The Playwrights

Clarence Coo

Chapters of a Floating Life

Lisa Langford

The Breakfast at the Bookstore

Victor Lesniewski

The Hunt for Benedetto Montone

Novid Parsi

Remains and Returns

Jonathan Spector

Best Available

It's the Second World War and two couples from China are trying to make ends meet in New York City. Their worlds, once separated by class and education, converge when the two women find each other and fall under the spell of the Chinese language.

It’s 1973. Dot wants to be an activist and support the Black liberation movement by opening a revolutionary bookstore. Sharpe, Dot’s common-law husband and a former Black nationalist, wants anything but. And Spacemen. Yep.

Amid the German occupation of Italy during World War II, Pietro struggles to provide for his family while caught between Fascist law and Catholic morality. A play about our susceptibility to government-sponsored fear and hatred.

In 2018, as an Iranian-American family talks about nothing and everything, the two middle-aged brothers confront their elderly parents about impending realities. In 1988, the parents confront their teen sons about adulthood and their hopes for their children's futures.

We're not going to talk about the sudden departure of our previous Artistic Director, because we want to focus on the future, not the past. The one thing we're all on the same page about it is: We Need Change. Change that builds on the remarkable legacy of our institution.

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The Festival Week runs October 18 through 23.

View the full schedule and make your ticket selections today:

Learn more about the plays, playwrights, and Festival information
on our Fall Festival page.

Get a Festival Pass and see all the plays! You can select all your shows in one fell swoop and get some savings: five shows for $100.

We greatly look forward to welcoming the playwrights to Ashland this October 18 through 23 for a week of play readings, development, and community gatherings in Ashland at the Main Stage Theatre of Southern Oregon University's Oregon Center for the Arts.

These five playwrights were selected as part of ANPF’s unique, long-standing reading process that brings together theatre lovers from Southern Oregon and beyond for a months-long process where hundreds of plays are read—without authorship being revealed—and discussed, moving forward toward the finalists. About 2% of the total plays submitted are given to the artistic director with authorship revealed. From there the final winners are selected by the artistic director with discussion and collaboration among our three associate artists.

This year’s Festival Week is celebratory in more ways than usual. In addition to our excitement with the selection of the winning plays and the unveiling of their authors, we are also feeling immense gratitude for the return to in-person performances after two and a half years of Zoom theatre and virtual workshops. We are also in the midst of our 30th anniversary season, a milestone year of supporting new works for the stage.

 

We also heartily congratulate this year’s finalists!

 

Nightbird by R. Eric Thomas

AGATHE by Angela J. Davis

I Would Dance Naked in This Rain by Drew Katzman

Per Aspera by Quan Barry

Stoop Pigeons by Christin Eve Cato

In the Cervix of Others by Alice Eve Cohen

 

Continue scrolling to see further details about the winning playwrights and the 2022 Fall Festival.

Covid Precautions

Masks are required in the lobby and theatre. At the door, please also be prepared to show either proof of vaccination + booster
OR a negative COVID-19 test (PCR test taken within 72 hours or negative rapid antigen test taken within 6 hours). Photocopies or digital photos are fine.

We are a small organization and the health and safety of our artists and patrons are of the utmost importance.

Notes

BOX OFFICE: The box office opens one hour before showtime. The house opens for seating approximately 30 minutes before showtime.

PARKING: Free parking is available in the SOU lot. Signage will be posted.

SEATING: Seating is general. ANPF Members at the Benefactors level and above receive reserved seating. For patrons needing wheelchair assistance, email boxoffice@ashlandnewplays.org.

RUNTIMES: Each play's runtime will be shared on the individual playbill pages midway through the new play development process the Festival Week.

The Workshop

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Ashland New Plays Festival 2020 writing across the distance workshop

Playing with Words

Grab your pen and paper and join us for the annual ANPF writers' workshop!

Led by our Host Playwright Beth Kander and this year’s winning playwrights, this writing-intensive workshop features insights, in-class writing time, and a few tips and tricks from the playwrights, helping you take the next steps in your own writing journey!

All writers are welcome, whether you usually write plays, poetry, non-fiction, or fiction; are a seasoned writer or are just starting out. There’s room for everyone at our writers’ table.

The workshop is free for ANPF members and students or $10 for non-members. For those who need access to lower pricing, email boxoffice@ashlandnewplays.org.

Click below to register.

When: Saturday, October 22, 10 am to 12 pm
Where: Catalyst Ashland, 357 E. Main Street
Note: Masks are required + Vaccinated/Boosted OR Negative Covid Test (see details on registration page)

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The Plays

Chapters of a Floating Life by Clarence Coo Ashland New Plays Festival
Chapters of a Floating Life

It's the Second World War and two couples from China are trying to make ends meet in New York City. One husband and wife live uptown, obsessed with a past of poetry, painting, and gardens. The other two face the day-to-day reality of keeping a Chinatown restaurant in business. Their worlds, once separated by class and education, converge when the two women find each other in Central Park and fall under the spell of the Chinese language.

From Clarence: “When I lived in Beijing, I came upon a translation of a book written in the early 19th century called Six Chapters of a Floating Life. This collection of autobiographical essays was written by a government official who was obsessed with poetry and gardening, and who lost his wife after she fell in love with a woman.

The English translation was created by another Chinese scholar, one who lived in the 20th century and who himself had an interesting life—he had tried (and failed) to design a mass-producible Chinese typewriter after he moved to the US. The stories of these two literary men fascinated me and I ended up with this play, which is a strange combination of their two lives.

It's a look at a Chinese culture that people outside of China might not be familiar with: one that is sensual, romantic, and endlessly inventive.”

Clarence Coo
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The Breakfast at the Bookstore

 

It’s 1973, five years after the 1968 Glenville Uprising, started by a shootout between police and Black nationalists. Dot wants to be an activist and support the Black liberation movement by opening a revolutionary bookstore. Sharpe, Dot’s common-law husband and a former Black nationalist, wants anything but. And Spacemen. Yep.

From Lisa: “This play was inspired by a history podcast, Backstory. There was an episode of the show, hosted by University of Virginia professors, that explored UFOs in American history. In one segment, Stephen C. Finley, professor of Africana Studies and Religion at Louisiana State University, discussed African American close encounters and how they differ from White close encounters. White stories of alien contact tend to follow a narrative of being kidnapped, terrified, and exploited—a narrative that sounds a lot like the experience of being colonized. Black close encounter narratives tend to be positive and revelatory, with added elements of Africanist spirituality and the idea of a greater justice than earthly justice.

I was fascinated by Professor Finley’s observations and thought it would be an interesting way of interrogating race theatrically. I was also reading James Robenalt’s book, Ballets and Bullets, which chronicled Carl Stokes’ bid to become the first Black mayor of a major city and how Cleveland Black nationalists affected his term in office. The Glenville Riot/Uprising negatively affected Stokes’ political capital with White Clevelanders. The riot was started by a shootout between the police and a Black nationalist bookstore owner who believed he had seen a UFO and was amassing weapons for a race war. I like the idea of setting the piece in 1973 because that was a liminal time between the progress of the 60s and the failures of the 70s, not unlike today, when we look back at the time between the buoyant hope of 2008 and the despair of 2020.

I love history. It was my major in college. I’m terrible at remembering dates and battles, but I’ve always been interested in cultural history—the way normal people live their lives while History is going on around them. By focusing on what characters want or who they love, I feel like I learn more about the historical significance of an event than if I’d just read a synopsis of an event. Writing plays about history is my way of making sense of things.”

Lisa Langford
A wooden backgammon board marked brown and red, with wooden game pieces.
The Hunt for Benedetto Montone

Amid the German occupation of Italy during World War II, Pietro struggles to provide for his family while caught between Fascist law and Catholic morality. A play about our susceptibility to government-sponsored fear and hatred.

From Victor: “As a playwright, I am interested in telling stories that address large societal issues. I write plays where the world is much bigger than the characters of the play. This is not to say that nuance of character development is lost, but that I am more attracted to plays where the characters are forced to deal with their positions in the world and their relationships with other people in that world, as opposed to solely dealing with smaller interpersonal relationships. Even when tackling a play set in the past (or future), my goal is always to be reflecting on the present. I want our conversations as a theatre community to help enlighten our current socio-political moment and spur further discussion beyond the walls of the theatre itself.”

Victor Lesniewski
Remains and Returns by Novid Parsi Ashland New Plays Festival
Remains and Returns

In 2018, as an Iranian-American family talks about nothing and everything at once, the two middle-aged brothers—one who has remained near their childhood home, the other who returns—confront their elderly immigrant parents about the impending realities of old age. Thirty years earlier, in 1988, the parents confront their teen sons about the impending realities of adulthood and their own hopes for their children’s futures—until the family dynamic takes a sudden shift. Returning to 2018, Remains and Returns considers how we deny our familial, societal, and political pasts, and how our pasts endure.

From Novid: “I was inspired to write Remains and Returns as I noticed our culture’s collective amnesia around the intense trauma and violence that gay Americans have experienced when coming out. I felt an emotional whiplash seeing a culture that had been hostile to gay people now expressing support of sexual and gender difference—even if an ambivalent support. This indicated progress, of course, but also our penchant for denying our history. Americans are adept at this, and so are families.

In Remains and Returns, we come to see how one Iranian-American family elides its own traumatic past. And we come to see how the past persists, even in silence. The play explores how we do and don’t speak about who we are and what we’ve lived.”

Novid Parsi
Best Available by Jonathan Spector Ashland New Plays Festival
Best Available

We're not going to talk about the sudden departure of our previous Artistic Director, because we want to focus on the future, not the past. The one thing we're all on the same page about it is: We Need Change. Change that builds on the remarkable legacy of our institution.

It's just like the Ancient Blessing, May You Live In Interesting Times.

From Jonathan: “A few years ago, a mid-size theater in my region was searching for a new artistic director. They invited me and a few other local artists to be in the room as the final candidates came through and made their pitches. It was a profoundly strange experience, but also a wildly theatrical one.

Having a hunch there might be a play in there, I then spent several months interviewing artistic directors from around the country about their hiring and transition experiences. I also spoke to some board members and managing directors who have been on the other side of the table. I was not surprised to hear how disrespectfully people felt they were treated in these processes but I was still sometimes shocked by the details.

I was mid-way through a first draft when the pandemic hit, and I abandoned the play. I simply didn’t have the heart to continue writing a play critical of institutional theater while there was no theater. Then last summer, I was reading yet another story of an awful leader being forced out of a troubled organization and found myself being drawn back in. More than anything, I felt a need to honor all the stories and experiences people had shared with me during the interviews. I still have no idea what the regular audience will make of the play, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to begin to share it with the public.”

Jonathan Spector

The Directors

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang

Chapters of a Floating Life

Donya K. Washington

Donya K. Washington

The Breakfast at the Bookstore

Minita Gandhi

Minita Gandhi

The Hunt for Benedetto Montone

Jackie Apodaca ANPF artistic director

Jackie Apodaca

Remains and Returns

Marissa Wolf

Marissa Wolf

Best Available

The Host Playwright

Beth Kander

Beth Kander is an award-winning author and playwright with tangled roots in the Midwest and Deep South. The granddaughter of immigrants, she loves exploring how worlds old and new intertwine—or collide. Beth earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mississippi University for Women.

Playwriting honors include the T. Jefferson Carey Memorial Playwriting Award (2022); Henry Award for Best New Play or Musical (2019-2020); Headwaters New Play Award (2018); Equity Library Theatre-Chicago Award (2017); Ashland New Plays Festival (2015, 2016); Eudora Welty New Play Awards (2008, 2010, 2012); and the Charles M. Getchell New Play Award (2012), among others.

Current projects include a commissioned play for Creede Repertory Theatre, a children's picture-and-recipes book called DO NOT EAT THIS BOOK (Sleeping Bear Press, 2023), and a dark and twisty novel.

A proud parent-artist, her favorite characters are her two brave, hilarious kids, and she cheers for parent-artists everywhere.

Beth is represented by Allison Hellegers at Stimola Literary Studio.

The Actors

Joe Ngo

Joe Ngo

Shen

Barbie Wu

Barbie Wu

Yun

Jessica Ko

Jessica Ko

Elsie

James Ryen Play4Keeps

James Ryen

Tom

Thilini Dissanayake

Thilini Dissanayake

Stage directions

Cyndii Johnson

Cyndii Johnson

Dot

Steven Anthony Jones

Steven Anthony Jones

Sharpe

Preston Butler III

Preston Butler III

Haywood

Caroline Shaffer

Caroline Shaffer

Fran

Tim Turner

Tim Turner

Stage directions

Michael J. Hume

Michael J. Hume

Pietro Bonatti

Eileen DeSandre

Eileen DeSandre

Grazia Bonatti

Nathaniel C. Walker

Nathaniel C. Walker

Nevio Bonatti

U. Jonathan Toppo

U. Jonathan Toppo

Marco Sala

Walker Allison Headshot 1web

Allison Walker

Lucia Sala

Wyatt Fisher

Wyatt Fisher

Stage directions

Adrianne Cury

Adrianne Cury

Zarah

Alan Clark

Alan Clark

Ramin

Amin El Gamal By David Gabe Photography

Amin El Gamal

Ash

Wiley Naman Strasser

Wiley Naman Strasser

Ben

Alexandra Szabo

Alexandra Szabo

Stage directions and TV Voices

Linda Alper

Linda Alper

Helen

Dee Maaske As Dolores

Dee Maaske

Dolores

Magdalena del Castillo

Magdalena del Castillo

Carolina/Itzel/Veronica

Rebby Yuer Foster

Rebby Yuer Foster

Bex/Brad/Claudia

Aleeyah Enriquez

Aleeyah Enriquez

Ariana/Jacqueline/Simone

Rafael Untalan

Rafael Untalan

Dan/Bill

Barrett O Brien

Barret O’Brien

Dave/Gary/The Romanian

Nicole Villavicencio Gonzalez Ashland New Plays Festival stains Sarah Cho

Nicole Villavicencio Gonzalez

Stage directions

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Testimonials

Thank You to Our Grantors

City Of Ashland
Oregon Cultural Trust
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Miller Foundation
The Carpenter Foundation