Our Mission & History
PlayPenn is an artist-driven organization dedicated to improving the way in which new plays are developed. Employing an ever-evolving process, PlayPenn creates a relaxed tension within which playwrights can engage in risk-taking, boundary-pushing work free from the pressures of commercial consideration.
As an organization, PlayPenn believes in:
- The artist as the fundamental authority in the creation of new work.
- Fostering artists and their processes by providing as many resources and removing as many obstacles as possible.
- A ferocious commitment to the collaborative process of our work.
- Seeking diversities in voice, theatricality, language, style, class and culture.
- Remaining flexible in our approach to our artistic and administrative processes, always looking for a better way to carry out our work.
- Contributing to the artistic and cultural landscape of Philadelphia, the region, the nation and the world.
- Executing all of our activities with honesty and directness.
Playwright Brian Quirk with Rick DesRochers, Paul Meshejian,
and Michele Volansky
PlayPenn is a 12-year old artist-driven organization dedicated to improving the way in which new plays are developed, inviting playwrights to engage in risk-taking, boundary-pushing work free from the pressures of commercial consideration. The organization's flagship annual new play development Conference and year-round development workshops in cooperation with producing theatres result in staged readings of at least 10 new plays each year for over 1,800 artists, producers, and theatergoers. Additionally, PlayPenn's rapidly expanding educational programs - which include 15-17 in-person and online classes annually with notable instructors, application assistance, personalized dramaturgy services, plus The Foundry, a three-year membership group for emerging playwrights resident in Philadelphia - serve another 230+ playwrights from the region and across the nation. PlayPenn supports artists at all career stages across a broad spectrum of cultural, economic, ethnic, and gender experience. Since 2005, PlayPenn has helped to develop over 100 new plays from infancy to a state closer to production-readiness. Nearly 60% of these plays have gone on to more than 275 professional productions at esteemed institutions in the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere around the world, including the London's National Theatre, National Theatre of Israel, English Theatre Berlin, Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center Theatre, Atlantic Theatre, Second Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, LaJolla Playhouse, Denver Center Theatre, South Coast Repertory, and a host of theatres in the Philadelphia region, in cities across the country and around the world. In 2017, PlayPenn will celebrate the first of its developed plays to hit a Broadway stage - JT Rogers' Oslo at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
Each year, PlayPenn works with over 130 adult artists, including playwrights, directors, dramaturgs, actors, technicians, and interns at its annual Conference and year-round workshops and classes. PlayPenn supports artists at all stages of their careers, and PlayPenn playwrights represent a broad spectrum of cultural, economic, ethnic, and gender experience. In doing so, PlayPenn is working to advance Philadelphia's reputation as a crossroads for theatre artists, at the same time as supporting the development of the theatre artform as a whole.
PlayPenn playwrights and plays have received their share of awards, publication and recognition, including:
- MacArthur Fellowship: Samuel D. Hunter (PlayPenn 2010)
- Whiting Award: James Ijames (PlayPenn 2013, 2015)
- Guggenheim Fellowship: Gabriel Jason Dean (PlayPenn 2013), Jordan Harrison (PlayPenn 2005), JT Rogers (PlayPenn 2005, 2009, 2015)
- Lilly Award for Playwriting: Lucy Thurber (PlayPenn 2005)
- Pew Fellowship: James Ijames (PlayPenn 2013, 2015)
- Sky Cooper Prize for American Playwriting: Samuel D. Hunter (PlayPenn 2010), Martin Zimmerman (PlayPenn 2012)
- American Theatre Critics Association Osborn Award: Jonathan James Norton (PlayPenn 2012)
- Susan Smith Blackburn Prize: Sheila Callaghan (PlayPenn 2005)
- Terrence McNally New Play Award: James Ijames (White, 2015)
- Barrymore Award for Best New Play: R. Eric Thomas (Time is on Our Side, PlayPenn 2015), Michael Hollinger (Ghost-Writer, PlayPenn 2009), Jacqueline Goldfinger (Slip/Shot, PlayPenn 2011)
- Top 10 Plays, New York Times: JT Rogers (Oslo, PlayPenn 2015; Blood and Gifts, PlayPenn 2009)
- Top 10 Plays, Time Magazine: JT Rogers (The Overwhelming, PlayPenn 2005)
Because PlayPenn does not produce plays, the organization and those involved are able to support the impulses of the artists and the developmental process in their purest form. PlayPenn is uniquely qualified to address the challenges that arise in the new play development process thanks to the experience and dedication of its staff and board as well as its vast network of advisors and collaborating artists. PlayPenn has strong ties with the Philadelphia Dramatists Center, the National New Play Network, New Dramatists, the Playwrights Center, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, The Lark, and is a Dramatists Guild of America partner organization. Within Philadelphia, PlayPenn plays an essential role with the Philadelphia New Play Initiative and the company has close and active relationships with artistic leaders at all major theatres and many of Philadelphia's institutions of higher learning.
The staged reading at the end of the conference went spectacularly well...I was aglow for days afterward. The glow wears off, as all glows do (though I clung FIERCELY to this one). However much I miss it, what remains is far more valuable. What remains is my script - tighter, deeper, and more lyrical than ever. - John Yearley, Playwright