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LBP Announces 29th Annual New Works Festival


On Friday, March 29, 2019, the Long Beach Playhouse kicks off its 29th annual New Works Festival in its Studio Theatre. Founded in 1990, it is a national competition for unproduced plays submitted by novice and veteran playwrights.

"The New Works Festival one of our signature programs," said Sean Gray, Artistic Director for the Playhouse. "As a community theater, it's our obligation to encourage playwrights and supply a nurturing environment for them to work on their new plays. I look at this as one of the most important things we do each year."

In April, there is a call for plays, with a deadline of June for final submissions. Once received, the New Works Committee members read the plays and in January they select the finalists based on reader evaluations. After the finalists are chosen, each committee member reads and ranks all the finalist plays. From the rankings, two plays are selected. For this season's competition, 130 plays were received and 13 made it to the finals.

"In 2017, we noted the number of submissions had been decreasing," said Laura Clagett, Co-chair of the New Works committee. "In 2018, we worked to locate and communicate with more playwright groups and were thrilled with the number and quality of scripts we received this year."

This season's winners are Shruti Gupta Can Totally Deal by J. Stephen Brantley and The Dying Declaration of Madge Oberholtzer by Raegan Payne. Both are plays that examine cultural issues in America. Shruti Gupta is a DACA recipient who falls in love with an Irish actor as they grapple with what it means to be an American. Madge Overholtzer navigates the social, racial, and gender inequalities of Indiana in the first quarter of the 20th Century.

During its 29 years, the New Works Festival has taken many shapes. What began as a modest new playwright outreach grew into an internationally recognized program. One of the keys to its success is that the Playhouse constantly seeks new ways to keep it fresh and focused on the goal of encouraging playwrights to participate and audiences to attend the readings.

"Last year the committee announced a change for 2019: It would choose one local winner from southern California and one non-local winner who could be from any place in the U.S. or abroad," said Madison Mooney, Executive Director of the Long Beach Playhouse. "Our local winner, Raegan Payne, is from Los Angeles, California and J. Stephen Brantley is from Jackson Heights, New York."

The two staged readings will take place on March 29 and 30,with one script performed each night. Performances are: March 29, Stephen J. Brantley's Shruti Gupta Can Totally Deal and March 30, Raegan Payne's The Dying Declaration of Madge Oberholtzer. Following the presentations a facilitated discussion is held with the audience cast and playwrights. Theater critic Cecilia Fannon will facilitate the talkbacks and provide written critiques to the two winning authors.

Playhouse board member and New Works Co-chair, Anna Kate Mohler observed, "The feedback and discussion between the actors, director and audience is always lively and thought-provoking. It's a chance for the audience to see the artistic process from many perspectives including the authors' as both playwrights are planning to attend this year."

New Works productions include formal auditions for the roles and actors have been cast for each play. Shruti Gupta Can Totally Deal (directed by Evan Battle) features Bianca Singer, Jazzy Jones, Carol Louise Duffis, Bradley Roma, Marco Estrada, Patrick Peterson, Anupam Dhyani, Anita Vora, Christian Jordan Singer and Alyssa Garcia.
Cast members for The Dying Declaration of Madge Oberholtzer (directed by Holland Renton) are Carole Louise Duffis, Ellen Beizer, Jill Prout, Devon DeLamora, Jill Martin, Tony Sutera, Tod Walker, Linda Sutera, Desiree Gonzalez and John Phelan.

Tickets for the shows are $10 and can be purchased online at or in person at the box office during normal business hours and before the show. The box office is open Wednesday-Saturday from 3:00-8:00 pm and Sundays from 1:00-2:00 pm on scheduled matinees.

The Long Beach Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, CA, 90804, right across from the Recreation Park golf course. The Playhouse is community-supported theatre with programs and events that cut across age, gender, ethnic, and cultural boundaries.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit or call 562-494-1014.

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