Ashland New Plays Festival is excited to announce the winners of the 2022 Fall Festival!
Chapters of a Floating Life
The Breakfast at the Bookstore
The Hunt for Benedetto Montone
Remains and Returns
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.
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
Watch this space or join our mailing list to see further details about the winning playwrights and the 2022 Fall Festival.
Save the date:
This year's Fall Festival will be held October 18—23, 2022.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 experienced when coming out in the not-so-distant past. I felt an emotional whiplash as a culture that had been hostile to gay people now expressed 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.”
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.”
The Host Playwright
Beth Kander is a playwright and novelist with roots in the small-town Midwest and the Deep South. Playwriting honors include the Henry Award for Best New Play or Musical; Headwaters New Play Award; Equity Library Theatre Showcase; Ashland New Plays Festival; Eudora Welty New Play Awards; and the Charles M. Getchell New Play Award, among others.
In addition to playwriting, Beth is an acclaimed author. Her dystopian trilogy Original Syn won a Foreword INDIES Award, her ghost story 13 Jericho Lane was a Pitch Wars selection, and she has at least two new books coming out in the next two years. The granddaughter of immigrants, she is interested in the intersection of new ideas and identities with old stories, secrets, and legends. She holds an MSW from the University of Michigan and an MFA from Mississippi University for Women.
Beth is represented by Allison Hellegers at Stimola Literary Studio. She lives in Chicago with her favorite characters—her quirky little family.
It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about how amazing an experience ANPF is. I’m tempted to start with the moment I arrived in Ashland, but the months leading up to ANPF - the preparations and the conversations with Kyle and Jackie
are almost as exciting – as you see how much time, thought and care go into the festival.
Once you’re in Ashland, the ride really begins as you’re welcomed into a large and supportive ANPF community already familiar with your play, and wanting to talk to you about it. I chose to do a lot of work on my play during the week, and was met
with an incredible amount of support and encouragement from a top notch director and cast who all gave 24/7 - really allowing me to take the play where I wanted it to go. The week is, of course, topped off by the readings and the talkbacks, led by a
terrific host playwright – who is all about helping the playwrights get as much feedback as they need. Oh, and it’s also pretty cool getting coffee and drinks all week with three other playwrights whose work you find so inspiring.
I can’t say enough about ANPF. If there is such a thing as playwright heaven, this is
The Night Climber, ANPF 2019
Omission, ANPF 2012
ANPF was a wonderful experience. Setting aside for a moment the honor of being chosen as a winner, the entire artistic and support staff of the festival was top notch from notification through our week together in beautiful Ashland, Oregon. New plays need ears to hear them, and the ANPF audience—made up of passionate readers, committed board members, industry professionals and a host of savvy theatre goers—were enthusiastic, insightful, and supportive listeners. It's not every day as a playwright you encounter such an energized and smart group of people who have dedicated themselves to giving new works the best possible debut. Their contribution to my own work and the work we all do in keeping theatre vital and relevant cannot be overstated.
Starter Pistol, ANPF 2019
Being an Ashland New Play Festival winning writer was surreal in the best possible way. Writers are used to working solo, suffering alone through the agonies of the creative process. But being a part of ANPF meant that I suddenly was surrounded by a team – all brilliant, all subsuming their considerable talents to our common task: helping me make the play better today than it was yesterday. And far from feeling like I was a cog in a large machine that manufactured readings, I felt like the entire process of ANFP was designed to curate itself to my needs and the needs of my play. It was an altogether too rare, completely charming experience. And one the kind of communal joy that I hope every writer, typing alone in a quiet room, gets to experience one day.
Pocket Universe, ANPF 2021
My friends in the theater at ANPF generously supported the development of Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family from rehearsals to the virtual stage. Theirs is a singular kind of advocacy any playwright would be blessed to experience. Thank you for thinking of me and my work.
Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family, ANPF 2021
I had a blast as an Ashland New Play Festival playwright. The care and consideration put into the festival was consistently clear — this is a group of people who truly put the play (and playwright!) first, and are committed to crafting an environment where artistry can thrive. I couldn’t have been happier with my creative team, or with the communicative, accommodating, administrative staff. ANPF is a special organization doing incredible work, and I cannot speak highly enough of its process of new play development.
What Happened While Hero Was Dead, ANPF 2021
What a gift what a gift what a gift! Ashland New Play Festival is a true oasis for playwrights, and an experience to cherish. From first contact, I felt taken care of, respected, and encouraged to do my best work. My fellow playwrights were inspirational, kind, and generous with their insights and feedback. The artistic team assembled to work on my play could not have been bettered.
But the real prize of the festival was the community. The depth and breadth of their engagement with the process from beginning to end was truly astonishing – to have a talkback with a hundred people who have read your play MULTIPLE TIMES!!!!!!!! What?!!?!?!?!?! If my punctuation is a little hysterical, so be it. The people of the Ashland New Play Festival – all of them – every one – deserve all the exclamation points I can throw at them. It was an honor to be in their presence.
What We Were, ANPF 2017
The experience was rejuvenating, artistically satisfying and fun. The actors, directors and collaborating artists are top shelf. I had twelve hours of rehearsal to dig into the play and try to figure out what I had written! The community that has built up around the festival is extraordinary. I have rarely come across a theater-going community as passionate and engaged as the members, audiences and volunteer readers of Ashland. This was particularly meaningful to me, as this play had been sent out to numerous festivals and conferences in the past three years, with no luck. That a volunteer panel of readers picked it blind means a great deal to me.
Pelicans, ANPF 2019
I enjoyed getting to see Ashland for the first time, meeting some lovely actors and directors from all over the country and feeling the love and support of the whole community at both of my readings. I left the week with my spirits bolstered and with warm feelings about the vibrant Ashland theater community. I also must mention the beautiful and bountiful gift bags we received upon arrival! Thank you to everyone who makes this week possible and hope to see you all again soon!
Go. Please. Go., ANPF 2017
My time in Ashland was meaningful and productive, as well as a ton of fun! It was great to be in the room with such generous theater artists, who all worked hard to bring my play to gorgeous life. A huge part of what made the week so worthwhile was connecting with my fellow playwrights and spending time with my director talking about process and our respective experiences. I felt thoroughly supported through the entire week and am so grateful for the many resources I was given. I hope I can return one day!
Sofonisba, ANPF 2017
New plays need ears to hear them, and the ANPF audience–made up of passionate readers, committed board members, industry professionals and a host of savvy theatre goers–were enthusiastic, insightful, and supportive listeners.
It's not every day as a playwright you encounter such an energized and smart group of people who have dedicated themselves to giving new works the best possible debut. Their contribution to my own work and the work we all do in keeping theatre vital and relevant cannot be overstated.
Starter Pistol, ANPF 2019