40th Anniversary Bay Area Playwrights Festival Announced

Playwrights Foundation, one of the West Coast's premiere launchpads for exceptional emerging playwrights, is thrilled to announce the lineup for the 40th Anniversary Bay Area Playwrights Festival (BAPF), featuring playwrights Hilary Bettis, Clarence Coo, Bennett Fisher, Lauren Gunderson, Nilan Johnson, and Mona Mansour. The 40th Anniversary Bay Area Playwrights Festival runs July 13 - 23, 2017 at Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter Street in the heart of San Francisco's Theater District. In addition to twelve staged readings, the Festival will offer a Theater Professionals weekend 7/21-23, special events and an anniversary celebration 7/13. Tickets on sale June 1st at bayareaplaywrightsfestival.org.

This 40th anniversary BAPF incubates and showcases six newly written, unfinished works by an extraordinary group of culturally diverse rising American Playwrights who were selected from nearly 500 submissions. Four of these selected playwrights are relatively unknown, and two, (Mansour and Gunderson) although still young, with established track records of talent. The plays span topics as wide as violence against women, immigration and legality, and asylum and sanctuary, terrorism, white people, black people, and and the future, and span the genres of musical theater, futuristic dystopia, dark comedy, horrific tragedy and fast-paced thriller, they share the intimate form of live theater to weave their worlds and engage the imagination.

The 40th Anniversary BAPF includes: Magic City by Hilary Bettis, an explosive elixir of power, class, and immigration status in a Spanish infused adaptation of Strindberg's Miss Julie; Clarence Coo's The Birds of

Empathy, in which a socially awkward gay man learns to take flight; Bennett Fisher's Damascus, a high-stakes, road-rage thriller that delves full-force into the misguided politics of terrorism; The Fatales by Lauren Gunderson, an epic feminist pop crusade for a knowing justice, via musical defiance; Nilan Johnson's Endangered Species, an afro-surrealist futuristic legend in which blackness ceases to exist; and We Swim, We Talk, We Go To War by Mona Mansour, in which an Arab-American woman and her nephew dip into treacherous waters, presented in partnership with Golden Thread Productions.

Since The Bay Area Playwrights Festival's founding 40 years ago over 500 prize winning, nationally significant playwrights got their first professional experiences at the BAPF. Some examples include Pulitzer Prize winners Nilo Cruz and Annie Baker, MacArthur Award winners Anna Deveare Smith and Sam Hunter, recent Glickman award winners Peter Nachtrieb, Liz Duffy Adams, Aaron Loeb, Chris Chen, Lauren Yee, and Marcus Gardley, as well as the early development of works by David Henry Hwang, Paula Vogel, Claire Chafee, Anne Washburn, as well as Katori Hall and Rajiv Joseph prior to their Broadway debuts, as well as many others. The BAPF's ongoing success in discovering and supporting exceptional, newly emerging writers, and launching their ground-breaking new work is its enduring legacy.

"Equal parts acts of defiance, acts of sanctuary, and acts of love, we welcome these powerful and relevant new plays to our 40th Anniversary Season." remarks Playwrights Foundation Artistic Director Amy Mueller. "These six cogent writers could not be more unique and exceptional in the poetic, ferocious ways they cut through the noise to the true heart of our current lives. They are brave, often searing, funny, heart-stopping, and passionate expressions of the cross-currents of race, culture and conflict we experience in America today."

While each of these works are singular in genre, story and topic, they are connected by their explorations into how relationships are shaped by the political landscape that surrounds them: an Aunt and her Nephew deal with war, a female pop group find commonality in violence, a driver and his ride are irrevocably chained by terrorism, an asylum seeker and her citizen boyfriend are hewn apart by class, a young girl and her parents awake to a dystopian future.


Magic City by Hilary Bettis: An explosive elixir of power, class, and immigration status, when shaken hard with love and betrayal, creates a cocktail that threatens to destroy lives. A Spanish language infused, contemporary adaptation of Strindberg's Miss Julie set in Miami during a night of debauchery.

The Birds of Empathy by Clarence Coo: Nathan is obsessed with the secret lives of birds. So when the ex-boyfriend announces his marriage; and mom moves off to Costa Rica; and anonymous hook-ups fail to satisfy; and the creepy childhood neighbor suddenly decides to travel cross-country to see him, Nathan turns to John James Audubon and his brilliantly illustrated Birds of America for insight on how to take flight himself. An evolving portrait of a socially awkward gay man finding his way to connect.

Damascus by Bennett Fisher: It's not easy to make ends meet in the airporter van business, especially as a Muslim immigrant from Somalia. So when a strandEd White kid bribes Hassan far off-route, deep into the Midwestern winter, he figures the risk is worth it. Until it isn't. A high-stakes, road-rage thriller that delves full-force into the misguided politics of terrorism.

The Fatales by Lauren Gunderson: An epic feminist pop crusade for a knowing justice, via musical defiance. It's feisty, ridiculous, girly, and loud. It's a bedazzlEd Morality play, with music, that evokes and upends fantasies of women by shedding the performance of 5 pop music divas, to reveal the true, and truly brutal, reality of why they are singing for you tonight.

Endangered Species by Nilan Johnson: In a futuristic dystopian America only whiteness prevails; all signs and signals of otherness are banished. But when eight year-old Little Emma accidentally witnesses Mother Williams's real hair, she awakens to the realization that underneath their wigs her family is Black, and she is called to The Heart of Darkness to save them. An afro-surrealist futuristic legend.

We Swim, We Talk, We Go To War by Mona Mansour: While trying to navigate the currents of the Pacific, an Arab-American woman and her nephew dip into the treacherous waters of identity, family and allegiance. We Swim is an experimental piece meant to engage with audience perceptions and experiences. Presented in association with Golden Thread Productions.


HILARY BETTIS writes plays, TV and movies. Her work includes: Dolly Arkansas, Blood & Dust, The Ghosts of Lote Bravo, The History of American Pornography, Alligator, Dakota Atoll, Mexico and American Girls. She is a 2015 graduate of The Juilliard School. She has received numerous fellowships and residencies at the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. Hilary is currently Story Editor on FX's Emmy-nominated show The Americans. She is developing a project at The Weinstein Company with Alyssa Milano producing.

Clarence Coo (PF alumni) is a recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award and the 2012 Yale Drama Series Prize. His plays include Birds of Empathy, Beautiful Province (Belle Province), People Sitting in Darkness, and The God of Wine. His work has been developed at the Atlantic Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop; Belle Province was developed at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2013.

BENNETT FISHER is currently a SHank Fellowship playwright in residence at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. His selected plays include Damascus (Samuel Goldwyn Award, O'Neill Finalist) Borealis (Kendeda Prize Finalist), Campo Maldito (Theater Bay Area Award nominee - Best Visiting Production), Don't Be Evil, Candlestick, and the immersive pieces They Tell Me You Are Wicked and The Speakeasy. His work has been performed nationally and internationally. He is a company member of Campo Santo, People of Interest, and Cutting Ball Theatre.

Lauren Gunderson (PF alumni) was named the most produced living playwright in America of 2016, and is a recent recipient of the Mellon Foundation's 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company. She studied at Emory University, and NYU's Tisch School. Her plays include I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, Toil And Trouble, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet, and Emilie. Her work has been produced and developed nationally including OSF, South Coast Rep, Kennedy Center, O'Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, and more. Her play, The Revolutionists was developed at the 2015 Bay Area Playwrights festival, and went on to full productions nationwide.

Nilan Johnson is a performer, creator, and teaching artist. Plays include: And Then I Woke...(Downtown Art); Endangered Species (2016 Drama League First Stage Residency; workshop, The New American Theatre Co. NY; reading, Red Fern Theatre); Joan (reading, Oppressed in Heels); The Shadow In The Corner (48 Hours in Harlem); Our Precedent (2015 semi-finalist, National Playwright Conference); and Old School (24 Hour Pridefest). He holds an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Mona Mansour'S plays include Unseen (Gift Theater in Chicago 2017). The Way West (Labyrinth Theater, 2016), The Hour Of Feeling (Humana Festival, directed by MarK Wing-Davey), Urge For Going (Public Theater) and a West Coast premiere at San Francisco's Golden Thread. The Vagrant was commissioned by The Public Theater and was workshopped at the 2013 Sundance Theater Institute. Mona was a member of The Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group and a Core Writer at Minneapolis' Playwrights' Center. She is the current winner of the Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award; this play was commissioned by Middle East America: a National New Plays Initiative, created by Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco), the Lark (New York City) and Silk Road Rising (Chicago).


The BAPF is the oldest and most successful new play festival for new works in their developmental stages in the US, celebrating 40 years of excellence this year. Established in 1976 by RoBert Woodruff, the festival has continuously discovered original and distinctive new voices in the theater, invested in the development of their work, and launched their careers. Among the first crop of writers at the inaugural BAPF was the young Sam Shepard - little did Woodruff know at that time how Shepard's work would shape the landscape of American theatre.


Founded in 1976, Playwrights Foundation is today widely recognized as one of the top new play incubators in the U.S., dedicated to the creative development and career acceleration of contemporary playwrights. We serve emerging and mid-career playwrights, primarily from the San Francisco Bay Area, but not exclusively. We seek to identify exceptional writers and give them space, time and professional artistic collaborators to explore new theatrical ideas, allowing them to experiment and take risks with structure, form and/or content in an environment that is free from the pressures of the marketplace. Playwrights we have worked with have won every award in the theater including the Pulitzer, the Obie, the National Critics Circle Award, and many more.

Photos and Information at bayareaplaywrightsfestival.org

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