The New Group Reveals Lineup For FREEFEST

The event runs June 13-20.

By: May. 20, 2024
The New Group Reveals Lineup For FREEFEST
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The New Group has announced the lineup for the second annual FreeFest, a weeklong festival of FREE readings, featuring new works that embrace radical expression. The festival, a venture from The New Group/New Works program, will provide a public platform for artists to showcase their creative voice and further their writing process.


Conceived and curated by The New Group's Director of Artistic Projects Shariffa Ali, the festival will feature free readings of three musicals and two plays: The Female Pope, with Book and Lyrics by Shannon Burkett, Music by Heather Christian, Music Direction by Brian Usifer, Directed by Johanna McKeon; Red Taxi by Banna Desta, Directed by Yohana Desta; Hold Still by Nadia Davids, Directed by Jay Pather; 

The Last Bimbo of The Apocalypse, with Book by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, Music and Lyrics by Michael Breslin, with additional music and lyrics by Patrick Foley, Music Direction by Daniel Schlosberg, Directed by and developed with Rory Pelsue; and Hag, with Book and Lyrics by Kate Douglas, Music and Lyrics by Grace McLean, Music Direction by Or Matias, Directed by Kate Whoriskey.


Director of Artistic Projects Shariffa Ali announces, “FreeFest is back and it's bigger than ever! It is with excitement and joy that I get to share these exceptional stories by artists of extraordinary ability. For me, the theater is the place where we can be our most brave and daring selves. Each of these pieces seek to do just that. I hope you will join us and give them a hospitable welcome.”


Scott Elliott, Founding Artistic Director of The New Group, hails FreeFest as a beacon for new work, remarking, “Shariffa Ali's sustained vision for this festival is inspired, and an ideal way forward for The New Group's ongoing commitment to brilliant artists getting to stretch and explore new territory. FreeFest continues to be an important part of our development process.”



FreeFest performances and schedule are detailed below.  All readings will take place at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036).  Readings are free and open to the public. Reservations are required as space is limited.  To learn more, visit


The New Group/New Works development program focuses on the nurturing and development of new plays and musicals.  A core tenet of this program is to build and facilitate lasting relationships between The New Group, artists, and audiences who connect through theater that is adventurous, stimulating, and socially relevant.  This program has become a vital incubator for emerging and established playwrights, and serves as the primary pipeline for world premieres at The New Group.  Public reading festivals have long been a part of the program's developmental process. 


FreeFest is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Generous support for The New Group is provided by The Shubert Foundation and The

Howard Gilman Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. The New Group's programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.


The readings of Hag and The Female Pope are made possible thanks to the generous support of Pipeline Arts Foundation.

The Female Pope

Book and Lyrics by Shannon Burkett

Music by Heather Christian

Music Direction by Brian Usifer

Directed by Johanna McKeon

Thursday, June 13 at 4:00PM at The Ford Studio Theater at The Pershing Square Signature Center


Joan, desperate to go to school, agrees to dress as a boy for the promise of an education.  In doing so, she unlocks a passion for learning that propels her to the most powerful position in the world, a stunning achievement that could threaten the very existence of the Catholic Church itself.  Set in the 9th Century England, The Female Pope is the highly disputed story about a woman challenging institutionalized gender oppression to reach her full potential. 

Red Taxi 

By Banna Desta

Directed by Yohanna Desta

Friday, June 14 at 4:00PM at The Ford Studio Theater at The Pershing Square Signature Center


Abraha is a new immigrant and Eritrean cab driver in Washington, D.C.  Over four decades, from the 1980s to present day, Abraha and his four close friends experience the emotional and political highs and lows of being in the taxi business, which begs them to question how they can thrive and maintain relationships in such a fragile democracy.

Hold Still 

By Nadia Davids 

Directed by Jay Pather 

Saturday, June 15 at 4:00PM at The Ford Studio Theater at The Pershing Square Signature Center


When Ben and Rosa, an eclectic vibrant couple in North London, discover their son is hiding an asylum-seeking teenager in their home, they must decide between morality and endangering their own family.  As tensions flare and ideologies clash, the Feigels grapple with the ethics of law, the essence of empathy, and the lengths one would go to safeguard loved ones and strangers alike.  Hold Still is a vivid portrait of a family shaped by intergenerational trauma.

The Last Bimbo of The Apocalypse 

Book by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley 

Music and Lyrics by Michael Breslin with additional Music and Lyrics by Patrick Foley

Music Direction by Daniel Schlosberg 

Directed by and developed with Rory Pelsue 

Wednesday, June 19 at 3:00PM at The Rehearsal Studio at The Pershing Square Signature Center


Three Gen Z internet sleuths investigate the mysterious disappearance of an early 2000s one-hit-wonder, leading them on an epic musical quest to uncover the truth, deliver justice, and rewrite pop history.


Book and Lyrics by Kate Douglas

Music and Lyrics by Grace McLean

Music Direction by Or Matias 

Directed by Kate Whoriskey

Thursday, June 20 at 3:00PM at The Ford Studio Theater at The Pershing Square Signature Center


Lois, a middle aged woman in Aurora, New York, hates change.  But today is her birthday - and everything is about to change.  Her body is metamorphosing into something mysterious, mystical, and perhaps powerful. Hag is a musical about finding beauty through aging and truth through karaoke.


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