New Works by Robert Askins, Jon Robin Baitz & More Set for 2016 Ojai Playwrights Conference

The Ojai Playwrights Conference (OPC), one of the most acclaimed new play developmental programs in the country, announces its 19th season with an exceptional program of playwrights, new play workshops and special

performance events from August 7 through 14, 2016 in Ojai, California.

The OPC Summer New Works Festival will feature eleven events over five days with established and up-and-coming playwrights. Participating in this year's conference with new works are Robert Askins, Jon Robin Baitz, Aziza Barnes, Bekah Brunstetter, David Jacobi, Kudzai Sevenzo, Kristina Wong and Martin Zimmerman. Nick Gandiello will be this year's "Writer-In-Residence," and as always, there will be two extraordinary "Intersection Series" events: an inspirational kick-off event, ACROSS THE DIVIDE, exploring in poetry, song and stories the socio-political issues confronting America today; and a reading of a new musical, BLUE HOUSE, about art, relationships, politics, and the tumultuous marriage between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Comments OPC Artistic Director/Producer, Robert Egan, "In our 2016 OPC season entitled 'Across the Divide,' our playwrights are reaching out, building bridges of human connection across the divisions that polarize us in this extraordinary election cycle. Each is exploring the boundaries and examining the deeper divisions caused by racism, patriarchy, born-again theology, sexual identity, political demagoguery, gun violence, reality tv culture, and civil rights. They will charge into these issues in an effort to create a community of understanding in a troubled world."

Seating is limited for the OPC Summer New Works Festival, and tickets ($30) may be purchased online



Sunday, August 7

Intersections #1:


Featuring 2016 OPC Playwrights

5:00 PM, Zalk Theater, 703 El Paseo Rd., Ojai

Thursday, August 11

Intersections #2:


Music and Lyrics by Perla Batalla and David Batteau

Play by Oliver Mayer

7:00 PM, Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Rd., Ojai

Friday, August 12

New Play Workshop #1


Written by Martin Zimmerman

7:00 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

New Play Workshop #2


A Collaboration with Almasi Arts Alliance: Danai Gurira, Executive Director

Written and performed by Kristina Wong

9:00 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

Saturday, August 13


Directed by Kim Maxwell

10:00 am - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

New Play Workshop #3


Written by Aziza Barnes

1:00 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

New Play Workshop #4


Written by Bekah Brunstetter

4:00 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

New Play Workshop #5


Written by Jon Robin Baitz

7:30 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

Sunday, August 14

New Play Workshop #6


Written by David Jacobi

12:00 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

New Play Workshop #7


Written and performed by Kudzai Sevenzo

3:00 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai

New Play Workshop #8


Written and performed by Robert Askins

6:30 pm - Zalk Theater at Besant Hill, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd., Ojai


OUR FATHER by Robert Askins

What do we do when we come together? When we make church? What happens when you mistake yourself for Jesus? There will be singing. There will be food. There will stories about people who hear voices. Some are saved. Some burn. A new solo performance piece by Robert Askins.

BIO: Cypress, Texas born Robert Askins is the author of the Tony-nominated and Obie Award-winning Broadway hit,Hand to God, which is currently running on London's West End where it has been nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. His comedy Fish Display was part of the 2012 Ojai Playwrights Conference, and his playPermission, also developed at OPC, had its world premiere off-Broadway at MCC Theater in spring 2015. Rob is the recipient of two EST/Sloan grants, the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award, and an Arch and Bruce Davis Award for Playwriting.

VICUNA by Jon Robin Baitz

A tailor of fine men's suits and his apprentice find themselves increasingly discomfited by a client's unimaginable rise from blustering real-estate tycoon and risible reality TV star to candidate for the White House. As the election season culminates, the candidate returns again and again to his tailor's intimate Manhattan atelier for final fittings on a special, impressive suit. The tailor and his apprentice are forced to examine their roles as confidant and image-maker to an increasingly dangerous and possibly megalomaniacal contender.

BIO: Jon Robin Baitz has developed several plays at the Ojai Playwrights Conference including Other Desert Citiesand The Paris Letter. His other plays include The Film Society (world premier directed by Robert Egan), The Substance of Fire, Three Hotels, and A Fair Country, which, along with Other Desert Cites, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of Drama Desk and Drama Critics Circle Awards, as well as a Tony nominee. He created the long-running ABC hit series Brothers & Sisters, and wrote and produced The Slap, for NBC in 2015.

BLKS by Aziza Barnes

On a June afternoon, in gentrifying Brooklyn, 20-some-odd year old & blk Octavia wakes up to find a mole on her clitoris. When her partner Ry refuses to examine it, Octavia kicks her out and decides to have a last turn up with her roommates and best homies, June and Imani, a last night on the town before Octavia's clit gets hit with a young scalpel. It will be like the very last days of Rome . . . A new play from an exciting young poet, playwright and activist.

BIO: Born in Los Angeles, Aziza Barnes is blk & alive and currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi. Published by Button Poetry, her first chapbook, me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun, won the inaugural Exploding Pinecone Prize. Aziza's first full length collection i be but i ain't, won the 2015 Pamet River Prize and is published by YesYes Books.

CAKE by Bekah Brunstetter

Della makes cakes, not judgment calls -- those she leaves to her husband, Tim. But when the girl she helped raise comes back home to North Carolina to get married, and the fiancé is actually another fiancée, Della's life gets turned upside down. She can't really make a cake for such a wedding, can she? For the first time in her life, Della has to think for herself.

BIO: Bekah hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her plays include Going to a Place Where you Already Are (South Coast Rep), Be a Good Little Widow (Ars Nova, Collaboraction, The Old Globe), Oohrah! (The Atlantic Theater, Steppenwolf Garage, the Finborough Theater/London), and House of Home (Williamstown Theater Festival). An alumna of the CTG Writers Group, Primary Stages Writers Group, Ars Nova Play Group, The Playwright's Realm, and the Women's Project Lab, Bekah has a BA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the New School for Drama.


In the aftermath of a hate crime, Junior High pariah Goon befriends one of the victims, Carly, the only black girl in school. While the town plans a rally "to destroy racism forever," a youthful romance blossoms and the two must navigate the pitfalls of falling in love while dealing with the town's prying eyes, especially those of Wikipedia Jones, the crime-solving son of the Chief of Police. Passive-aggressive antics, bad parental advice, and ill-formed gestures of kindness create a "White Guilt Perfect Storm" that threatens to make the course of true love a rocky road indeed.

BIO: David Jacobi's work has been developed at Portland Center Stage's JAW Festival, The Cutting Ball Theater's RISK IS THIS festival, Great Plains Theatre Conference, WordBRIDGE, Kennedy Center MFA Playwright's Workshop, and PlayPenn. In March of 2016, Sideshow Theatre presented the world premiere of David's play, Mai Dang Lao at the Victory Gardens in Chicago. He is a winner of the Holland New Voices Award and the Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences Award. He has a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Purchase College and an MFA from UC San Diego.

UNDER THE RUBBLE by Kudzai Sevenzo

A Collaboration with Almasi Arts Alliance: Danai Gurira, Executive Director

In a country torn apart by the conflicting pressures of [tribal?] tradition, a crumbling economy, and a populist wave of charismatic Christianity, everybody insists they alone know what a "good African woman" should be - that is, everybody but Sarudzai. Her name - "sarudzai" - means "choose," but who will she choose to be in this patriarchal society? When she finds the courage to speak out against the injustices she sees around her, she discovers her true voice and identity.

BIO: Zimbabwean actor, singer and songwriter Kudzai Sevenzo's career was launched by on the singing reality show,Project Fame, and she went on to release two solo albums, tour Southern Africa and Europe, and work extensively with Danai Gurira's Almasi Collaborative Arts Alliance as a student, actor and director. Kudzai's debut film performance earned her three pan-African nominations -- The Nigerian Entertainment Award (NEA), African Movie Academy Award (AMAA), and Zambian Shungu Namutitiwa Award for Best Actress, the last of which she won. An activist through theater and music, she speaks out on pertinent issues that affect her as an African and as a woman.


Obsessing on reality tv stars and people who are online train-wrecks, culture jammer/performer Kristina Wong asks: What is the point of performance art when reality is doing so much better of a job TRUMPing any sort of artfully manufactured spectacle? Wong will explore the orbits of Rodney King, Tila Tequila and Flavor Flav while combusting reality tv elements with effed-up real stories from her memoir-in-progress. Audience as therapist couch. Brushes with reality. Stepping on land mines while catfishing 'truth'. . .

BIO: Recently featured in The New York Times' "Off Color" series "highlighting artists of color who use humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today," performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong is the creatrix of five solo shows and one ensemble play that have toured throughout the United States and UK. Her shows works include The Wong Street Journal and her exploration of depression among Asian American women, Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She's been a commentator for American Public Media's Marketplace, PBS, Jezebel, xoJane, Playgirl Magazine, and The Huffington Post.

ON THE EXHALE by Martin Zimmerman

After her child is killed in a school shooting, a woman who has never even held a gun becomes enthralled with the experience of firing an assault rifle like the one that took her young son's life. Hours at the firing range become a way of coping with loss and communing with her dead son until the act of firing the weapon becomes a pleasure in itself -- and then, perhaps, a tool for revenge. On the Exhale offers a complex examination of our relationship to guns as we follow one woman down a rabbit hole of grief.

BIO: Martín Zimmerman is an award-winning multi-ethnic bilingual playwright whose plays include, Seven Spots On the Sun, White Tie Ball, and The Solid Sand Below. Martín's work has been produced or developed at theatres across the country, among them, the Kennedy Center, the Goodman Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, LCT3, New York Theatre Workshop, and PlayPenn. His honors include the Terrence McNally New Play Award, Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award Citation, and Humanitas Prize New Voices Award.



An inspirational, kick-off event celebrating OPC 2016's playwrights and their artistic visions of our present social-political climate. Experience the poetry, the song and the stories of some of OPC and America's most accomplished writers, performers and poets as they explore the challenges, pressures, tensions and hopes as they reach across the great divide in contemporary America. A rare and memorable opportunity to see these exceptional artists all on stage in Ojai in the same evening imagining our way forward across political polarities, racial divides, cultural tensions and economic disparity. Featuring 2016 OPC artists Robert Askins, Jon Robin Baitz, Aziza Barnes, Perla Batalla, David Batteau, Bekah Brunstetter, Nick Gandiello, David Jacobi, Oliver Mayer, Kudzai Sevenzo, Alice Tuan, Kristina Wong and Martin Zimmerman.


Music and Lyrics by Perla Batalla and David Batteau
Play by Oliver Mayer

How does a great artist say goodbye? In a house world-famous for its life, Frida Kahlo must make peace with her impending death and take stock of her tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera, her politics and her unrivaled sense of self in art. She hopes to gain a glimpse of what remains and a way forward. A powerful and passionate musical exploration of art, love and politics in the lives of two great artists.

BIOS: Critically acclaim for her unique voice and culture-merging compositions, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Perla Batalla has recorded seven albums, been featured in films and television, and taken her unique sound on tour in some of the most prestigious venues around the world. David Batteau is a master songwriter whose influence has been felt throughout the music industry and the world. He has written songs with and for many of the world's foremost entertainers, including Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Jeffrey Osborne, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow and Perla Batalla. Oliver Mayer is an Associate Professor with tenure at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, and the author of nearly 30 plays, including his newest The Sinner from Toledo, adapted from a short story by Chekhov. Other recent plays include Members Only, the sequel to his ground-breaking play Blade to the Heat; andBlood Match, inspired by the play Bodas de Sangre by Federico Garcia Lorca.


Nick Gandiello

Nick Gandiello has developed two plays at Ojai Playwrights Conference: The Blameless, which will have a world premiere at The Old Globe San Diego in 2017, and Sunrise Highway, which won Marin Theatre Company's 2016 Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Award. His other plays include Oceanside (Merrimack Repertory Theatre) and The Wedge Horse (Fault Line Theatre). Nick was the 2015 Page 73 Productions Playwriting Fellow. He is an alumnus of the Ars Nova Play Group. His work has been developed or presented by Manhattan Theatre Club, Keen Company, Samuel French's Off Off Broadway Festival, Capital Stage, Premiere Stages, and Wide Eyed Productions, among others. Nick was the Literary Manager of Young Playwrights Inc. from 2012-2015, and was the Associate Artistic Director of Writopia Lab's 2016 Worldwide Plays Festival. As a Teaching Artist, he has worked with Naked Angels and the New School for Drama. Nick will use his residency to serve as the Associate Director of the OPC Youth Workshop.


Every summer, theatre professionals and enthusiastic audiences from Southern California converge in Ojai Valley to participate in the development of new plays for the American theatre. Under the direction of Artistic Director/Producer Robert Egan, carefully selected playwrights from all over the world join together for an intensive two-week, in-residence workshop program that culminates in OPC's popular public workshop series - known as the "OPC Summer New Works Festival."

In addition to the presentation of new play workshops, prominent artists from the theatre community appear in engaging public forums for an exchange of ideas on a range of cultural and artistic subjects in the "Intersections Series." The Ojai Playwrights Conference is also committed to nurturing the writing talents of Southern California youth. Through the OPC Youth Workshop program, high school students participate in a mentoring program with visiting theatre professionals and create their own dramatic works, which are performed during the Festival.

Many of the plays developed at OPC have received high praise and recognition including Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prize nominations, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Steinberg/ATCA New Play Awards, Obie Awards and Helen Hayes Awards. Additionally, plays developed at OPC have gone on to prominent productions at theatres throughout the United States and around the world, from the Mark Taper Forum, The Public Theater, Goodman Theatre, Seattle Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Broadway, and London's West End to theaters in Asia and Africa.

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