Playwrights' Center Announces 37th Annual PlayLabs Festival

The festival runs October 19–25, 2020.

By: Oct. 13, 2020

Playwrights' Center Announces 37th Annual PlayLabs Festival

For the 37th annual presentation of PlayLabs Festival, the premier new play incubation program, the Playwrights' Center is meeting the changing needs of the moment. Public readings will be presented online and the festival roster has expanded to include four playwrights developing their work. The festival's Playwriting Fellows Showcase, which features excerpts of plays in progress, is also expanding to include Playwright Center Many Voices Mentees.

"The work of Playwrights' Center is evolving to meet the challenges facing our artists and our communities," said producing artistic director Jeremy B. Cohen. "We're expanding PlayLabs Festival through additional plays and increased development time. We are also increasing all artist compensation. While theaters across the country remain shuttered, we will continue to create as many paid opportunities for theatermakers as possible."

The festival will run Monday, October 19, 2020 through Sunday, October 25, 2020. The featured playwrights are Erin Courtney ("Begin, Begin, Begin Again"), Jessica Huang ("Mother of Exiles"), Dipika Guha ("Getting There"), and Harrison David Rivers ("we are continuous").

For the festival, each writer will partner with the creative collaborators of their choosing and receive two full weeks of writing and rehearsal time, as well as a generous stipend. The festival also includes a Playwriting Fellows Showcase.

Each reading will be presented online and be open to the public. Tickets are free but required. Reservations may be made at

The festival schedule is as follows:

"Room Enough (For Us All)" by Daaimah Mubashshir"

Director: Ebony Golden**

Dramaturg: Otis Ramsey-Zoe

Cast: Serena Brook*, AJ Friday, Melissa Mickens*, Cara Ricketts*, Namir Smallwood*, and Regina Marie Williams*.

Monday, October 19 at 7 p.m. CDT and Friday, October 23 at 8 p.m. CDT

Fatimah, a recently widowed matriarch, is determined to have it all. She wants the opportunity to set right a 10-year mistake by inviting Jamillah, her queer daughter, to return home after a long forced absence. Can she have it all when Abdullah, her son, is driven to fight against this decision even though he loves his mother deeply. Room Enough (For Us All) is centered on a contemporary African-American Muslim Family coming to terms with how to treat queerness up against long-standing ideals and faith.

Daaimah Mubashshir on "Room Enough (For Us All)":

"Room Enough is a semi-autobiographical ode to my progressive mother. I was interested in exploring how queerness and Islam could function amicably in the same space. Also, I am interested in ways that grief, a powerful equalizer, can either make space for reinvention as with Fatimah or crystallize one's beliefs almost into a weapon in Abdullah."

"we are continuous" by Harrison David Rivers

Director: Tyler Thomas**

Design Consultant: Peiyi Wong

Cast: Aimee K. Bryant*, Ian Holcomb*, and Jon-Michael Reese*

Tuesday, October 20 at 7 p.m. CDT and Saturday, October 24 at 1 p.m. CDT

When a son reveals that he is HIV positive, his mother must decide how far her unconditional love extends. In this tender autobiographical play, Harrison David Rivers explores how people can change and how love can evolve.

Harrison David Rivers on "we are continuous":

"So many plays in the HIV/AIDS theatrical canon are about white gay men and death and dying. I wanted to add something Black and gay and full of hope. 'we are continuous' is my contribution."

"we are continuous" by Harrison David Rivers is a commission of Williamstown Theatre Festival.

"Mother of Exiles" by Jessica Huang

Director: Jesca Prudencio**

Sound design consultant: John Nobori

Cast: Michele Selene Ang*, Nicole Javier*, Tess Lina*, Thallis Santesteban*, Ricardo Vázquez*, and Stephen Yoakam*

Wednesday, October 21 at 7 p.m. CDT and Saturday, October 24 at 8 p.m. CDT

In 1898 California, a pregnant Eddie Loi faces deportation. In 1998 Miami, her grandson Braulio accidentally summons her spirit while patrolling the border. In 2063 somewhere on the ocean, their descendants try to survive the climate crisis. An epic multigenerational tale of sacrifice, love and survival that spans 150 years in 90 minutes.

Jessica Huang on "Mother of Exiles":
"My ancestors were Russian, Chinese, and Jewish immigrants who migrated to the US and built businesses, suffered prejudices, overcame struggles, fell in love, and created new cultures. Their legacies live on in my mixed-race body and in my fourth-generation interracial marriage. Inspired by their stories of sacrifice, courage, great risks and radical empathy, Mother of Exiles was created in honor of them-and in honor of us, their descendants who continue their legacy."

"Begin, Begin, Begin Again" by Erin Courtney

Director: Hayley Finn**

Sound design consultant: Daniel Ison

Cast: Chloe Armao, Sun Mee Chomet*, Carolina Do*, Arcadia German, Tyler Michaels King*, Rachel Leslie*, Miriam Schwartz, Sandra Struthers*, Sally Wingert*

Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m. CDT and Sunday, October 25 at 1 p.m. CDT

In a re-imagining of "The Oresteia," set in an art museum in the near future, an audio tour guide voice artist is haunted by the desire to kill her husband. Is it possible to seek justice instead of revenge? In this formally inventive work, Erin Courtney invites us to see the horror behind the brutality of our current justice system and to invite change through collective imagination.

Erin Courtney on "Begin, Begin, Begin Again":

"I began this play with rage, and the question, 'When a system is broken and injustice is rampant, how can rage be channeled into creating systemic change?'"

Playwrights' Center Playwriting Fellows Showcase

The evening of scenes from plays in progress by the 2020-21 Playwrights' Center Fellows and Mentees will include:

a-? Cristina Florencia Castro, Many Voices Fellow

a-? Marvin González De León, McKnight Fellow in Playwriting

a-? Gracie Gardner, McKnight National Residency and Commission

a-? JuCoby Johnson, Many Voices Mentee

a-? Candrice Jones, Jerome Fellow

a-? Shannon TL Kearns, Jerome Fellow

a-? Nora Montañez, Many Voices Mentee

a-? Savannah Reich, McKnight Fellow in Playwriting

a-? Tylie Shider, Jerome Fellow

a-? Katie Ka Vang, Many Voices Fellow

Director: Tlaloc Rivas**

Cast: Adlyn Carreras, Cristina Castro, Vinecia Coleman, Lily Tung Crystal*, Shanan Custer, Ivory Doublette*, Becca Hart, Maggie Bearmon Pistner, Carley Rosefelt, and Edwin Strout

Friday, October 23 at 5 p.m. CDT

**Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society

*Member of Actors' Equity Association