art and audiences – recognizing that a diverse, robust, and thriving theatre community can play a pivotal role in making Philadelphia a world-class city. Theatre Philadelphia’s programs include this website, the annual Barrymore Awards, and strategies for audience awareness and growth.


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