PlayLabs at the Playwrights Center


There are many summertime play development conferences: Sundance, the New Harmony Conference, the Ojai Conference, Pacific Playwrights Conference, and (the granddaddy of them all) the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.

But PlayLabs is unique.  It’s the only new play conference to take place in autumn.  It’s gratifyingly intensive: only 3 plays are presented.  Playwrights write and rewrite and rewrite some more.  As is always the case with these programs, the plays are presented script-in-hand.  But that doesn’t matter; they feature the finest actors, directors and dramaturgs.  PlayLabs provides a grand evening of theater.  And certainly the price is right (it’s free).

PlayLabs has been central to plays such as Alison Moore’s Slasher (the Humana Festival, many others), Mat Smart’s Tinkers To Evers To Chance (soon to premiere at Geva), Dan O’Brien’s Body Of An American (PEN Award For Drama, Portland Center Stage).  My own Standing On My Knees (Wisdom Bridge, Manhattan Theatre Club, many others) began at PlayLabs.

VIPs visit from around the U.S.: Christian Parker (Atlantic Theatre Co.), John Baker (Williamstown Theatre), Geoffrey Scott (Victory Gardens), to name a few.

Finally, note that there’s a party after the last play on Saturday Oct 26.  It’s for the theater community.  That’s you.  Meet some writers, actors, producers.  Rub some shoulders.

Here’s this year’s slate of plays:


ANGEL FAT by Trista Baldwin

October 21 @ 7 p.m. | October 25 @ 8 p.m.

As the wife of a hedge fund executive struggles with her fertility, her husband is asked to find a surrogate for his powerful employers. Awakening latent desires, the young woman selected to be the surrogate disrupts the balance of power as her body swells with the would-be heir. What, ultimately, is being bought—and sold?

Here’s a selection from Trista’s play:

The poor kid was born out of the body of some impoverished Indian mother of ten in the middle of an earthquake, to Japanese parents who had just divorced and decided they did want the thing anymore, and here is this Japanese girl coming out of the body of this Indian woman, the world literally cracking under her feet, and not only does this girl not have parents she doesn’t even have a country.

SCAPEGOAT by Christina Ham

October 22 @ 7 p.m.  |  October 26 @ 4 p.m.

Scapegoat  feautures two acts nearly 100 years apart.

Act One: It’s the Red Summer of 1919 on the eve of one of the bloodiest racial conflicts in United States history—the Elaine, Arkansas Massacre of hundreds of innocent African-Americans. A religious outcast is caught in the crossfire of union organizing and the orgy of bloodletting from the race riots that beat down her door.

Act Two: In-present day Elaine two interracial couples temporarily stranded in the town feel the great divide between black and white as they slowly discover its ugly history.


I pledge my soul for your sins and ask that God Almighty remove those sins from you and place them up on me and I eat this food and drink from this cup to show that I have taken your sins upon me.

If I lie may God strike me dead before I eat from this plate or drink from this cup.



October 23 @ 7 p.m. | October 26 @ 8 p.m.

Dee is the only person ever born at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Shortly after giving birth, Dee’s mother mysteriously disappeared. Now, 24 years later, Dee returns to her birthplace to work as a janitor and seek answers about her mother. In the otherworldly brightness at the bottom of the earth, she encounters a motley crew of characters, spends 60 hours a week scrubbing toilets, is crowned Princess of the Royal Society Ball, and discovers something about what it means to disappear.


From Mat’s play:

They say the first time you come to the Ice, you come for the adventure.

The second time you come because you miss your friends.

Third time is for the money.

Fourth time is because you no longer fit in anywhere else.


Come!  PlayLabs is a hot ticket, but folks on the waitlist are always admitted (so far).  And if you’re interested in new theater, you have to do PlayLabs.


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