Three LA Artists Featured In 2024 PlayGround Free-Play Festival

Each of the 11 productions in the Free-Play festival will be presented for three performances at Potrero Stage

By: Jun. 17, 2024
Three LA Artists Featured In 2024 PlayGround Free-Play Festival
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PlayGround closes out the summer season with the third annual FREE-PLAY FESTIVAL, August 9-25, at Potrero Stage and simulcast. This three-week "fringe style" new works festival features 11 productions from highly sought-after theatre artists from across the country including four PlayGround artists based in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Ranging in subject from the U.S. Citizen Test to mentally ill mothers to gender dysphoria, and varying in styles from dance pieces to ensemble plays to one-person shows, PlayGround's Free-Play Festival features a stellar lineup of seasoned theatre professionals, first-time producers, and all-star performers in every aspect of live performance, direction, and choreography.

Three PlayGround-LA artists will be included in this year's Free-Play Festival: VENN DIAGRAM by Margo L. Rofé, BLACK BASTARD by Jon Joseph Gentry, and Adrian A Babatunde Thomas.

Each of the 11 productions in the Free-Play festival will be presented for three performances at Potrero Stage (18th Street @ Arkansas), detailed schedule below. Admission is free (donations gratefully accepted) but advance reservations are required for livestreaming. For more information or to reserve in-person or online tickets, visit

Lineup & Synopses

August 9 at 8:00 PM, August 11 at 4:00 PM, August 24 at 6:00 PM
An audio, visual and movement presentation inspired by Bollywood and Hollywood pop culture. The audience is guided to ponder their own connection to gender and performance through dramatic dance and dialogue presented by SNJV

SNJV (pronunciation: sun-jeev) is an artist using dance, drag, and drama to showcase humanity. Infusing culture into dance and fashion, SNJV creates performances for stage and film. SNJV started performing at 4 years old and has not stopped. SNJV holds the title of Mr. GAPA and is the first South-Asian title holder in GAPA's history. (GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance). In addition, he is the co-founder of Parivar-a social collective to support and celebrate queer, trans, gender non-conforming folks connected to the South Asian diaspora. He is also an educator who lectures about his research on drag, dance, and identity in university and corporate spaces. While SNJV loves being in front of the camera, he enjoys stepping behind the lens to produce and direct films drawing on culture, queerness, and texture.

VENN DIAGRAM by Margo L. Rofé (PlayGround-LA)
August 9 at 6:00 PM, August 10 at 4:00 PM, August 11 at 12:00 PM
A Black woman reaches out to her old Jewish friend and college roommate, whom she has not seen for many years, seeking help with staving off her mother's homelessness. Reconnected, the women discover they have similar current life situations and begin to rekindle their once close friendship during a magical time in their lives. But, faced with ever-present external forces that continuously tear at the fabric of their relationship, can these women recapture that bond in time to save a mother in desperate need of help? This is a powerful story about unconscious biases, inherited trauma, and mental illness and its impact on families and friends.

Margo Rofé is a retired lawyer/playwright who resides in Southern California. Margo's works have been showcased, produced, and/or workshopped by the University of Nebraska Omaha as part of its BIPOC Festival; The Pulp Stage Theatre in Portland, OR; Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble; The Robey Theater; and the Alliance of LA Playwrights. Her monologue Caplata was published in the anthology The Covid Monologues. Her play Venn Diagram reached the semi-finalist round of the Dramatists Guild Foundation's National Fellowship competition. Margo is also a member of PlayGround-LA, which produced her short plays She Was There and The Chase (both received the People's Choice award). Margo is a Board Member of Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble, a member of the Alliance of LA Playwrights, and has served as a committee member for the 43rd NAACP Image Awards' Literary Sub-committee in the category of Poetry Literature.

THE TEST by Carl Erez and Princess Kannah
August 10 at 2:00 PM, August 11 at 6:00 PM, August 18 at 4:00 PM
What is the purpose of the U.S. Citizenship test, and what bias is ingrained within it? In "The Test," one applicant must contend with these questions along with the usefulness of AI as they prepare for their citizenship exam using ChatGPT in a post-lockdown world. Watch them contend with these issues and more in this one hour interactive live show!

Princess Kannah is a multidisciplinary theatre artist specializing in teaching, directing, acting, and stage management. Currently based in the Pacific Northwest, Princess is excited to continue exploring the intersections of art and activism using Theatre as a tool for social change. MFA, University of California Santa Cruz.

Carl Erez is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the boundary between theater and games. One example of this is from The Yellow Zoom-paper [Working Title] (co-created with Justin Hammer, Barnstorm 2021), in which the audience taking the role of the voices in a performer's head via chatting on Twitch and talked her into examining her social media as they explored her self-centeredness. Other projects include Smoked Out (co-directed with Princess Kannah, UC Santa Cruz Digital Arts and New Media, 2023) and Lve is in the Eye (presented at Fresh Baked Pears 2023).

POST GRAD LIFE by Joelle Joyner-Wong
August 10 at 8:00 PM, August 11 at 2:00 PM, August 25 at 2:00 PM
Harlow just graduated college with a degree in film and dreams of going to Los Angeles. However, she graduated in the midst of a global pandemic. She job hops while trying to achieve her dream and deals with the many hardships of post-grad life.

Joelle Joyner-Wong is a Bay Area playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker and theater maker. Joelle's first play, Cheerz! was performed at Sonoma State's new works festival, PowerLines. The following year, Joelle wrote another play, Ask Her Out!, which got read at another festival called Super Molten Mega Hot. Last year, Joelle had a stage reading for her new play, Post Grad Life hosted by Plethos Productions in Castro Valley, CA. She then got to participate in the Fresh Baked Pears One Act Festival hosted by The Pear Theatre in Mountain View, CA; there she wrote her play, Blacklist! Joelle is also an Alumni of BAYCAT, which is a non-profit film production studio that helps emerging filmmakers break into the film industry. BA in Theatre Arts, Sonoma State University.

August 10 at 6:00 PM, August 18 at 6:00 PM, August 25 at 8:00 PM
A multimedia presentation with a solo performer with songs and spoken words supported with musical accompaniment (live musicians and/or musical tracks) and slides of metaphorical and artful collages supporting the song stories.

Melinda E. Lopez is a Filipina-American Berkeley, California native who was heavily influenced by global music, dance, and theatre through growing up in her multicultural neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Berkeley, California. She is a child of the '60s who couldn't help being sensitive to others as she was exposed to America's turmoil of the Vietnam War, Women's and Disability Rights, and the integration of Berkeley's school districts.

ONE OF THE GOOD ONES, by Melina Cohen-Bramwell
August 11 at 8:00 PM, August 24 at 2:00 PM, August 25 at 12:00 PM
Cameron Grauman, a mixed-race person (WHO IS DEFINITELY NOT RACIST WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT!?), loses their job after Rhonda Diane, famous-white-lady and racial justice educator, leads an ill-fated anti-racism training at Cameron's work. What follows is a surreal journey through Cameron's mind and an exploration of what it means, in this black-and-white world, to be both.

Melina Cohen-Bramwell, he/him, is a writer and lifelong San Francisco Bay Area resident who also happens to be a biracial, gender-queer, spoonie. Never a fan of the education system, at age sixteen, Melina dropped out of school and began a career in theater. After years of working as a technician at regional theater companies such as Aurora, Cal Shakes, and Berkeley Rep, Melina "retired" to focus on healing from chronic illness and pursuing writing as a career. His play, Please Don't Slow Me Down, was workshopped in PlayGround 2023 Free-Play Festival. His book Bar Fights with Sad Kids will be available from Finishing Line Press in September 2024.

BLACK BASTARD by Jon Joseph Gentry (PlayGround-LA), directed by Shinelle Azoroh
August 16 at 6:00 PM, August 17 at 8:00 PM, at August 18 at 12:00 PM
"Black Bastard" transports audiences to 1990s Houston in a humorous, heartfelt coming-of-age tale. Jon, an inquisitive Black boy, develops a love for literature until his family fractures, thrusting him into the role of "man of the house." A comedic spiral ensues as Jon grapples with his identity. An inciting confrontation propels Jon's search for his absent father, exploring themes of masculinity and self-actualization through artful techniques and nostalgic references. Queer. Southern. Creole. The piece contends that all humans are collective "bastards" on an eternal quest for selfhood and someplace to call home amid constantly evolving identities.

Jon Joseph Gentry, described by a Hollywood agent as an "overeducated" actor, was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He earned his BA in English from Harvard, where he served as President of BlackCAST. He holds an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater. As a teaching artist, he co-directed "Child Life" with UCSF Children's Hospital and led acting workshops across the Bay Area. He currently teaches Michael Chekhov Acting Technique at the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory. His regional theater credits include roles in Clybourne Park, A Christmas Carol, and Romeo and Juliet. On screen, he appeared in TEN, Behold a Lady, Meeting Matt Damon and voiced Preston Garvey in Fallout 4, gaining viral fame.

Shinelle Azoroh is an actress, writer, filmmaker, and creator from Alabama based in Los Angeles. She received great reviews for her lead role in Apple TV's Swagger, which The Hollywood Reporter named one of the 10 Best Shows of 2021. Shortly after she graduated from The American Conservatory Theater, she made her television debut in the movie Betty & Coretta, starring opposite Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige. Her feature film roles include the indie Nostalgia with Jon Hamm and Ellen Burstyn, and the Blumhouse's feature Don't Let Go with David Oyelowo. Shinelle was also seen in the Oscar nominated short Dekalb Elementary. Shinelle wrote and stars in the YouTube comedy series, Roxie Wolfgang.

August 16 at 8:00 PM, August 17 at 4:00 PM, August 18 at 8:00 PM
Luna is on a camping trip with her friends, waiting to watch a meteor shower,sounds relaxing right? Except she's a ball of anxiety being haunted by the ghost of her friend, Jenn, while her living friends have planned an intervention for her marijuana use. As the night goes on, everyone in the friend group reveals more secrets surrounding Jenn's suicide and they learn more about Jenn, each other, and the nature of trauma and healing.

Kaz Valtchev (he/they) has worked onstage, backstage, and front of stage for various theaters in the Bay area including Cal Shakes, Bay Area Children's Theatre, Bindlestiff Studios, and many others. He has been a part of the PlayGround Writer's Pool for the past two years and has been an actor and stage manager for PlayGround in the past as well. He has had short plays produced with the Pear Theater, the Queer AF Festival, and Left Coast Theater Company. He also had an original monologue published in the anthology, WE-US: Monologues for Gender Minority Characters.

Tessa Corrie (she/her) is a Queer, Latinx, and Neurodivergent Theater Director homegrown from the Bay Area. She specializes in new play development that amplifies underrepresented narratives. She is a company member and casting associate at PlayGround. Her credits include work at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Palo Alto Players, The Pear Theatre, Cutting Ball Theatre, The Playwrights' Center of San Francisco, Left Coast Theatre Company, More Más Marami Arts, and Poltergeist Theatre Project.

Dio Ramirez (they/them) is the head electrician and board programmer for UC Berkeley's Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies Department. They began their theatrical career at Cal, TDPS class of 2015. Some titles they have held over the last eight years include: freelance electrician, building engineer, museum preparator, and, most recently, facilities manager for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In the past they have worked as an electrician with Cal Shakes, Theatre Yugen, the Asian Art Museum, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, to name a few.

TITLE PENDING by Heather Tyson
August 17 at 2:00 PM, August 23 at 8:00 PM, August 24 at 4:00 PM
Boxes. Betrayals. And breakdowns. Meet Heather. A nice, hard-working, Catholic girl from the Midwest who works as a Corporate Trainer. Set within the confines of her automotive training classes, Heather receives a mysterious text from her husband, and her life starts to unravel. As she begins to question her entire system of beliefs, she braces for impact, and wonders, where does the road lead if the GPS I've always trusted is defective? Title Pending is a story of love, loss and the road to reclaiming oneself. Laughter, tears and dancing expected. Strap in and come along for the ride!

Heather Tyson, a graduate of Northwestern University's theater program, has spent the last decade working as a Host, Facilitator, Voice Artist and Public Speaker. TITLE PENDING marks Tyson's return to live performance, and is a testament to her unwavering love of the theatre. The show debuted at the 2023 Hollywood Fringe Festival and has played to sold out audiences and garnered multiple awards. Previous TV and film appearances include The Sopranos, Sex & the City, Days of Our Lives, and Military Husband.

WHERE I COME FROM, by Jerry Metzker
August 17 at 6:00 PM, August 18 at 2:00 PM, August 25 at 6:00 PM
In 1847, Fergus Maloney flees famine-plagued Ireland for a new life in New York City. His journey is one of deprivation, loss, anger, helplessness, uncertainty and hope.

Jerry Metzker is a playwright, director, dramaturg, solo performer and theater creator. As a solo performer, he has workshopped several pieces at the Marsh, including Guardian Angel, Nephilim, Mercy Buckets (SF Fringe Festival) and most recently Where I Come From. A reading of his new play, Ms. Vicky Is Busy, was presented by SF Eagle Players in April 2024, paired with Lanford Wilson's The Madness of Lady Bright; he played both principal roles. He is the director of John Fisher's long-running solo play A History of World War II, which played at the Marsh-SF, Marsh Berkeley, the United Solo Festival (New York) and Hollywood, running more than eight months, and Fisher's A History of the Civil War, which premiered in PlayGround's Solo Performance Festival. He has directed several other solo plays written and performed by John Fisher. Jerry is also a musician and a static trapeze artist.

BAD BEHAVIOR, A PLAY IN ONE ACT by Adrian A Babatunde Thomas (PlayGround-LA)
August 23 at 6:00 PM, August 24 at 8:00 PM, August 25 at 4:00 PM
Michael and Roger are forced into a quest to save a cousin from a death, at least that what Roger believes and Michael truly wants no part but as always these two brothers end up in the misadventure of a lifetime through real life cosplay.

Adrian A. Babatunde Thomas has been a playwright for over 25 years. His shows have been produced in Houston, Austin, Pasadena, Inglewood and San Diego (along with live streams to New York, Chicago and San Francisco). His plays can be found on NPX and he has current productions heading to San Diego in the month of May (2024) and contracts for shows in New York City early 2026. Adrian's plays range from hard hitting family dramas to over the top comedies that are full of soul and vigor. Always fighting for truth and the acceptance of all, his storytelling of the African American lived experience is neither mono tone nor monolithic, but queer, curious, soulful and sometimes traumatic. Adrian tells it like it is!

JC Thomas began studying theatre at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. She received a BA in Theatre Arts from Prairie View A&M University and has performed in countless productions throughout Texas and Southern California. She works with MK Productions to produce A Weekend of Ten (AWOT) ten minute play festival for new writers every year since 2015, and has been producing full length plays since 1999. She is a multi-award winning filmmaker and mental health advocate who uses art in all forms to infuse joy into this beautiful journey of life!

Schedule By Date:

Friday, August 9, 2024
6:00 PM: Venn Diagram by Margo Rofé
8:00 PM: The Definition of Drag by SNJV

Saturday, August 10, 2024
2:00 PM: The Test Carl Erez/Princess Kannah
4:00 PM: Venn Diagram by Margo Rofé
6:00 PM: Goddess Da from the Planet Yuronit by Melinda E. Lopez
8:00 PM: Post Grad Life by Joelle Joyner-Wong

Sunday, August 11, 2024
12:00 PM: Venn Diagram by Margo Rofé
2:00 PM: Post Grad Life by Joelle Joyner-Wong
4:00 PM: The Definition of Drag by SNJV
6:00 PM: The Test by Carl Erez and Princess Kannah
8:00 PM: One of the Good Ones by Melina Cohen-Bramwell

Friday, August 16, 2024
6:00 PM: Black Bastard by Jon Joseph Gentry
8:00 PM: Stare into the Void and You'll See Stars by Kaz Valtchev

Saturday, August 17, 2024
2:00 PM: Title Pending by Heather Tyson
4:00 PM: Stare into the Void and You'll See Stars by Kaz Valtchev
6:00 PM: Where I Come From by Jerry Metzker
8:00 PM: Black Bastard by Jon Joseph Gentry

Sunday, August 18, 2024
12:00 PM: Black Bastard by Jon Joseph Gentry
2:00 PM: Where I Come From by Jerry Metzker
4:00 PM: The Test by Carl Erez and Princess Kannah
6:00 PM: Goddess Da from the Planet Yuronit by Melinda E. Lopez
8:00 PM: Stare into the Void and You'll See Stars by Kaz Valtchev

Friday, August 23, 2024
6:00 PM: Bad Behavior, a Play in One Act by Adrian Thomas
8:00 PM: Title Pending by Heather Tyson

Saturday, August 24, 2024
2:00 PM: One of the Good Ones by Melina Cohen-Bramwell
4:00 PM: Title Pending by Heather Tyson
6:00 PM: The Definition of Drag by SNJV
8:00 PM: Bad Behavior, a Play in One Act by Adrian Thomas

Sunday, August 25, 2024
12:00 PM: One of the Good Ones by Melina Cohen-Bramwell
2:00 PM: Post Grad Life by Joelle Joyner-Wong
4:00 PM: Bad Behavior, a Play in One by Act Adrian Thomas
6:00 PM: Where I Come From by Jerry Metzker
8:00 PM: Goddess Da from the Planet Yuronit Melinda E. Lopez

About PlayGround

PlayGround was founded in 1994 by Jim Kleinmann, Brighde Mullins and Denise Shama, beginning as a professional-academic partnership in residence at San Francisco State University and with initial sponsorship from SFSU's Creative Writing Program. Early participating artists included Prince Gomolvilas, Garret Jon Groenveld, Daniele Nathanson, Sandra Rodgers, Colman Domingo, Kent Nicholson, Antigone Trimis, Mary Coleman and Rhonnie Washington. The fledgling organization moved to Project Artaud and A Traveling Jewish Theatre's new 80-seat black box theatre in 1996, at which time Kleinmann took on sole leadership as PlayGround's founding Artistic Director.

The company was in residence at Berkeley Repertory Theatre from 2003 until the COVID pandemic of 2020 and has also presented at the San Francisco Main Library, Freight & Salvage, Zeum, ACT's Costume Shop, and Thick House, as well as co-producing with such notable Bay Area theatres as SF Playhouse, Shotgun Players, Impact Theatre, San Jose Stage, and Magic Theatre, among others. PlayGround first brought its work to NYC with the 2008 co-production of Garret Jon Groenveld's Missives, followed by the 2009 NY International Fringe Festival hit co-production of Aaron Loeb's Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, 2013 NY International Fringe Festival co-production of Katie May's Manic Pixie Dream Girl. PlayGround celebrated its 25th anniversary with a one-night program of original short musicals at NYC's Theatre Row in 2019.

PlayGround's first ongoing regional expansion came in 2012 with the launch of PlayGround-LA at West Hollywood's Zephyr Theatre. In 2018, PlayGround-LA relocated to Hollywood's Broadwater Theaters (home of Sacred Fools Theater Company), where the company continues to present its Monday Night series. PlayGround expanded to NYC in 2021 and Chicago in 2022, with in-person performances (and simulcasts) beginning in the Spring of 2023, at NYC's Producers Club and Chicago's Theater Wit, respectively.

Over its 30 year history, PlayGround has grown into a leading national playwright incubator and theatre community hub, providing unique development opportunities for the Bay Area's and, more recently, Los Angeles', New York's, and Chicago's best new playwrights through innovative programs such as the monthly Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series, annual PlayGround Festival of New Works, full-length play commissions, playwright residencies and production support through the New Play Production Fund.

To date, PlayGround has developed and staged more than 1,500 original short plays through Monday Night PlayGround and the PlayGround Festival. PlayGround has also commissioned and/or developed several hundred new full-length plays by PlayGround alumni through its Commissioning Initiative, Playwrights Residency and Alumni Programs and, through the innovative New Play Production Fund, has directly facilitated the premiere of 40 full-length plays at theatres of every size, including many that have gone on to NYC and other major theater communities across the country.

In 2017, PlayGround launched Potrero Stage: PlayGround Center for New Plays, a 99-seat state-of-the-art performance venue to serve as a shared community resource for dozens of local companies and hundreds of artists. New programs in residence at Potrero Stage like the Free-Play Festival, Solo Performance Festival, and Innovator Incubator provide opportunities for local and national artists to self-determine and showcase their work in San Francisco at little to no cost.

Over 350 early-career playwrights have gotten their start at PlayGround, including Lauren Yee, Jonathan Spector, Geetha Reddy, and Cleavon Smith, helping to expand and deepen the canon of American Theatre. PlayGround's alumni have gone on to win local, national, and international honors for their short and full-length work, including recognition at the Steinberg Awards, Glickman Awards, O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and New York International Fringe Festival, among others. PlayGround serves one of the largest theater artist networks in the nation, connecting hundreds of Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York artists in support of a common vision: the development of bold and diverse new voices and new works.

This work has not gone unnoticed. PlayGround has received numerous awards, including: Playwrights Foundation's Inaugural New Play Champion Award, BATCC's Paine Knickerbocker Award for ongoing contributions to Bay Area theater, and American Theater Wing's National Theater Grant. In 2016, Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann was recognized by Theatre Bay Area as one of the Bay Area's top 40 leaders. Three of PlayGround's commissioned plays have won the Bay Area Critics Circle award for Best New Play, and three have had subsequent productions in NYC. Four of the past five Will Glickman Award winners for best new play are PlayGround alumni. When other theater companies think of producing new work, PlayGround artists are often their first call. As a result of PlayGround's strong leadership, planning, and a willingness to take bold risks with high payoff, the new play ecosystem has been utterly transformed by PlayGround.

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