PlayPenn, the play development workshop that has helped put Philly on the map in the theater world, has announced the six plays and playwrights chosen for its New Play Development Conference, July 9-28.

This year’s PlayPenn selectees, chosen from more than 700 applicants from around the country, are:

  • Archipelago by Amy E. Witting of New York
  • Cave Canem by A. Emmanuel Leadon of Dallas.
  • Incendiary by West Philly’s own Dave Harris.
  • Strange Men by Washington-based Will Snider.
  • The Piper by New Yorker Kate Hamill, one of the top 10 most-produced playwrights in the United States.
  • Wayfinding by Whitney Rowland of Minneapolis.

The conference and free staged readings of the selected plays are among the highlights of the Philadelphia theater year, and the plays tend to fare well after PlayPenn. Of the 140 that have passed through the program since it began in 2005, about 60 percent have gone on to be produced.

The jewel in the crown was Oslo, the PlayPenn-developed J.T. Rogers play that won the Obie, Tony, Drama Desk, and New York Drama Critics’ Circle awards for best play in 2017, among many other honors.

The six playwrights selected for the summer 2019 PlayPenn New Play Development Conference (Clockwise from upper left:) Amy Witting, A. Emmanuel Leadon, Will Snider, Wendy Rowland, Kate Hamill, and Dave Harris.
Courtesy of PlayPenn
The six playwrights selected for the summer 2019 PlayPenn New Play Development Conference (Clockwise from upper left:) Amy Witting, A. Emmanuel Leadon, Will Snider, Wendy Rowland, Kate Hamill, and Dave Harris.

As in years past, the selected playwrights come from a range of backgrounds and different career stages. New this year is the Haas Fellows program, a result of significant support from the Philly-based Wyncote Foundation. For the first time, all the selected playwrights are Haas Fellows.

“PlayPenn has always been a dream (seriously — I’m still pinching myself!),” Rowland said. “I’m hoping to take advantage of the schedule and do some intense rewriting of this play, guided by the feedback from my collaborators.”

PlayPenn has “a storied history,” said Snider, adding that he can’t wait to get in the room at PlayPenn and begin. “And I’m eager to share Strange Men with the PlayPenn audience. I learn so much watching an audience watch my plays.”

All selectees will spend July working on their creations with a director, a dramaturge, and a full cast. The conference includes two free public readings of each of the six chosen works (dates to be announced.).

Two other plays-in-progress will also get readings: Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned, by Philly playwright Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters; and Buffalo Bill, or How to Be a Good Man, by PlayPenn veteran Meghan Kennedy.