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2nd Annual Columbia@Roundabout New Play Reading Series Announced

Roundabout Theatre Company and Columbia University School of the Arts have announced the winners of Columbia@Roundabout's 2017 New Play Reading Series.

As part of the previously announced collaborative partnership between Roundabout Theatre Company and Columbia University, the reading series awards three playwrights from the current MFA program and recent alumni with a cash prize as well as two readings in Roundabout's Black Box Theatre. Five finalists have also received cash prizes in recognition of their exceptional work.

No other collaborative partnership in the New York area brings together an esteemed Ivy League MFA program with a Tony Award-winning not-for-profit theatre. The reading series is made possible by a grant from the Tow Foundation.

Playwrights featured in the second annual Columbia@Roundabout New Play Reading Series include Anchuli Felicia King, Alix Sobler and Jillian Walker. Finalists include Melis Aker, Nora Sørena Casey, ElisaBeth Frankel, Kate Mulley and Kristin Slaney.

The New Play Reading Series will be held June 12-19 at Roundabout's Black Box Theatre, home to the Roundabout Underground program, highlighting the work of Columbia MFA playwrights. Mentorship is provided by celebrated Columbia faculty members, including Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang, Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony Award nominee Lynn Nottage and Obie Award winner Charles L. Mee. The series creates a bridge for Columbia's emerging writers and provides Roundabout audience members with an opportunity to experience work by the next generation of leading theatre artists. Readings will be open to industry members and other guests by invitation only.

The selection committee consisted of two representatives from Roundabout Theatre Company, Director of New Play Development Jill Rafson and Artistic Consultant Robyn Goodman and two representatives from Columbia University, Christian Parker, Chair of the Theatre Program at Columbia University School of the Arts and David Henry Hwang, head of the Playwriting concentration for the program.

Schedule of Readings:


By Alix Sobler

Directed by Portia Krieger

Monday, June 12 at 3:00pm

Monday, June 19 - Reception at 7:30, Reading at 8:30pm

In 1939, Helen and Leonard Kirsch live a comfortable upper-middle class life in Philadelphia, while Germany's power grows abroad and the world turns dark. Desperate to help in any way they can, the Kirsches plot to rescue 50 Jewish children from Vienna and place them with American families. As their trip approaches, Helen and Leonard still have one more foster family to find, and the remaining option-Roberta and Martin Bloom-is far from ideal. But the Kirsches soon discover that these choices at home are nothing when compared with the choices they face abroad, where each decision could change the makeup of a generation.


By Anchuli Felicia King

Directed by Jenny Koons

Friday, June 16 at 3:00pm

Sunday, June 18 - Reading at 6:30pm, Reception post-show

The management team at Clearday scramble to deal with PR fallout after a leaked Chinese advertisement goes viral. Casual blackmail, allegations of corruption and a clash of philosophies ensue. White Pearl is a darkly comedic boardroom drama about toxic ideas.


By Jillian Walker

Directed by Whitney White

Thursday, June 15 at 11:30am

Monday, June 19 - Reading at 6:00pm, Reception post-show

The funeral of a legendary family member reunites Sarah with estranged childhood best friend, Penelope. When Penelope enters Sarah and her husband, Nolan's home in Southern Maryland, their marriage is at the breaking point. Secrets and wounds quickly surface, leaving Sarah with the choice to mend her broken bonds or hold onto painful memories that could destroy her. Sarah's Salt. exposes the generational trauma carried forward often dutifully and silently, by black American women and takes Sarah on the beautiful, terrifying and necessary journey of facing painful personal and ancestral history in order to heal.


ANCHULI FELICIA KING (White Pearl) is a multidisciplinary artist of Thai-Australian descent who works primarily in live theater. Her areas of interest include emerging technologies, VFX and projection design, music production and writing for performance. As a playwright, Felicia is interested in private autocracies, digital cultures and issues of global urgency. Currently based in New York, Felicia works with the artistic team at 3LD Arts & Technology Center, while completing her MFA thesis in technodramaturgy at Columbia University.

ALIX SOBLER (Sheltered) is a writer and performer who lives in New York City. Her play Sheltered won the 2018 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and will receive a world premiere at Alliance Theater in 2018. It was also a finalist for the 2017 NPC at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Her play The Great Divide won the 2015 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition and was named as a finalist in the Henley Rose Playwriting Competition. It received its world premiere in September of 2016 at the Finborough Theatre in London. Her play The Secret Annex, was produced at the Segal Centre in Montreal in 2016. It was originally produced 2014 at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. In 2015 it was published by Scirroco Press, and it received a public reading at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. She has had other work read or produced in theaters across North America including South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, CA), Theatre Ariel (Philadelphia, PA), Chicago's Theatre Seven (Chicago, IL), Trinity Playwright's Rep (Providence, RI), The Tank (New York, NY), Theatre Or (Minneapolis, MN), and others. She is a graduate oF Brown University and received her MFA in playwriting from Columbia University in 2017, where she was honored to study with David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage and Charles Mee, among others. Find more at

Jillian Walker (Sarah's Salt.) is a playwright, dramaturg, actress, singer, and cultural leader. Her theatrical work bends genre and ruminates on "non-traditional" themes to deliberately disrupt the status quo and dig for a path to collective liberation. Her plays include Sarah's Salt. and SKiNFoLK: An American Show, a concert-play that prompted The Bushwick Starr to name Jillian "one of New York City's most exciting playwrights" of 2016. First developed in the Starr Reading Series and in-residence at the Catwalk Institute, SKiNFoLK is appearing in this year's ANT Fest at Ars Nova. Other plays in development include a mash-up Chekhov adaptation set in Natchez, Mississippi, and a piece about the Tignon Laws of 1780s New Orleans, which mandated that black women cover their hair and refrain from "excessive attention" in public. Jillian has performed, taught, and shared her art-making around the world. Favorite experiences include hearing her album, Searching For Home (The Urban Gypsy EP) on UK radio, teaching transcendental literature in New England, and singing Kecak in Bali. She holds a BA in English and Afro-American & African Studies from The University of Michigan, a certificate in Acting from The Studio / New York Conservatory, and an MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University. She writes about the artist's life at

Jenny Koons (Director, White Pearl) is a theater director who specializes in bringing diverse artists together to create original cross-disciplinary work. Recent projects: A Sucker Emcee (National Black Theatre), Airness (Movement Director, Humana Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville), Theatre for One world premieres: What Are You Doing Here? (Charles Fuller), Golden State Freeway (John Guare), My Anniversary (David Henry Hwang), Deja Vu and This Moment After (ReGina Taylor), Barrel Wave (Naomi Wallace), The Blueprint (world premiere, Idris Goodwin, NYU Graduate Acting), K-I-S-S-I-N-G (Huntington Summer Workshop), {my lingerie play} (Joe's Pub), Runaways (Associate Director, New York City Center Encores! Off-Center), Instant SPKRBOX (SPKRBOX Festival commission, Norway), Bars and Measures (NNPN world premiere), Gimme Shelter (Why Not Theatre, Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games commission), Theatre for One world premieres: Untitled (Thomas Bradshaw) and Love Song (Zayd Dohrn), Wet Clutch (La Mama), Abyme (Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, Dixon Place), A Sucker Emcee (LAByrinth Theater, SPKRBOX Festival, Verkstedhallen, Dramatikkens Hus), Queen of the Night (Associate/Resident Director, 2014 Drama Desk Award), The Odyssey Project (Dixon Place, Site-specific across NYC). Jenny is curator of the New York City Center's Off-Center Lobby Project, co-curator of the 2016 Toronto ThisGen Conference, and co-founder of Artists 4 Change NYC (National Black Theatre). She is on the steering committee for The Ghostlight Project, serves on the advisory board for UK-based Artistic Directors of the Future, and is a member of New York City Center's Artists' Board. Jenny joined the SPACE Ryder Farm curation team in 2015 with the mission of increasing diversity within artist residency programming. She was an invited speaker on equity and artistic leadership at the 2016 Canadian Arts Summit: CultureNext.

Portia Krieger (Director, Sheltered) is a New York-based theater director who mostly works on new plays and musicals. Recent productions include Olivia Dufault's The Tomb of King Tot (Clubbed Thumb - New York Times Critic's Pick), Sofia Alvarez's Friend Art (2ST Uptown), Sarah Einspanier's The Convent of Pleasure (Cherry Lane Mentor Project), Caroline V. McGraw's The Bachelors (Lesser America) Peggy Stafford's 16 Words Or Less (Clubbed Thumb), Clare Barron's Baby Screams Miracle (Clubbed Thumb), and Eager to Lose, a burlesque farce Portia co-created with writer Matthew-Lee Erlbach, director Wes Grantom, and burlesque starlet Tansy (Ars Nova). Up next, she'll direct Susan Bernfield's Tania in the Getaway Van for the Pool this fall. Portia has workshopped new plays with the O'Neill/National Playwrights Conference, Playwrights Horizons, 2ST, Roundabout Underground, New York Stage & Film, Rattlestick, Page 73, Ars Nova, the Lark, the Juilliard School, NYMF, and many others. She is a member of The Civilians R&D Group, an inaugural O'Neill/NNPN National Director's Fellow, a former New Georges Audrey Resident, an alumna of the Drama League Directors Project and the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, a former Ars Nova Director-in-Residence, a Clubbed Thumb Affiliated Artist, and a co-founder of the New Georges Jam. Associate Director of Fun Home on Broadway and on tour. Education: BA in Theater, Smith College.

Whitney White (Director, Sarah's Salt.) is a director and actor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has developed work at The Roundabout, Trinity Rep, Chautauqua, South Oxford, Jack, Judson Memorial, Ars Nova and Luna Stage. This year she assisted Sam Gold on Othello (New York Theatre Workshop), Dan Sullivan on If I Forget (Roundabout), and is currently assisting Anne Kauffman on Marvin's Room (Broadway). Her original musical Lover I'll Bring You Back to Life was part of Ars Nova's 2016 ANT Fest, and her musical adaptation of Macbeth, Macbeth in Stride was part of Judson Memorial's 2017 Magic Time. She received her MFA in Acting from Brown University/Trinity Rep and her BA from Northwestern. She is currently the inaugural Roundabout Directing Fellow and next year will be a 2050 Fellow at NYTW. This fall she will direct an adaptation of Claudia Rankine's Citizen at SUNY Purchase.

Melis Aker (Manar) is an actor, writer and musician from Ankara, Turkey. A few of her acting credits include Love in Afghanistan by Charles Randolph-Wright at Arena Stage for which she also did a reading at the Roundabout, Soldier X by Rehana Lew Mirza at the Ma-Yi theatre lab, We Live in Cairo by Patrick & Daniel Lazour for the 2016 NAMT Festival at New World Stages, Opium by Susan Mosakowski, Pussy Riot and Visible from Four States by Barbara Hammond at New Dramatists, Tsunami by Jalila Baccar at the 2014 PEN World Voices Festival, My Gay Roommate: the web-series (season 3), and The Blacklist: Redemption (S1E3) premiering on NBC. As a writer, her play Manar (Theatre503 Playwriting Award semi-finalist) was accepted to Golden Thread Productions' 2017 ReOrient Festival in San Francisco and LPAC's 2017 Rough Draft Festival in New York, and was recently a part of Silk Road Rising's Silk Road Readers cycle. She is also thrilled to be a part of the MEA Writers group hosted at the Lark with Mona Mansour, Hadi Tabbal and Leila Buck. As a musician, she released her EP "Dirt" via Young Pals Music, which was picked up by podcast radio MaxFm in Turkey, and her single "The Little Prince" under the music collective AKER, which she co-found with Alessio Romano from Studio 42 Brooklyn. Melis holds a B.A. in Drama/Philosophy from Tufts University and an acting certificate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She is currently a 2018 M.F.A. candidate in Playwriting at Columbia University.

NORA SØRENA CASEY (Dreams of Malinche) is a playwright and dramaturge. Her full-length plays include Take the Car (Williamstown Theatre Festival), The Genius Project (Dixon Place), and Not Afraid (PowerOut), about a death-metal blogger The New York Times called "the kind of weirdo we want to root for." A frequent collaborator with The Motor Company, her free, site-specific plays include Derek and the Sheep, Intimate Bar Plays, and Absolutely Somewhere. Nora is the 2016 and 2017 Playwright-In-Residence with Athena Theatre Company's Athena Writes. Dramaturgy projects include the development of The Universe is a Small Hat by Cesar Alvarez with director Sarah Benson (Joe's Pub, Prelude 2013, Babycastles); workshops of an untitled play by Jackie Sibblies Drury (Lark Studio Retreat, Bushwick Starr Reading Series); The In-Between by Kareem Fahmy (Noor Theatre's The Myth Project); and contributing to The Civilians cabaret Let Me Ascertain You: Holy Matrimony! (Joe's Pub).

ELISABeth FrankEL (The German Party). Plays include PROGENY (Semi-Finalist, Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference); MINUTES BEFORE THE VOLCANO (Winner, Hopwood Prize for Drama; Dennis McIntyre Award); THE GERMAN PARTY (Finalist, PlayPenn Writers Conference); JERUSALEM IS BEAUTIFUL (Finalist, NY Jewish Plays Project); and MUCH BETTER, OR THE ROBOT PLAY (Finalist, Drama League Beatrice Terry Residency). Elisabeth has also won the Young Playwrights Inc. National Competition. As an assistant director, Elisabeth has worked with The Public Theater, the Signature Theatre Company, the Mint Theater Company, Naked Angels, and the Juilliard School. She was the Middle School Drama Co-Director of East Harlem Tutorial Program from 2015 to 2016. Education: BFA in Theatre Directing, University of Michigan (Go Blue); MFA in Playwriting, Columbia University.

KATE MULLEY (Grey Lady) is a playwright, producer, dramaturg and founding member of Vox Theater. Her plays have been performed in New York, Washington DC, New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska, London and Shanghai. New York credits: The Special Election (Dixon Place), Cherry on Top (5 episodes at #serials@theflea), The Next War (Schapiro Theatre/Columbia), hot tramp (i love you so) (Schapiro Theatre/ Columbia), Like a Finch (UglyRhino), The Reluctant Lesbian (FringeNYC, O'Neill Semi-Finalist, Northern Stage), You Are Here (NyLon Fusion Collective/Gene Frankel Theater), The Tutor (FringeNYC, Juilliard Fellowship finalist), Sezze Sun (Odyssey Productions/walkerspace), The Lazarus Years (Red Room). London credits: The Proxies (Theatre503), Cook's Clock (Soho Theatre), Fee (Tristan Bates Theatre). Strange Bare Facts, her military medicine trilogy which includes Grey Lady (Princess Grace Award Semi-Finalist), Hither Ditch and The Next War, was performed at the Ford Studio at the Signature Center as part of the Columbia New Plays Festival and has been developed at Columbia, NYU, Sewanee Writers' Conference and VoxFest at Dartmouth College, among others. The Tutor has been translated into Mandarin and performed at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre. She has worked for Playscripts, Inc., Nick Hern Books, Soho Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and Hourglass Group, and has published headlines in The Onion. Kate has been an Artist in Residence at Nantucket Island School of Art and Design, a Playwriting Fellow at Shanghai Theatre Academy, and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference. She graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Theater and History and has received an MA in Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths College, London and an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University. She currently lives in New York.

KRISTIN SLANEY (Agora) is a playwright from Halifax, Nova Scotia, currently living in New York. She is a recent Columbia University MFA Playwriting graduate, under the mentorship of Lynn Nottage. She is also member of Ensemble Studio Theatre's Youngblood, The Tank's TV Writing group, and she is the Spicy Witch Productions Writer-in-Residence for 2017. Kristin's work has been produced and developed by Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Tank, The Flea Theater, UglyRhino, Columbia University, the University of Alberta, Dalhousie University, Ship's Company Theatre, Eastern Front Theatre, Halifax Theatre for Young People, and Doppler Effect Productions. She has held writing residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre, and the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. Her play Un-Utero was a Finalist for Roundabout Theatre Company's 2016 Columbia@Roundabout Reading Series and was a semifinalist for The 2016 Eugene O'Neill Center's National Playwrights Conference.

Columbia University School of the Arts awards the Master of Fine Arts degree in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts and Writing and the Master of Arts degree in Film Studies; it also offers an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts. The School is a thriving, diverse community of talented, visionary and Committed Artists from around the world and a faculty comprised of acclaimed and internationally renowned artists, film and theatre directors, writers of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, playwrights, producers, critics and scholars. In 2015, the School marked the 50th Anniversary of its founding. In 2017, the School opened the Lenfest Center of the Arts, a multi-arts venue designed as a hub for the presentation and creation of art across disciplines on the University's new Manhattanville campus. The Lenfest hosts exhibitions, performances, screenings, symposia, readings, and lectures that present new, global voices and perspectives, as well as an exciting, publicly accessible home for Columbia's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery. For more information visit Follow Columbia University School of the Arts on Twitter @ColumbiaSOA, Facebook and Instagram.

The Theatre Program at Columbia University School of the Arts is an international, collaborative and interdisciplinary graduate theatre program named in honor of Oscar Hammerstein II, offering concentrations in Acting, Directing, Dramaturgy, Playwriting, Stage Management, and Theatre Management & Production. The Program's location in New York City, a global nexus of theatre, affords students the opportunity to experience a wide variety of theatrical productions, spaces and performances available nowhere else. Students in the Program have the unparalleled opportunity to learn from-and work with-true visionaries in the theatre world; full-time faculty include David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage, Charles L. Mee, Steven Chaikelson, James Calleri, Anne Bogart, Gregory Mosher, Brian Kulick, Christian Parker, Andrei Serban and Michael J. Passaro. Students have access to an extensive network of Columbia alumni who run prestigious Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatres; direct and perform in Tony- and other award-winning productions; work in every level of the professional theatre world; and teach, mentor and engage with students on an ongoing basis. Notable alumni include include Diane Paulus, Beau Willimon, Darko Tresnjak, Anson Mount and Barbara Whitman.

The Tow Foundation, established in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow, funds projects that offer transformative experiences to individuals and create collaborative ventures in fields where they see opportunities for breakthroughs, reform, and benefits for underserved populations. Investments focus on the support of innovative programs and system reform in the areas of juvenile and criminal justice, groundbreaking medical research, higher education, and cultural institutions. For more information, visit Follow the Tow Foundation on Twitter @Towfdn and Facebook.

Education at Roundabout turns Roundabout's theaters into classrooms and classrooms into theaters, for more than 35,000 people each year throughout all five boroughs of New York City and around the country. For over 20 years, Roundabout has developed education programs that provide students with access to the arts, encourage social and emotional learning, cultivate skills they will need to succeed in college and careers, and give their teachers the tools to help students flourish. Education at Roundabout has expanded to include diverse programming ranging from student matinees, to classroom residencies and school-wide partnerships in the NYC public schools, to professional development workshops for teachers, to audience engagement programming for our subscribers, to an apprenticeship and internship program, and our after-school program, Student Production Workshop. For more information, visit, and

Roundabout Theatre Company is committed to producing the highest quality theatre with the finest artists, sharing stories that endure, and providing accessibility to all audiences. A not-for-profit company, Roundabout fulfills its mission each season through the production of classic plays and musicals; development and production of new works by established and emerging writers; educational initiatives that enrich the lives of children and adults; and a subscription model and audience outreach programs that cultivate and engage all audiences.

Roundabout Theatre Company presents a variety of plays, musicals, and new works on its five stages, each of which is specifically designed to enhance the needs of Roundabout's mission. Off-Broadway, the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, which houses the Laura Pels Theatre and Black Box Theatre, with its simple sophisticated design, is perfectly suited to showcasing new plays. The grandeur of its Broadway home on 42nd Street, American Airlines Theatre, sets the ideal stage for the classics. Roundabout's Studio 54 provides an exciting and intimate Broadway venue for its musical and special event productions. The Stephen Sondheim Theatre offers a state of the art LEED certified Broadway theatre in which to stage major large-scale musical revivals. Together these distinctive homes serve to enhance Roundabout's work on each of its stages.

Roundabout's work with new and emerging playwrights and directors, as well as development of new work, is made possible by Katheryn Patterson and Tom Kempner.

Roundabout's season in 2017 includes Marvin's Room by Scott McPherson, directed by Anne Kauffman; Napoli, Brooklyn by Meghan Kennedy, directed by Gordon Edelstein; Time and the Conways by J. B. Priestley, directed by Rebecca Taichman; and the national tour of Sam Mendes & Rob Marshall's Tony Award-winning production of Cabaret.

Roundabout's new off-Broadway season dedicated to new work at the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre in 2017-2018 will include The Last Match, by Anna Ziegler, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch; Amy and the Orphans, by Lindsey Ferrentino, directed by Scott Ellis; Skintight, by Joshua Harmon, directed by Daniel Aukin.

Roundabout Underground's 2017-2018 season will include Too Heavy for your Pocket, by Jiréh Breon Holder.

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