Doin’ it for the Culture: The Playwright as Cultural Worker & (Post-) Apocalyptic Anthropologist with Erika Dickerson-Despenza

640 433 Play Penn

What do we do while standing at the edge of ongoing apocalypses? We make new futures possible by writing the world(s) to come.

In this workshop, participants use anthropological frameworks, exercise principles of cultural work and examine an array of speculative literary and visual texts in order to generate speculative dramatic scenes that will culminate in an original, interdisciplinary short work. Participants will also develop a community-centered initiative that would lead, accompany and/or follow the performance. By practicing the future together, participants will be empowered to “respect their rage and their power” as liberation workers in the collective struggle for justice.

Online: October 30, November 7, November 14, November 21: 7p – 9p E.S.T. / 5p – 7p P.S.T.

Online via Zoom.

Enrolled students will be contacted prior to the first session with required reading and preliminary assignments.

Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a Blk feminist poet-playwright, cultural worker, educator and grassroots organizer from Chicago, Illinois. She’s the recipient of the 2019 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting/Fellowship at New Dramatists and was a 2018 Relentless Award Semifinalist. Erika is a National Arts & Culture Delegate for the U.S. Water Alliance’s One Water Summit 2019. She’s the 2019-2020 Tow Playwright-in-Residence at the Public Theater, a 2019 Writers’ Gathering Jerusalem Writer-in-Residence, a 2019 New York Stage and Film Fellow-in-Residence, a 2019 New Harmony Project Writer-in-Residence, a 2018-2019 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow and was The Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellow. Erika is a 2019-2020 member of Ars Nova Play Group and a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Obie-winning Youngblood collective. Her work has been developed at The Lark, Vineyard Arts Project, New York Stage and Film, Public Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, Fault Line Theatre and Jackalope Theatre. Current plays in development include: ocean’s lip/ heavn’s shore, took/tied, hung/split, shadow/land, and cullud wattah (2019 Kilroys List; Public Theater, 2020). In addition to this water tetralogy, Erika is developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, including [hieroglyph] (2019 Kilroys List), focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned man-made disaster.



Register Here

Click the link below to visit our Reservation Page, where you can view all classes and register for this course. For questions or to inquire about payment plans, please email

When you register for a PlayPenn class before September 20, 2019 you’ll be invited to submit your unproduced, full-length play for consideration for a professional staged reading. PlayPenn will produce one student’s play as a reading with a professional director, professional actors and a PlayPenn dramaturg in Philadelphia in early 2020. Only plays that have not had a professional production or reading will be considered. PlayPenn will cover the cost of the reading, but the student is responsible for their own housing and transportation. If you register for a class by the deadline, additional details will be emailed to you along with a submission form.

If you like expanding theatre’s depth and breadth, you’ll love PlayPenn.

-Tasha Maria T., 2019 Student

“If you are thinking about taking a class from PlayPenn, do it.”

-Stacey, 2018 Student