Pocket Universe

By Thomas Brandon    

Directed by Rhonda Kohl

Lead Sponsors:  Drs. Nancy & Bill Grove and Kate & Jim Wolf-Pizor

Livestream reading: Thursday, October 21, at 6 pm PT
On-Demand presentation: October 26–31


Roan surprises his wife, Kelly, with a picnic in the park where they had their first date. When happy disagreements about what counts as a “first date” reveal troubling memory gaps for Kelly, their picnic takes a dark turn. Things start to unravel as she struggles to piece together the puzzle of their past and realizes that Roan is hiding something. Nothing about this picnic is what it seems and the truth may not set either of them free.

Playwright Perspective

It’s a little hard for me to describe what Pocket Universe is about and how it came to be. But not in a “beret-wearing Artist who sighs because the world can’t understand them” kind of way. More of a “the play is essentially a mystery, and I don’t want to spoil anything” kind of way. And even hinting at the deep-rooted fear or the pattern of family trauma that first sparked the idea in my mind is kind of a spoiler.

So, here’s what I can say: Every committed relationship is like its own little universe with its own rules and laws of physics. And grief, too, can feel like a world of its own. A locked room that you may or may not ever emerge from.

Once these thoughts started coalescing, I realized that I wanted to tell this story through a science fiction lens for two reasons:

First, there’s not enough sci-fi in theatre. There. I said it.

Second, one of the things I love most about science fiction is that it gives us the permission to ask big questions in a way that eases our defenses down. It doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be speaking to our grounded, normal human lives. But I once heard someone (I wish I could remember who) say: “It’s not the job of the science fiction writer not to envision future cars, but to envision future traffic jams.” It’s not about technology or the future—it’s about how those things can act as a dark mirror of what it means to be human, allowing us to glimpse reflections of deep truths in a way that disarms us, exposing us to uncomfortable (sometimes cleansing) emotional experiences.

Sure, the play is a science fiction mystery. But it’s also about us. I really wish I could say more. After you see the show, let’s grab a drink, and then we can talk more freely.


Kelly Amy Kim Waschke*
Roan Moses Villarama*
Stage directions Danya Torp-Pereda

*Appearing through an Agreement between ANPF and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**The Director is a Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.

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Playwright Image

Thomas Brandon lives in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Burbank, California, where he is a writer for stage and screen, having developed television shows with Amazon, CBS Studios, and Warner Brothers TV. For the stage, he recently worked with the Soraya Playhouse on a new concert adaptation of Randy Newman’s Faust. His plays have been a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (winning the Producer’s Encore award) and have received readings at the Actor’s Co-op and as a part of the Skylight/EALLA Fresh Brew series. Currently, he serves as writer and supervising producer for Legacies, airing on The CW. He is honored to be participating in the Ashland New Play Festival for the first time and can’t wait to be impressed by/jealous of his fellow playwrights.

Click here to read our Q&A with Thomas.

Director Image

Rhonda Kohl is excited to be joining Ashland New Plays Festival for the first time! She is a freelance director based in Los Angeles who frequently works in New York and is known for her range and stylized approaches. She has a passion for new works and has helped develop and premiere new plays and musicals at several festivals. Rhonda recently was the theatrical coordinator/choreographer for the CW show Legacies. Prior to that, she directed and choreographed the West Coast premiere of Gina Femia’s For The Love Of (or, the roller derby play) an all-female roller derby “dance-ical” with Theatre of Note, which was remounted at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of Center Theatre Group’s Block Party 2019.

In 2016, she served as the SDCF Traube Directing Fellow on the Broadway debut of In Transit at Circle in the Square with Kathleen Marshall. She worked again with Ms. Marshall on Mamma Mia (Hollywood BowI); a reading of Damn Yankees (The Roundabout Theatre Company); and was Ms. Marshall’s associate on Reprise 2.0’s Sweet Charity, starring Laura Bell Bundy.

She previously directed the LA Times Critic’s Choice production of Mark Brown’s Around the World in 80 Days, as well as the U.S. Premiere of the U.K musical The Bachelor Girls in NYC. She was the movement director/choreographer for the California premiere of Nick Dear’s Frankenstein (A Noise Within) and Karen Zacharias’ Native Gardens (Pasadena Playhouse).

Additionally, she has assisted, and associate directed for theatres such as Geffen Playhouse (Barbecue and Long Day’s Journey into Night starring Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek) and Pasadena Playhouse (Ragtime, Native Gardens, King Charles III, Pirates of Penzance, and Tiny Beautiful Things) working with artists such as David Lee, Mark Esposito, Jason Alexander, Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Colman Domingo and others.

She is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; an alumnus of Directors Lab West and is represented by KMR.

Torp Danya Headshot 1 Web
Danya Torp-Pereda
Villarama Moses
Moses Villarama
Amy Kim Waschke
Amy Kim Waschke

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