Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

La Jolla Playhouse's 2015 'DNA New Work Series' Kicks Off Next Month

La Jolla Playhouse is pleased to bring back its acclaimed new play development initiative, the DNA New Work Series, a two-week run of workshops and readings of new works, taking place February 16 - March 1, 2015.

The DNA New Work Series offers playwrights and directors the opportunity to develop a script by providing rehearsal time, space and resources, culminating in a workshop presentation or public reading. This process simultaneously gives audiences a closer look at the play development process, while allowing the Playhouse to foster relationships with established and up-and-coming playwrights. The 2015 DNA New Work Series is made possible by support from the Leo S. Guthman Fund.

"Playhouse audiences have come to love the DNA New Work Series, where they can truly be a participant in the birth of a new play. Now in its third year, DNA continues to provide a rare opportunity to see a work in progress, while offering artists support and feedback at the earliest stages of their work," said Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley.

The workshop, How to Be a Rock Critic, based on the writings of Lester Bangs, is written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (The Exonerated), presented in association with Center Theatre Group and South Coast Repertory. Blank directs the piece, while Jensen performs the role of Lester Bangs in this fascinating one-man show. Four workshop presentations will take place February 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30pm and on March 1 at 3:00pm, in the Rao and Padma Makineni Play Development Center.

Manic. Impossibly creative. Dead of an overdose at 33. Lester Bangs was arguably America's greatest rock critic and the first to anoint the "punk" movement. But as the rebel ethos of the '70s gave way to the corporate pop of the '80s, his faith was shattered. Adapted from Bangs' own words, this solo play sheds light on a pioneering and revolutionary voice in music.

Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen are actors, writers and directors. Together, they are authors of The Exonerated (Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Ovation, Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards; also awards from Amnesty International, American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Court TV). It was made into an award-winning movie, adapted by Jessica and Erik, starring Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover. Their play Aftermath, based on interviews with Iraqi refugees, opened Off-Broadway at NYTW (with Jessica directing), was a NYT Critics' Pick, toured internationally and was nominated for two Drama League Awards. They are currently writing a pilot, The Negotiator, for Gaumont TV (Tom Fontana, EP); they have developed TV with 20th TV, Fox TV Studios, Virgin Produced and Radical Media. Ms. Blank's novel Almost Home (Hyperion, 2007) was optioned for film with Ms. Blank and Mr. Jensen adapting. Her novel Karma for Beginners (Hyperion, 2009) is in development for TV with Avenue Pictures, Ms. Blank and Mr. Jensen adapting. His graphic novel The Reconcilers was published in 2010 to wide acclaim. As an actor, Ms. Blank appeared regularly in CBS' Made in Jersey. Additional TV includes Blue Bloods, Elementary, The Following, The Mentalist, Bored to Death, Rescue Me, Law & Order: CI, The Bronx Is Burning, among others. Films include The Namesake (dir. Mira Nair), You're Nobody Til Somebody Kills You (prod. Spike Lee) and several indies. She has five new films coming out in 2015. Mr. Jensen's TV credits include an arc on The Walking Dead, leads in the CBS pilot Second Night, NBC pilot The Frontier and FOX pilot Virtuality; baseball legend Thurman Munson in The Bronx Is Burning, and others, including The Americans, House of Cards, Castle, Elementary, Person of Interest, Major Crimes, CSI, Lie to Me, Leverage and Alias. Films include Black Knight, The Love Letter and over two dozen indies. Theatre credits include Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at LCT3, The Good Negro at the Public, Arthur Kopit's Y2K and Terrance McNally's Corpus Christi at MTC. They are married and live in Brooklyn with their daughter Sadie.

The DNA New Work Series will also feature six 1-day readings, including:

The History of American Pornography

By Hilary Bettis

Directed by Kimberly Senior

Monday, February 16, 2015 at 7:30pm

Seuss 1 Rehearsal Space

It's Star Papapzian's 40th birthday, and she's finally ready to lose her virginity. But before she can get down to business, she must conquer her past -- growing up in her family's porn empire. The History of American Pornography is a play about one woman's journey through forty years of the American porn industry to discover the meaning of intimacy in a world where sex, power, money and family collide.

The Engine of Our Ruin

By Jason Wells

Directed by Christopher Ashley

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 7:30pm

Seuss 1 Rehearsal Space

In a luxury hotel suite somewhere in the Middle East, diplomat Charles Manning-Jourdain meets with delegates of an unfriendly nation to negotiate a simple trade agreement. But this routine mission quickly becomes an international incident thanks to an idealistic interpreter with an agenda of her own; a belligerent official who brings a rumor of war; and Charles' own staffers, whose after-hours party might just topple a foreign government.

Krik? Krak. Or the Last Tiger in Haiti

By Jeff Augustin

Directed by Joshua Kahan Brody

Saturday, February 21 at 3:00pm

Seuss 1 Rehearsal Space

It's the final night of Haitian kanaval, and Max's time as a restavek -- a child slave -- is nearly up. As tradition goes, he and his fellow restaveks spend the night trading folkloric stories, until the line between reality and fiction begins to blur. Weaving Haitian lore into a contemporary narrative of survival and betrayal, Krik? Krak. asks: What stories do we have the right to tell?

What Happens Next

Commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse

In association with Cornerstone Theater Company

By Naomi Iizuka

Directed by Michael John Garcés

Monday, February 23, 2015 at 7:30pm

Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre

Bonnie, an idealistic but inexperienced acting teacher, finds herself paired with a group of combat veterans as part of a drama therapy program. As she is confronted with the reality of her reluctant new "students," Bonnie struggles to find a way to build trust and find common ground. Inspired by stories shared by San Diego's military and Chaldean communities, Naomi Iizuka's new play explores the complexities of sacrifice and the resilience of those who have served.


By Guillermo Calderón

Directed by Jaime Castañeda

Wednesday, February 25 at 7:30pm

Seuss 1 Rehearsal Space

Two couples meet for dinner to take their minds off the war raging around them. An unexpected profession of love, an untimely proposal, and one kiss later, one of the foursome lies dead on the floor. Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón's (Neva) newest play breaks open cultural barriers as a group of western actors interpreting a Syrian play slowly realize the limits of their own understanding, and the suffocating effect of an oppressive, omnipresent regime.

Akeelah and the Bee

In association with Children's Theatre Company

Adapted by Cheryl West

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright

Based on the film written and directed by Doug Atchison

Saturday, February 28 at 3:00pm

Seuss 1 Rehearsal Space

Recommended for ages 11 and up

Akeelah Anderson is a precocious eleven-year-old girl from inner-city Chicago with a gift for words. Unbeknownst to her mother, Akeelah enters various spelling contests, for which she is tutored by the forthright Dr. Larabee and by the proud residents of her neighborhood. When Akeelah advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, her neighborhood unites to witness the courage and inspiration of one amazing little girl. Akeelah and the Bee was commissioned and developed by Children's Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN (Peter C. Brosius, Artistic Director; Tim Jennings, Managing Director).

Tickets for the DNA New Work Series go on sale to subscribers on January 21 and to the general public on January 26. Tickets are $15 for the How to Be a Rock Critic workshop and free for the six readings (reservations required); all seats are general admission. For more information, call (858) 550-1010 or visit

The DNA New Work Series is part of a long list of play development initiatives at the Playhouse, such as its ongoing commissioning program and the Page To Stage Play Development Program. Since 1982, the Playhouse has commissioned 40 new plays, musicals, adaptations and POP Tours from a broad range of playwrights, including Lee Blessing, Tony Kushner, José Rivera and Diana Son, as well as the 2012 musical Hands on a Hardbody, book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green and music by Trey Anastasio and Green. Other artists currently under commission include Mark Bennett, Keith Bunin, José Cruz González, Kirsten Greenidge, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Joe Iconis, Naomi Iizuka, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Jon Kern, Erin McKeown, Mona Mansour, Gregory S. Moss, Alfred Uhry and Charlayne Woodard.

The inaugural DNA Series in 2013 featured a concert reading of Chasing the Song, by Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics), creators of the Tony Award-winning musical Memphis. That presentation led to the work's next developmental step as a Page To Stage musical in the 2014/2015 season. Additionally, the DNA Series reading of Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar's The Who & The What led to a full production in the 2013/2014 season. Playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer's The Boy at the Edge of Everything also enjoyed an exciting reading during the inaugural DNA Series, and Kruckemeyer was then commissioned by the Playhouse to write the 2014 Performance Outreach Program (POP) Tour production, Suzette Who Set to Sea. Most recently, Michael Benjamin Washington's Blueprints to Freedom was workshopped during the 2014 DNA New Work Series and will have its world premiere as a full production this fall during the Playhouse's 2015/16 season.

All projects in the DNA New Work Series take place with little or no scenic, costume or staging elements, and actors may have scripts in hand. The various creative teams will be available for interviews for feature coverage; however, in order to preserve the developmental nature of the program, DNA Series presentations are not open to review.

The nationally-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is known for its tradition of creating the most exciting and adventurous new work in regional theatre. The Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and is considered one of the most well-respected not-for-profit theatres in the country. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, earning 35 Tony Awards, including the currently running hit Jersey Boys, as well as Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Memphis, Bonnie & Clyde, Peter and the Starcatcher, Chaplin, Hands on a Hardbody and Side Show. Located on the UC San Diego campus, La Jolla Playhouse is made up of three primary performance spaces: the Mandell Weiss Theatre, the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre and the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for La Jolla Playhouse, a state-of-the-art theatre complex which features the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre. La Jolla Playhouse is led by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg.

Related Articles View More San Diego Stories

More Hot Stories For You