New Playwrights Collective The Welders Set to Produce 5 New Plays in 3 Years

By: Jun. 24, 2013
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Five Washington-based playwrights have formed a new playwrights' collective dedicated exclusively to developing and producing new work. The Welders' inaugural members-playwrights Bob Bartlett, Renee Calarco, Allyson Currin, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, and Gwydion Suilebhan and Executive and Creative Director Jojo Ruf-will write, develop, and produce new plays over the course of the next three years. After their three-year term is complete, the five playwrights will give The Welders' entire operations-everything from the logo to the checking account-to a new generation of five playwrights, who will carry The Welders forward for another three years, and so on into the foreseeable future.

"We're committed to building something lasting for the D.C. region," says Suilebhan. "We're creating a stable, institutionally-unaffiliated platform on which artists can tell new stories directly to Washington audiences."

From now until 2016, each current playwright member of The Welders will be given a programming slot and a budget with which to create a work of his or her choosing-a fully-realized production of a play, a collaborative multidisciplinary work, an open and in-depth workshop, a site-specific performance, or anything in between. For the duration of each production slot, the playwright will serve as the company's Artistic Director, while Ruf will provide production and dramaturgical support for each of the playwrights' works.

"We will all share the developmental process," Jennings says. "We'll read each others' drafts and create the kind of artistic relationships that nurture new plays into healthy, constructive, and exciting first productions."

"I think all of us share the same dream," says Calarco, "and that's to make Washington the place to go to see new plays. If we can have a small part in making that happen, we're happy."

The Welders will be primarily based at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, though some works may be presented in alternative spaces.

The company takes its name from "The Welders," a poem by Cherrie Moraga. Find out more information at

Bob Bartlett's plays include Swimming with Whales (formerly Whales), The Accident Bear, Bareback Ink, Falwell, Kansas, Death by Hibachi, Kuchu Uganda, Fallout, Hunter Rising, and xphiles unrequited. His work has been performed or developed at Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, the Lark New Play Development Center, the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, Source Festival, DC's First Draft, Theatre J, Active Cultures, Rorschach Theatre, The Theatre Lab, and the Capital and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. Swimming with Whales was awarded runner-up for both KCACTF's 2011 David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award and Mark Twain Prize for Comic Playwriting. It was a semi-finalist for the 2012 O'Neill Playwrights Conference and a finalist for the 2011 Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition, and it recently received readings in Atlanta (Alliance Theater), NYC (The Lark), Washington, DC (National New Play Network/DC Area Writers Showcase at the Kennedy Center), and NYC's Stellar Productions. The Accident Bear recently received reading by NYC's ID Theatre and kef productions and Kansas is a semi-finalist for the 2013 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. Bob is the most recent addition to the theatre faculty at Bowie State University in Maryland and holds an MFA in Playwriting from Catholic University of America. He is a recipient of a 2012 Individual Artists Award from the Maryland State Arts Council. Bareback Ink gets a run at Baltimore's Iron Crow Theatre Company in May 2014.

Renee Calarco is a playwright, teacher and performer. Her plays include The Religion Thing (2013 nominee for the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play), Short Order Stories (2007 recipient of the Charles MacArthur Award), The Mating of Angela Weiss, Keepers of the Western Door, Bleed, The People of the Book, First Stop: Niagara Falls, and If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. Her 10-minute play Warriors was published by One Act Play Depot in 2010. Her plays have been produced, developed, and commissioned by Theater J, Charter Theater, Geva Theatre, Project Y, Adventure Theatre, Doorway Arts Ensemble, and the Source Theatre Festival. Renee is an artistic associate with First Draft/Charter Theater and program coordinator for The Naked Ladies Lunch. She teaches playwriting and comedy improv at The Theatre Lab, and playwriting at George Washington University. Renee is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and a licensed professional tour guide.

Allyson Currin is the award-winning author of more than twenty plays, including Caesar and Dada (WSC Avant Bard), Benched(Pinky Swear Productions), Hercules in Russia (Doorway Arts Ensemble), Treadwell: Bright and Dark (The American Century Theatre),Unleashed: The Secret Lives Of White House Pets! (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), The Dancing Princesses(Imagination Stage), Love And Whiskey (Equity Members Code Workshop), Church Of The Open Mind and The Subject (Charter Theatre), Learning Curves (Washington Shakespeare Company), and Fur And Other Dangers, Amstel In Tel Aviv and Dancing With Ourselves (Source Theatre Company). She has twice been nominated for the Helen Hayes' Charles D. MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and has served as the Playwright-in-Residence for the "Locally Grown" Initiative at Theatre J and the First Draft Reading Series. Her commissioned work has premiered at the National Museum for Women in the Arts and Strathmore Arts Center.

As an actor, Allyson has appeared at Olney Theatre Center, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Source Theatre Company, Washington Shakespeare Company, Catalyst Theatre, Rep Stage, Everyman Theatre, Theatre J, The American Century Theater, Charter Theatre, and Round House, in addition to her work in television and film. She is chair of The Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival National Playwriting Program (Region 2), and she teaches in the theatre and dance department at The George Washington University. She is a proud member of The Dramatists Guild, SAG/AFTRA, and Actors Equity Association. Allyson is currently working on a new commissioned musical (with Matt Conner) for Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre and a new commissioned work for Cincinnati Playhouse.

Caleen Sinnette Jennings is Professor of Theatre at American University in Washington, DC. She received the Heideman Award from Actor's Theatre of Louisville for her play Classyass, which was produced at the 2002 Humana Festival and has been published in five anthologies. She is a two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee for Outstanding New Play. In 2003 she won the award for Outstanding Teaching of Playwriting from the Play Writing Forum of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education. In 1999 she received a $10,000 grant from the Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays for her play Inns & Outs. Her play Playing Juliet/Casting Othello was produced at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in 1998. In 2012, Ms. Jennings' play Hair, Nails & Dress, was produced by Uprooted Theatre Company of Milwaukee and by the D.C. Black Theatre Festival. Her most recent publication isUncovered, in the 2011 Eric Lane and Nina Shengold anthology Shorter, Faster, Funnier. Dramatic Publishing Company has published:Chem Mystery, Elsewhere in Elsinore: the Unseen Women of Hamlet, Inns & Outs, Playing Juliet/Casting Othello, Sunday Dinner, A Lunch Line, and Same But Different. Ms. Jennings is also an actor and director. She received her BA in drama from Bennington College and her MFA in Acting from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Jojo Ruf is the General Manager of the National New Play Network, an alliance of nonprofit theaters across the US that champions the development, production and continued life of new plays, and the Coordinating Producer for the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. She is a freelance writer for theatreWashington, a Teaching Artist for Ford's Theatre, and has worked with Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Theater J, the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, and Georgetown University as a freelance producer and director.

Jojo graduated from Georgetown University with a dual degree in English and Theater and Performance Studies. In 2010 she assistant directed and co-adapted In Search of Duende: The Ballad of Federico Garcia Lorca as part of the UNESCO/ITI World Festival of Theater Schools in Peru, and represented Georgetown as the lone US delegation among representatives from dozens of the world's leading theater academies. She was the Coordinating Producer for the Tennessee Williams Centennial Festival, presented by Georgetown University and Arena Stage, and served as the Coordinator for Theater J's Spinozium and other Beyond the Stage events for New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza. She also produced Will the Circle be Unbroken: Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, a Georgetown University/Arena Stage Collaboration.

Gwydion Suilebhan is a DC-based playwright and theater blogger. The author of Reals, The Butcher, Hot & Cold, Abstract Nude, The Constellation, Let X, The Faithkiller, Cracked, and The Great Dismal, Gwydion serves as DC's representative for the Dramatists Guild. His work has been commissioned, produced, and developed by theaters in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, DC, Baltimore, and St. Louis, including the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Theater J, Centerstage, Theater Alliance, the National New Play Network, dog & pony DC, Active Cultures, Source Theater Festival, HotCity Theatre, Forum Theatre, Rorschach Theatre, and the Taffety Punk Theatre Company. A 2013 resident playwright of The Theatre Project in New York, Gwydion has received two fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and in 2009 he was a finalist for Outstanding Emerging Artist at the DC Mayor's Arts Awards. In 2012, he joined the Board of Governors for theatreWashingon's Helen Hayes Awards.

Gwydion earned his master's degree in poetry from Johns Hopkins University. He lectures on theater and the arts around the country; his recent engagements include South by Southwest 2013, TEDxWDC, TEDxMichiganAve, and the Ethical Society. In addition, his commentary about theater appears on HowlRound, 2am Theatre, The Dramatist, and Stage Directions, as well as Gwydion's other publications include Inner Harbor: Ten Poems; more than 75 articles on poetry, education, grammar, and cuisine; and the Foreword to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style.