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Imagine combing through 500 diverse submissions of new works to choose selections to perform during the third annual 21ST CENTURY VOICES: NEW PLAY FESTIVAL at American Stage. Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte and a committee of 40 members read and evaluated each new play and selected five outstanding plays for staged readings on January 3-6, 2019.

"Theatre is a truly collaborative art form. It is an honor for American Stage to provide our 21st Century playwrights with access to the actors, directors and audiences who will help shape their stories for future artists and audiences to experience in the years to come," said Stephanie.

Featured playwrights include Alyson Mead, J.Stephen Brantley, Gina Stevensen, and Crystal V. Rhodes. These staged readings give audiences the opportunity to provide feedback and contribute to the plays' development through talk-backs following each reading.

New to American Stages' 2018-19 season is a playwright-in-residence. Selected playwright Natalie Symons will close the festival with the staged reading of her play THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS. She has been developing this play in collaboration with American Stage leadership and artists, beginning with a series of private readings with professional actors over the course of the season. Her award-winning plays have been developed and produced in theatres around the country, including ACT Theatre, Aurora Theatre, American Stage, freeFall Theatre, Theater Schmeater, New American Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Bridge Street Theatre, Theatre22, Amas Musical Theatre, New Century Theatre, and Urbanite Theatre.

"I'm thrilled to have an 'artistic home' for the 2018/19 season, LIFE. OUT LOUD. where, with the support of the entire American Stage community, I will have the opportunity to develop my new play," said Natalie. "It's through these collaborative efforts that never-before-produced work transitions from the page to the stage and ultimately finds its legs."

Colleen Cherry, Community Outreach Coordinator said that the festival is putting American Stage on the map as an incubator for new works.

"It's a thrilling process to go from receiving submissions from playwrights all over the world, reading and discussing the plays with our committee, and watching the plays come to life at the festival. Often times, this is the first instance playwrights get to hear their work aloud with professional actors," said Colleen. "It's a special experience for our local artists and audiences to get to be a part of the early stages of a play's development. Every full production of a play you see, whether on our own mainstage or Broadway, has to start somewhere and American Stage is a great place for new works to begin and grow."


THE COLONY by Gina Stevensen, premiering January 3 at 8pm

In 1924 Virginia, a dirt-poor young woman named Carrie Buck is brought to a mysterious medical facility. No one will tell her why she's here, or where her two-month-old daughter is. All she knows is that her mother lives here - the mother who abandoned her when she was a child. The Doctor in charge is a charming progressive, a student of the new science of heredity and genes. In Carrie, he finds the missing link his entire movement has been searching for, placing her at the center of an unbelievable chain of events that will lead all the way to the Supreme Court. Based on true events, THE COLONY asks the question: how does our society, past and present, determine the value of its female bodies?

SHRUTI GUPTA CAN TOTALLY DEAL by J.Stephen Brantley, premiering January 4 at 8pm

Shruti Gupta is a Dreamer, a DACA recipient in her senior year of medical school at CUNY. She lives very efficiently in the apartment above her uncle's jewelry store on 74th Street in Jackson Heights, and leaves the drama to her brother Raj, the soon-to-be-married prince of the family. But when Irish actor Liam appears in Shruti's patient communications simulation exam, a cross-cultural romance threatens to upend all her practical plans. As their unlikely relationship blossoms in the late summer of 2017, they find themselves having to navigate cultural traditions, DACA tweets and ICE raids, newly unfettered racism, and what it means to be 'American'.

THE FLORA AND FAUNA by Alyson Mead, premiering January 5 at 2pm

Ginnie and Adele's friendship was forged under a dark secret. But 28 years later, an inescapable event puts them both in jeopardy again. Can they help each other move on from loss before it's too late?

THE DIARY OF ANNIE MAE FRANKLIN by Crystal V. Rhodes, premiering January 5 at 8pm

The Franklin family lives in the small town of Jerome, Arkansas, during World War II where the United States government has imprisoned Japanese Americans in "Relocation Camps". Some of the black residents in Jerome helped build the camp, but the people imprisoned there are completely foreign to them. Yet, the racial injustice that has put them there is all too familiar.

When fourteen-year-old Adam Sato escapes from the "camp" he encounters a twelve-year-old black girl named Annie Mae Franklin. Without her family's knowledge, she hides him. When Adam is discovered the family faces a dilemma. Should they hide him and face treason charges or turn him in and be complicit with his immoral imprisonment? While the debate rages, tragedy strikes. Annie Mae's fifteen-year-old sister, Maggie, kills a white man who tried to rape her. He is the son of the town's most prominent resident, and the best friend of Otis Franklin, Annie Mae's father. The death spells disaster for the Franklin household. With their backs against the wall, the family's solution is escape, as its members-and their unexpected guest-become forced migrants and head North.

THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS by Natalie Symons, Playwright-in-Residence, premiering January 6 at 2pm

Set in a hoarder's nest in the Black Rock neighborhood of Buffalo NY, Miles, an aging funeral home custodian with a taste for whiskey and a taste for laughter, lives with his daughter Mabel, a middle-aged agoraphobic who spends her days writing letters to prison inmates. When a court-appointed guardian threatens to take away their home, their rights, and their stolen poodle, Miles takes action and sets out to find a 'good guy' for Mabel. Enter Todd, an inept mortician who lives with his mother and pet hamster Stanley Kowalski. It is a father's fierce determination not to accept his daughter's fate that ignites an endearing human comedy about love, loss, loneliness, and the healing power of laughter.

21ST CENTURY VOICES: NEW PLAY FESTIVAL will be Jan 3-6 at American Stage, 163 3rd St, St. Pete. Ticets are $10 per reading, 40$ all-access pass or $30 for American Stage subscribers and Act 1 Club Members. For more information and tickets, visit

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From This Author Deborah Bostock-Kelley