The 2019 Boston Project Playwrights Announced

The 2019 Boston Project Playwrights Announced

Playwrights MJ Halberstadt of Brookline and Laura Neill of Norwood have been selected from among 40 applicants to develop an original Boston-centric play as part of SpeakEasy Stage Company's returning new works initiative The Boston Project.

In addition, Phaedra Michelle Scott, a 2017-2018 Boston Project Playwright, will return this season to continue development of her play DIASPORA!, which explores questions of created identity and biological fact.

These three talented writers will work with Pascale Florestal, a Boston-based director, educator and arts administrator, who will take the helm of The Boston Project for its fourth season.

Named been named "Boston's Best Launch Pad of 2018" by The Improper Bostonian Magazine, The Boston Project is a new works initiative that supports the creation and development of new plays set in Boston, which explore what it means to live in this city at this moment and tap into the full breadth of experiences and identities that make up life in the Hub.

The three Boston Project playwrights will each receive a commission and will have nine months to write and develop their proposed plays.

Mr. Halberstadt will introduce us to Boston's last remaining queer bookstore in THE USUAL UNUSUAL. Ms. Neill, will explore the reality of gentrification in downtown Boston in her play JUST CAUSE. And Ms. Scott will continue to consider questions of created identity and biological fact in her play DIASPORA!

Work on each play will build toward a two-week developmental workshop, culminating in invited staged readings in June 2019.

Throughout the process, SpeakEasy Stage will provide directors and dramaturgs dedicated to each project, research assistance, developmental readings, and other support as needed. The playwrights will also benefit from the input and support of SpeakEasy Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault.

Once again this year, The Boston Project has been made possible through funding from the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

"SpeakEasy has always been about Boston and Boston artists," said the company's Producing Artistic Director, Paul Daigneault. "The Boston Project offers us another way to support the theatre community around us and commit ourselves even further to the development and production of new works."

"So much of what we see in the media or Broadway is a very narrow view of the world we truly live in," said Ms. Florestal. "The Boston Project gives us an opportunity to open up that narrative so that audiences can experience what it's really like to live and work in Boston."



True Colors, Boston's last remaining queer bookstore, has managed to stay afloat even as other bookstores and gay establishments have withered in the shadows of Amazon and Grindr. It faces an identity crisis after Coach, the store manager, offers Charlie, his de facto son, a leadership role. The staff considers a business opportunity from a questionable tastemaker, and scramble to create a unified message while unprecedented turnover threatens to undermine decades of progress.

MJ Halberstadt escaped Long Island to study theatre in Boston, which he did at Emerson College, Boston University, and by trying stuff out. His full-length plays include Losers; not Jenny; That Time the House Burned Down; Two Below Zero; and (We Are) The Antarcticans. His work, which usually examines Antarctica, LGBTQ experiences, and hierarchies of privilege and oppression, has been produced by Bridge Repertory Theater, Fresh Ink Theatre, and Boston Teen Acting Troupe - and developed with Company One Theatre, Flat Earth Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Pingree School, and NOMTI.

His writing has been honored with an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding New Script and a Huntington Playwriting Fellowship.

Mr. Halberstadt is an adjunct professor of writing for stage and screen at Emerson College and Merrimack College, a Founding Playmaker Emeritus of Bridge Repertory Theater, a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., and a passionate knitter.

Learn more at

JUST CAUSE by Laura Neill

When the abandoned T tunnel under Government Center is re-discovered, Blue Star LLC buys it from the city to build (what do you think?) luxury condos. Minimum-wage security guards Harry and Sammy keep watch for squatters, archaeologist Em scrambles to preserve the tunnel's history, and Ava (aka the inevitable white liberal) stages periodic sit-ins to protest. But when Something approaches from the darkness of the tunnel, the Blue Star suits start to wonder if there really is a downside to gentrification...

Laura Neill is a Boston-based playwright and educator. She is completing her MFA in Playwriting at Boston University, and her play Winter People will be produced at Boston Playwrights' Theatre in December 2018.

Previous productions include DIVAS, commissioned and premiered by OperaHub; Skin and Bones, workshopped with the Wilbury Theatre Group; and Don't Give Up the Ship, premiered by Fresh Ink Theatre. Laura was an affiliate of the 2016 Company One PlayLab, and she was the WomenWorks playwright-in-residence at the University of Tulsa in 2017. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the New England New Play Alliance, for whom she co-edited the New England New Play Anthology with Patrick Gabridge. Laura taught Creative Writing at Boston University this past spring and will teach Introduction to Theatre at Boston College in spring 2019.

Learn more at or read her work at

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