Playwrights Foundation to Host 37th Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 7/18–27

Playwrights Foundation to Host 37th Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 7/18–27

The Playwrights Foundation's 37th Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival (BAPF) will take place July 18-27, 2014 at the Thick House Theater in San Francisco.

The BAPF 2014 is one of the oldest and most prestigious new play development festivals in the nation, and each year it introduces a diverse and eclectic cycle of new, developing work by largely unknown contemporary writers, building on nearly four decades of discovering and highlighting playwrights early in their careers, who go on to become among the most important and influential playwrights of our times - such as Nilo Cruz, Marcus Gardley, Samuel Hunter, Annie Baker, Naomi Iizuka and Sam Shepard (1st annual BAPF).

Chosen from over 500 submissions, the 2014 Festival will feature plays by Elizabeth Hersh (SF), Phillip Howze (New Haven), E. Hunter Spreen (SF), T.D. Mitchell (NY) Don Nguyen (NY), and Rob Melrose (SF), with the Trip Hop Band, Z.O.N.K. "Five of the six writers are essentially new to the scene, and while we do not know where they may go from here, it's truly exciting to discover these powerful and talented young writers, and take part in their growth as they take the National stage." remarks Playwrights Foundation's Artistic Director Amy Mueller. The directors for the BAPF 2014 are Margo Hall, Tracy Ward, Jayne Wenger, M. Graham Smith, Marilee Talkington, Elizabeth Williamson, with musical director and composer for Z.O.N.K., Dave L.

This year's plays, though not intentionally chosen for content, revolve around themes of intimacy, violation and redemption, and the impact that violence and war has on family relationships. Contemporary playwrights are driven by genre - and these span a huge range, from post-apocalyptic high comedy and horror, to poetic tragedy, to naturalistic living room dramas, to trip-hop musical. In these the Festival writers explore the impact that global turbulence, war, and economic pressure have on intimate family relationships. Elizabeth Hersh's "Shelter in Place" is an apocalyptic dark family comedy that examines our very rightful fear that private information really isn't private. In Phillip Howze's "abominable" an affordable family vacation turns wild survivalist camp the night before Dad goes to war. E. Hunter Spreen's "Split the Stick" explores the impact of our war in Iraq on the family of a surviving veteran. In T.D. Mitchell's "Queens for a Year" four generations of military women tackle another kind of war, in the way only women of grit can do. Within Don Nguyen's "Sound" a heated struggle over a cochlear implant rocks the family of a deaf man in this theatrical exploration of Deaf cultural identity. And, finally, breaking the trend, a crazy trip-hop musical with the band, Z.O.N.K., Rob Melrose's "Ozma of Oz" is an adaptation of the enchanting novel that followed L. Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz.

All 2014 Bay Area Playwrights Festival performances take place at the Thick House Theater, 1695 18th Street. In addition to staged readings of each play, the BAPF includes playwriting classes, interactive dialogue with playwrights and directors, a Playwrights Panel, and the annual Symposium.

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Bay Area Playwrights Festival was founded by legendary director Robert Woodruff and for more than three decades has identified young playwrights who have gone on to shape the landscape of American theater. Based in San Francisco, BAPF is a program of Playwrights Foundation, now recognized as one of the top tier of new play development centers in the country, the only one of its size and scope on the West Coast. BAPF's focus is on the early development of a play - the playwrights are not competing for a slot on a theater's main stage at PF. We are interested and focused on discovering the next generation of Playwrights, and, secondarily, on new directions for veteran playwrights who are experimenting with a new form (ex: Joan Holden's FSM in 2013), the playwright's voice, their careers, and on providing support for the field. Many of these writers will go on participate in New Play Development at theaters like A.C.T. and Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Cutting Ball Theater. For example, BRT's Ground Floor this year includes Aditi Brennan Kapil (BAPF 13); Joan Holden's FSM (BAPF 13); Jiehae Park (BAPF 13); and Dominic Orlando (BAPF 07, 08). The BAPF artists are among the nation's most exceptional emerging playwrights, the BAPF is about discovery and support for a developing play.

Among the most recent of the hundreds of writers and plays that the BAPF has supported over the last 37 years include: Katori Hall (The Mountaintop BAPF 08'); Marcus Gardley (every tongue confess BAPF 08'); Sheila Callaghan (Lascivious Something, BAPF 06); Rajiv Joseph (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, '05); Sam Hunter ('06);Annie Baker (Body Awareness BAPF 07'). Clarence Coo 's play Beautiful Province, (BAPF 2011) was picked out of a 1000 plays to win 2012 Yale Drama Series Award, in large part, because of the work he did on it at the BAPF, according to the playwright. Lauren Yee (Samsara), which was worked on at BAPF 2012, was selected for the Eugene O'Neil Theater Center's 2013 National Playwrights Conference and premieres at Victory Gardens in 2014; Aaron Loeb's Ideation (BAPF) won the 2014 Glickman Award, and Christopher Chen (The Hundred Flowers Project, BAPF 2012) won the 2013 Glickman Award, among many others.

The BAPF 2014 Plays:

Elizabeth Hersh's "Shelter in Place" - In this dark, surreal comedic take on post apocalypse America, we find ourselves in the aftermath of a massive and mysterious cyber-terrorist attack - where suddenly the darkest corners of every citizen's online activity are visible. Deep within the confusion and chaos, a suburban family faces an apocalypse of its own: intimacy - even as a hostile parade of outsiders fills their home with blood. Shelter in Place is the darkly surreal exploration of one family's struggle to survive in a post-privacy world.

Phillip Howze's "abominable" - Memory, poetics and myth collide in this tragicomic story of a family, patched together through need and hope, who embark on an affordable vacation in the days before the father must depart to war. What starts as a good-natured, intellectual adventure turns into a survivalist ordeal where each family member must navigate the cruelties of the present-past in order to learn what to cherish and what to condemn. As the countdown to deployment tests their loyalties and allegiances, who and what will get pitched into the void?

E. Hunter Spreen's "Split the Stick" is a layered and complex play that excavates the landscape of war by exposing the unintended consequences that lands squarely on the back of an individual - as the family of a surviving American veteran descends into chaos upon his return. The first in a cycle of plays that trace America's projection of power across the planet, Split the Stick weaves together the inception of modern day Iraq by the British, and its subsequent invasion by the US, pointing us towards a future where history, memory, and individual identity are eroded.

In D. Mitchell's "Queens for a Year" Molly, a young Marine Corps officer, brings home a low-ranking female Enlisted to her family of multi-generational female veterans. What at first appears to be a post-deployment vacation is revealed as a desperate escape from violence and bureaucracy in the Corps. Complicated by family history, Molly and Amanda's story plays out against the Caenus/Caenaus myth, questioning the wisdom and morality of placing young women into traditionally misogynistic warrior culture.

In Don Nguyen "Sound" In the idyllic setting of Martha's Vineyard, a fiercely protective deaf man and his hearing ex-wife battle over the morality of an impending cochlear implant surgery for their daughter, which will restore her hearing. The conflict is exacerbated by the girl's torn desires - caught between her parents' deep-seated betrayals. Woven between the scenes a parallel story emerges, where we discover Alexander Bell, 130 years earlier, whose obsession to find a cure for deafness in the same location leaves loss and betrayal of another kind. SOUND is a deeply theatrical exploration into the worlds of both hearing and deaf cultures to reveal the complex relationship the Deaf world has with the hearing.

Rob Melrose's "Ozma of Oz" is a trip-hop musical, in creative partnership with Z.O.N.K., adapted from the original book by L. Frank Baum. It chronicles Dorothy's return to Oz and is a kind of sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorthy and a talking chicken Billinia are the sole survivors of a shipwreck and find themselves in the fairy kingdom of Ev. Ev is separated from Oz by a dangerous, impassable desert. In order to rejoin her old friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion in Oz, Dorothy must gather a new group of friends in Ev in order to defeat the Nome King of Ev. If you thought a Tin Man and a Talking Scarecrow was strange, wait until you meet a Princess with 31 interchangeable heads, a talking Sawhorse, the world's first robot, a hungry tiger and the beautiful and powerful Ozma of Oz!


Elizabeth Hersh is a playwright, designer and educator living and working in San Francsico. She has taught creative writing to incarcerated students in San Quentin State Prison and ensemble-generated theater at Stanford University. Recent design works include: sound design for The Bluest Eye and Dead Man's Cell Phone, and lighting and video design for Thin Fire in Stanford's TAPS department. She is a co-founder and active artist-partner of Performance Design Acronym (PDA) a semi-permeable, collaborative work/design collective disguised as a production company. Recent PDA works include: Alcatraz - Art Behind Bars in collaboration with ReDesigning Theater and The d school at Stanford, and Isle of Noises in collaboration with Trickster Events. Elizabeth holds a BFA in Performance Production from Cornish College of the Arts, and an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

Phillip Howze is an African American playwright and poet whose theatrical works include abominable and retrospective, as well as the two-play diptych all of what you love and none of what you hate and The Pioneering of Lakeisha Jones. He previously worked at the Open Society Foundation's Burma Project/Southeast Asia Initiative where he managed a grants portfolio including projects that intersect culture, education and social justice. Prior to that, he worked at the American Center-U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma where he taught writing and curated cultural programs from 2005 to 2007. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Yale University's School of Drama and is a member of the board of directors of freeDimensional, an international network that provides safe haven and other direct services to cross-disciplinary artists who face political persecution in their countries of origin. He shares his time between New Haven and Brooklyn.

E. Hunter Spreen is a San Francisco Bay Area theater maker. She recently performed The Laurette Taylor Experience, a devised piece about how performance is created in the moment to moment dynamic between actor and audience, as part of FoolsFury's Factory Parts Works In Progress Series. Her other work include Care of Trees, This World Is Not My Home, 611 Supreme, ElectrOphelia, Waltzing the Half-Hula, Savage Gravity, and Into the Blue. Elizabeth is Program Director for National Playwrighting Month (NAPLWRIMO), a web-based event whose goal is to foster community and nurture playwrights of all levels. She founded and was Joint Artistic Director of Paducah Mining Company, an award-winning theater ensemble that produced plays by contemporary American playwrights and devised work that exploredcultural identity through class, race, and gender.

T.D. Mitchell is an award-winning writer based in Brooklyn. A seven time New Dramatists Fellow semi-finalist and a Princess Grace award finalist, T.D. began researching and writing about U.S. military culture in 2003, for her first full-length play, BEYOND THE 17TH PARALLEL (Ojai Playwrights Conference). Her work on the subject led to recruitment for three seasons as a writer and executive story editor on the tv series "Army Wives". A frequent speechwriter for NGOs, Human Rights and philanthropic causes, T.D. also curates, directs and produces live performance and speaker-based projects internationally.

Don Nguyen's full-length plays include RED FLAMBOYANT (Ojai Playwrights Conference, finalist - O'Neill National Playwrights Conference and Bay Area Playwrights Festival), THE MAN FROM SAIGON (NYSAF 2012 Founders Award, Naked Angels AIP workshop), THE COMMENCEMENT OF WILLIAM TAN (finalist - Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2G Jumpstart Commission, NYSAF reading), SOUND (Playwrights Realm Fellowship, Civilians R&D reading) and THREE TO BEAM UP (The Shelterbelt Theatre, Nebraska Arts Grant recipient). Don is a founding member of Mission to (dit)Mars, a Queens based theatre arts collective, a current member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and is a frequent volunteer for the 52nd Street Project.

Rob Melrose is the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Cutting Ball Theater and works nationally as a freelance director. He has directed at The Guthrie Theater (Happy Days,Pen, Julius Caesar - with the Acting Company); The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Troilus and Cressida - in association with the Public Theater), Magic Theatre (An Accident, World Premiere); PlayMakers Rep (Happy Days); California Shakespeare Theater (Villains, Fools, and Lovers); Black Box Theatre (The Creature, World Premiere, BATCC Award for direction), as well as Actors' Collective; The Gamm Theatre; and Crowded Fire, among others. His directing credits at Cutting Ball include Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep (the first time all five of Strindberg's Chamber Plays have been produced together in rep in any language including Swedish), Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night (World Premiere) , Pelleas & Melisande, the Bay Area Premiere of Will Eno's Lady Grey (in ever lower light); The Tempest; The Bald Soprano; Victims of Duty; Bone to Pick and Diadem(World Premiere); Endgame; Krapp's Last Tape; The Taming of the Shrew; Macbeth;Hamletmachine; As You Like It; The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World; Mayakovsky: A Tragedy; My Head Was a Sledgehammer; Roberto Zucco; The Vomit Talk of Ghosts (World Premiere); The Sandalwood Box; Pickling; Ajax for Instance;Helen of Troy (World Premiere); and Drowning Room (World Premiere). Translations include No Exit, Woyzeck, Ubu Roi, Pelléas and Mélisande, The Bald Soprano, The Chairs, Communiqué #10, and Ubu Roi. His translations of Woyzeck, Ubu Roi, and Pelléas & Melisande have been published by EXIT Press. He is a recipient of the NEA / TCG Career Development Program award for directors. He has taught at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, USF, the University of Rhode Island and Marin Academy. He has a B.A. in English and Theater from Princeton University where he graduated magna cum laude and an M.F.A. in directing from the Yale School of Drama.

Z.O.N.K., atrip-hop-rock band is rooted in diverse musical experiences and influences, urban sounds, and San Francisco. The ZONK foursome includes female Singer/Songwriter McFiendish, Producer/Musician/Sound Designer Dave L, Guitarist/Bassist/Harmonica player Uncle Bergie, and Scratch DJ/Mixologist DJ Red5. Sometimes likened to "Beck meets Portishead", ZONK is a modern melding of styles united by a distinctive, sultry voice and thoughtful songwriting.

Bay Area Playwrights Festival - The Play Development Process at BAPF:

The annual BAPF brings together a select group of playwrights and professional directors, dramaturgs, the Bay Area's top actors, and new this year, designers, to engage in an in-depth development process of six new plays over three weeks, including a three-day artists retreat outside the city, and two weeks of rehearsals during which artistic teams support the playwright's dramaturgical investigations. The work leads to two public staged readings of each play, with a week for rehearsal and rewriting in between the readings.

Playwrights Foundation is dedicated to discovering and supporting local and national American playwrights across a broad spectrum of artistic and career positions, in the inception and development of new plays that speak to and from an increasingly diverse society. Founded on a deeply held belief that the relevance and vitality of American theater depends upon a continual infusion of new work, Playwrights Foundation sustains a commitment to the playwright, who we regard as the creative wellspring of theater.

Thick House - Art Space Development Corporation (ArtsDeco) presents contemporary new theater that reflects and engages the San Francisco Bay Area's racially and culturally diverse audience community. We believe that when art is relevant and accessible it can transform the world, so our work rises naturally out of connecting to our local community, to popular culture, and to events of the day. To that end, we operate our venue, the Thick House, as a performing arts/community center ?? presenting world?class professional theater, hosting neighborhood events, collaborating on community projects, and partnering with local businesses.

All 2014 Bay Area Playwrights Festival performances run at Thick House, 1695 18th Street. Performances run over two weekends, July 18-20, 25-27 2014. Tickets go on sale June 2. Tickets are $15 each (multi?use passes start at $60, prices go up on July 8) and will be available via

In addition to readings, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival includes the New Play Institute, a Playwrights Panel, and other special events. Check back for more information about these events.

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