Premiere Stages At Kean University Announces 2024 Premiere Play Festival Finalists

This year's finalists were selected from 760 submissions.

By: May. 23, 2024
Premiere Stages At Kean University Announces 2024 Premiere Play Festival Finalists
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Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean University, has selected its four finalists for the 2024 Premiere Play Festival. Now in its 19th year, the Festival is an annual competition for unproduced scripts that offers developmental opportunities to playwrights with strong affiliations to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware. This year's finalists were selected from 760  submissions.

This year's finalists are: The Ancestry Play by Alyssa Haddad-Chin, the 2024 Playwright-in-Residence at SPARC New Voices and a 2022/23 Writing Fellow at The Playwrights Realm; Castling by Anthony Goss, a resident writer with the Liberation Theatre Company and a semi-finalist for the 2024 Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference; The Mallard by Vincent Delaney, whose plays have been produced, commissioned and developed at the Guthrie, Woolly Mammoth, the Lark, among many others; and The Totality of All Things by Erik Gernand, whose plays have been produced and/or developed at Chicago Dramatists, Actors Theatre of Louisville, as well as The Barrow Group. Both Delaney and Gernand are previous winners of the Festival.

In The Ancestry Play, Samia never knew her father, and her secretive Lebanese mother is more interested in watching Wheel of Fortune than providing answers. While she's proud of her Arab American heritage, Samia wishes she knew more about her family history — until her friend does her DNA test without her consent, making Samia confront just how much knowledge about her ancestry she can handle.

In Castling, workers at a local tire shop in Newark play chess as part of their daily morning ritual. But when their long standing workplace becomes the target of a business takeover, they scramble to avoid being put into the ultimate checkmate. A play about the effects of gentrification and the castles being built all around us, Castling provides a powerful study of loyalty and perseverance.

In The Mallard, Freya and Gillian are teachers who have offended their school board and lost their jobs. Davis and Reagan are yard sale fanatics in search of a priceless antique duck decoy, the Horace Crandall Mallard. What follows is a fierce, funny and escalating battle over a symbol that has wildly different meanings - intersecting the couple in a journey that far surpasses the quest for treasure.

In The Totality of All Things, Judith Benson is “teacher-famous” for the award-winning student newspaper she proudly oversees at her small high school, a program that extols truth and integrity in journalism. But when an anti-gay hate crime occurs one fall, everything Judith believes about inspiring the next generation of reporters, and the definition of truth itself, is called into question.

All finalists will receive professional readings, as part of Premiere's 19th annual Play Festival Finalists Reading Series June 6-10 at the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center, and will be considered for expanded development in Premiere's mainstage season. One of the four plays will be selected for an Actors' Equity Association (AEA) 29-Hour Reading in November 2024 and the most promising play will be awarded a full AEA production as part of Premiere's 2025 season. All finalists receive cash awards ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. Readings are offered by invitation only. To request admission to any of the readings, please call 908-737-4077 or email

This year's submissions were evaluated through a process coordinated by Premiere Stages' Play Festival and Education Manager Nick Gandiello, Literary Associate Emily Dzioba and Literary Assistant Jessica DeLuca, in partnership with esteemed panelists Erin Breznitsky, Erin M. Callahan, William Eddy, Alexis Morgan, Claudia Nolan, Lysna Marzani, Matthew Paul Olmos, Carole Shaffer-Koros and Ernest Wiggins.

The following semifinalists were also honored in this year's competition: Before The Thaw by Dan Aibel, The Family Saves a Life by jose sebastian alberdi, Lemuria by Bonnie Antosh, Murder Girl by Heidi Armbruster, Snobs vs The Underdogs by Kia Barbee, The World I Have Known by Kari Bentley-Quinn, Land of No Mercy by Rae Binstock, I Got You by Suzanne Bradbeer, The Offseason by Jonathan Caren, Zionista Rising by Alexa Derman, On The Docket by Bryan Dykstra, Anonymous Skin by Cris Eli Blak, SCRIBE, os The Sisters Milton, or Elegy for the Unwritten by L M Feldman, Good to Go by Craig Garcia, Yellow Light by Justine Gelfman, BELOVED SON by Matthew Greene, Dogs by Hanna Kime, Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Matthew Libby, Kingdom of Wonder by Shayan Lotfi, APE by Dano Madden, Fifteen Hundred by Gloria Majule, Straw Poll by Nicholas Malakhow, The Cousins by Benjamin V. Marshall, Catch by Lara Miller, FISH MEAT by Esme Ng, (I am [my mother)'s daughter] by Bianca Nkwonta, The Decoys by Greg Pierce, The Nereids by Brian Quirk, A Good Guy by David Rambo, WET by Aurora Real de Asua, DISPERSION OF LIGHT by Rich Rubin, marked green at birth, marked female at birth by Sophie Sagan-Gutherz, Good Hair by Phaedra Michelle Scott, An Invitation to Anna's Wedding by Parade Stone, Laertes Dies Too by Rachel Luann Strayer, IDEE FIXE by Joe Sutton, Fake Laughter by Rob Ulin, Werewolves: A Play About Money by Liba Vaynberg, This Is A Play About Buttons by Emily Wanamaker, Anaphora by Mallory Weiss, WHEN GOLD TURNS BLACK by Ron Wilks, Our Father by Amy Witting, Great White by Deborah Yarchun and Nightwatch by Max Yu.

In the nineteen seasons since its founding, the Premiere Play Festival has received over 8,000 submissions and developed more than 85 plays. Multiple plays produced at Premiere have been honored by the American Theatre Critics Association, selected for agency representation,  and/or been published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide, Concord, Dramatists Play Service, Dramatic Publishing Company, Playscripts, and Broadway Play Publishing. A number of Play Festival winners and finalists have subsequently been produced in New York, internationally  and at regional theatres across the country.

Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Shubert Foundation, Carole Shaffer-Koros and Robert Koros and ExxonMobil Foundation, The Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, Blue Foundry Charitable Foundation, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, The Union County HEART Grant and through the generous support of individual patrons and local organizations. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.

Premiere Stages is committed to producing topical plays and interactive programs that reflect people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, national origins, nationalities, ancestry, religious groups, gender expression or identities, sexual orientation, political beliefs, ages, abilities and disabilities.


Created in 2004, Premiere Stages is the professional Equity theatre in residence at Kean University. Through its unique partnership with Kean, Premiere's play development programs, educational initiatives, and professional development opportunities actively embrace the university's academic curriculum while expanding the scope, accessibility, and prestige of the professional programming on campus. For more information, please visit Premiere Stages online at


Kean University, New Jersey's urban research university, is a national institution of higher education recognized for its diversity, innovation and the social mobility of its graduates. Founded in 1855 as a teachers college, Kean has evolved into a thriving research university that supports students as they persist to graduation, give back to their communities and launch successful careers. Kean's six colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate programs, six doctoral degree programs and more than 70 options leading to master's degrees, professional diplomas or certifications, across a full range of academic subjects. With campuses in Union, Toms River and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, as well as Kean Online, the University provides students of all backgrounds an affordable and accessible world-class education. Learn more at


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