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Tennessee Playwrights Studio Announces The TPS 2023 Virtual Reading Festival

Featuring six new works by 2022 TPS Fellows.

Tennessee Playwrights Studio Announces The TPS 2023 Virtual Reading Festival

Tennessee Playwrights Studio has announced the TPS 2023 Virtual Reading Festival, January 21-23 and February 2-4, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. CST.

Tickets are free and/or donation only, and the festival is open to the public. The 2022 TPS Fellows, who were selected through a competitive process, have been writing and workshopping these six plays on a monthly basis throughout 2022, and the resulting scripts will receive their first public performance via this virtual festival, which features some of Nashville's finest actors and directors. Each reading will be followed by a talk-back with the playwright, led by Kenley Smith, co-founder/co-director of TPS.

To learn more and reserve tickets to each reading, visit

The plays in the line-up include:

An Offering

by Emmalee Manes

Directed by Rachael Murray

January 21, 2023 - 7:30 p.m.

Cast: Martina Doust, Madison Gunn, Jiovanni Daniel, Josh Inocalla, Chantéa Kirkwood, René Millán, and Reese Twilla

Grab a 6-pack and cowboy hat and jump on the pedal tavern - we're heading to Broadway to experience Cain's Nashville, one he's spent thousands of year's building in order to avoid God's curse. Joined by his brother Abel, who is currently living as a dead tomato plant, they'll show us all the city has to offer. But wait...are there signs that God is coming back to get what They've always wanted from Cain? And is that a tomato starting to grow from Abel's dead branch? Y'all are going to have to pedal harder if you want to keep up.

Emmalee Manes is a playwright with a passion for story-sharing across cultures. After graduating as a double major in Creative Writing and Journalism from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, she moved to rural Japan, where she taught English in Japanese public schools for three years, before returning to the states and settling down in Nashville. Her 10-minute plays have been produced at Lee University and The Art Thing in Toyama, Japan. Outside of theatre, Emmalee enjoys film, non-fiction, and poetry. She served as Director of Toyama International Film festival for three years and was the Content Manager for the 2021 Nashville Film Festival. She has also enjoyed working to further U.S.-Japan relations as the Social Media Coordinator at Nashville's Japanese Consulate. Most recently, Emmalee received Lee University's 2020 Young Alumni Grant to complete her first full-length play, FOLDING, which was workshopped at Nashville's Pipeline-Collective.

Soul Sweep

by Amina S. McIntyre

Directed by Alicia Haymer

January 22, 2023 - 7:30 p.m.

Cast: Preston Crowder, Myah Jackson, Ethan H. Jones, Melissa McKnight, Brittany Childers Nelson, Christan Riley, Ré Roach, and Shawn Whitsell

When Hattie, a woman in her 20s, is awakened one evening with her "soul unsettled," she knows she will need to help the next person transition. Turning on the news, she finds a family friend, Torrey, is the victim of a police brutality case and is still holding on at the hospital. Torrey, however, is unwilling to accept his calling, or fate as others say. Will Hattie and Torrey both be able to accept their own callings and their places within the community?

Amina S. McIntyre is an Atlanta based playwright whose productions and readings include: Actor's Express, Atlanta History Museum, Working Title Playwrights, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Out of Hand Theatre, and The Blue Series (2019 Taurean Award Nominee for Excellence in Theatre) and Vanguard Repertory Theatre (Suzi Bass Award Winner). She has received her BA in Anthropology from Colby College, MA in African American and African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University, MFA in Creative Writing (Playwriting) at Spalding University, and Masters of Theological Studies from Emory University. She was a Playwriting Apprentice at Horizon Theatre Company, Managing Director of Karibu Performing Arts, 2014-2016 Atlanta Region Young Ambassador for the Dramatist's Guild, Co-Producer of WeReckon: A Southern Chronicle and the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs 2014-2015 Emerging Theatre Artist. McIntyre currently serves as Co-Founder of the Hush Harbor Lab and is a Ph.D student in Religion at Vanderbilt University.


by René Millán

Directed by Marcos Martinez

January 23, 2023 - 7:30 p.m.

Performed by René Millán

El hombre is torn in two pieces: his Nativo side and his European side- his conquered side and the side of the conqueror. El hombre navigates through his recent and ancient familial history where religious dogma and the philosophies of the conqueror have formed him. El hombre seeks to end the cycle and find peace through a journey of anger, revenge, understanding, forgiveness, and integration.

The son of Mexican immigrants, René Millán was born and raised in San Diego, CA, the youngest of five boys. Millán attended the prestigious Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Washington in Seattle where he devised two theatrical pieces dealing with immigration, ethnic identity and social justice. The foundation of his studies and his inspiration for devised pieces is the Suzuki Method of Actor Training; a physical mode used to build a bridge between mind, body and spirit- a method he teaches and has expanded on. René has lived and worked in New York City and Los Angeles where he has acted on Broadway, Off Broadway, film and television. He has also starred in plays at major regional theaters around the country including the Guthrie, Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse and Yale Rep where he also received a Beinecke visiting scholar fellowship to teach Suzuki inspired movement and acting. He was a core acting company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for seven seasons. Throughout his career he has devised and collaborated on theatrical works combining movement, text, and multimedia platforms. He teaches acting through Millán Acting Studio and is based in Nashville, TN where he also directs and acts. He has a performance piece and film based on the artist Martín Ramírez in the works. He lives with his wife and three children.

The Basset Table

adapted by Jaclynn Jutting

Directed by Jaclynn Jutting

February 2, 2023 - 7:30 p.m

Cast: Candace-Omnira, Melissa McKnight, Prenda Mercado, Aaron Muñoz, Terri Occhiogrosso, Hayley Jo Pellis, Ré Roach, Rodrikus Springfield, Becky Wahlstrom, and David Wilkerson

A post-modern American update of Susanna Centlivre's 1705 romp that explores the antics of gambler and widow Lady Reveller and her cousins' choices to either avoid or race to the marriage altar. The Basset Table interrogates the illusion of power-so often based on the social constructs of gender, class and sexuality-which has real-life implication and influence in the game of life.

Jaclynn Jutting is an award-winning freelance director and teaching artist, working out of Nashville and Chicago. Her work as director focuses on the contemporary play and contemporary adaptations of classics. She most recently directed the U.S. premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's MOSQUITOES with Chicago's Steep Theatre and was an Artist in Residence at Vanderbilt University, directing Annie Baker's UNCLE VANYA. She has directed with Steppenwolf, Raven, Nashville Repertory Theater, Actors Bridge Ensemble, Verge Theater and Oz Arts Nashville. She has worked at MTSU, Nashville Public Library and was the Director of the BFA-Directing program at Belmont University. She received her BA from Knox College and an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University. She is currently an adjunct professor at Lipscomb University, teaching a solo performance class at the Debra K. Johnson rehabilitation center.


by Kate McGunagle

Directed by David Ian Lee

Assistant Director - Madison Poston

February 3, 2023 - 7:30 p.m.

Cast: Kristen Fields, Leslie Marberry, Darci Napela, Elliott Winston Robinson, Melinda Sewak, and Fiona Soul

Queer Montana writer Mary MacLane, whose 1902 confessional text I Await the Devil's Coming caused a literary and cultural sensation, wants fame, happiness, love, and truth - but at what cost? In telling Mary's story onstage for the first time, M examines what it is to document a woman's life and longings, on the page and on the screen, and what it means - in turn - to listen.

Kate McGunagle is a queer writer, artist, and Montana native whose creative work centers around gender, identity, and the body, especially in the context of violence, media, and community. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Passages North, Five Points, The North American Review, and The Whitefish Review, and her essay "Passive Voice" was the recipient of the 2021 Terry Tempest Williams Prize in Creative Nonfiction. A graduate of Princeton University and Boston University's M.F.A. program in Creative Writing, Kate has over fifteen years of performance experience and is currently an active member of Nashville's Pipeline Collective. Her first play, Woman Bird Man, examines a Montana-based religious cult whose members grapple with identity, truth, and redemption in the space of one fateful weekend. She currently lives in Nashville.

Great Bend

by Kenley Smith

Directed by Candace-Omnira

February 4, 2023 - 7:30 p.m.

Cast: Michael Adcock, Lyndarious Arrington, Gentry Bledsoe, Jarvis Bynum, Robert Chambers, Preston Crowder, Alex Eaton, Erik Hylko, Josh Kiev, Byron King, JR Knowles, Sawyer Latham, Tia Lewis, Ré Roach, Michael Walley, and Shawn Whitsell

Great Bend chronicles the collision of race and labor during the construction of a railroad tunnel through the West Virginia mountains immediately following the Civil War. Very high-stakes, human events eventually find their way into fanciful legend.

Kenley Smith lives and writes in Nashville, TN. He is the co-director of Tennessee Playwrights Studio, a new developmental lab for in-state dramatists. He founded Studio Roanoke, a not-for-profit Virginia theatre that specialized in the development and production of new works from 2009 to 2012. He also was an Ingram playwright-in-residence at Nashville Repertory Theatre for the 2011-12 season and served as artistic associate for The Writing Room at Nashville Rep from 2015-2017. His full-length play, "Akuma-Shin," was a MainStage selection of the 2015 Great Plains Theatre Conference and premiered last spring at Sacred Fools Theatre Company in Los Angeles. "Empires of Eternal Void," developed through the Nashville Rep's Ingram New Works Lab, was a MainStage Selection at the 2013 GPTC. "Devil Sedan" was featured in 2008 at GPTC and has been produced by Baby D Productions in Omaha and by Studio Roanoke, as well as a professional production in 2013 at Playhouse Nashville. "Devil Sedan" won first place at the Barter Theatre's 2008 Festival of Appalachian Plays and Playwrights and took top honors in the West Virginia Writers, Inc., Joe McCabe Memorial Playwriting Competition in 2009. "Shade of the Trees," a 2010 Barter finalist, went up at Studio Roanoke in August, 2009, and his "Famous Bobby Pence" trilogy - consisting of "Devil Sedan," "Twelve Stations of the Cross" and "The Brand New Testament" - was produced there in 2010-11. "Monkey Wrench" was produced at Studio Roanoke in April, 2012. Kenley earned an M.F.A. in Playwriting and an M.A. in English and Creative Writing, both from Hollins University. He has taught playwriting at Randolph College, the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, and the Fall Creative Writing Conference at Middle Tennessee State University.

TPS is a playwright-development lab and theatre-production company that was founded in 2018 by Kenley Smith and Molly Breen to offer in-state playwrights the opportunity to develop fresh, incisive scripts that reflect a changing world. In 2019, TPS broadened its scope to include the production of theatre projects developed in Tennessee, and our first world premiere was MAIDENS by Kenley Smith. In 2022, TPS produced four original and critically acclaimed works: THAT WOMAN - THE MONOLOGUE SHOW, THAT WOMAN - THE DANCE SHOW, DON'T LOOK BLACK, and THE SINS OF THE CITY.


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