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Top International Theaters Announce Commissions for 2014 Kenyon Playwrights Conference

October 25, 2013

The 2014 Kenyon Playwrights Conference of the Kenyon Institute will welcome an international roster of partner companies for its June 8-14 workshop, featuring three rising-star playwrights under commission.

The Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City, the Bush Theatre in London, and Center Stage in Baltimore will join forces for this intensive week of playwriting on the Kenyon College campus in Gambier, Ohio, and will commission actor and playwright Halley Feiffer (Manhattan Theatre Club), award-winning writer and performer Michaela Coel (Bush Theatre), and novelist and playwright James Magruder (Center Stage).

The innovative workshop format allows the three participating theatre companies to commission a playwright who will then develop a new script while in residence at Kenyon. Literary managers from each company will accompany the playwrights and will lead workshop sessions with the adult writers enrolled at the conference.  The conference concludes with readings of the commissioned plays, performed by invited professional actors.

“Our participants tell us that our workshop offers a first-class experience in playwriting,” said Wendy MacLeod, workshop artistic director, James Michael Playwright-in-Residence, and Kenyon Professor of Drama. “The intensive seminar classes, led by top literary managers and experienced playwriting instructors, have proven to be transformative for adult playwrights looking to develop their scripts and generate new work.  At the same time, they have the unique opportunity to work with some of the most exciting voices in British and American theater who are developing new plays.”

Manhattan Theatre Club has been at the forefront of American theater since its inception 36 years ago, garnering 19 Tony Awards and six Pulitzer Prizes for the new work that has been presented on its stages, including Aint Misbehavin’, Eastern Standard, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Proof, The Tale of The Allergist’s Wife, Doubt, Time Stands Still, Ruined, Good People, Rabbit Hole, The Whipping Man, Murder Ballad,and Choir Boy.

Playwright and actor Halley Feiffer, playwright-in-residence at the Stella Adler Studio and resident writer for the Blue Man Group, has been commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club.  Her new play, How To Make Friends and Then Kill Them, will premiere at the Rattlestick Theater in New York this fall.  Her work has also been seen at the Cherry Lane Theatre, Second Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, the New Group, the Orchard Project, Naked Angels, Cape Cod Theatre Project, and the LAByrinth Theater Company. Feiffer co-wrote and appeared in the film He's Way More Famous Than You. Clifford Lee Johnson III, who directed musical theatre development for Manhattan Theatre Club for more than a decade, will represent the theater on the workshop teaching staff.

The Bush Theatre is one of London’s most exciting and adventurous venues for new work, particularly that of immigrant and multicultural voices in the United Kingdom and beyond.  Standing on a distinguished record of supporting writers and their vision since 1972, the Bush is widely acclaimed as the seedbed for the best new playwrights, many of whom have gone on to become established names, including Catherine Johnson, Conor McPherson, Richard Cameron, Tracey Letts, Simon Bent, and Tony Kushner. The productions have garnered more than 100 awards internationally.

Bush Theatre has commissioned Michaela Coel, a multi-talented writer, actor, poet, and singer whose work has been seen at the National Theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre, and the Royal Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-on-Avon with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Coel was recently recognized with the Alfred Fagon Award for her new play, Chewing Gum Dreams, which is now being made into a Retort TV television production.  Associate Dramaturg Rob Drummer will represent the Bush as an instructor for the workshop.

Center Stage of Baltimore joins the Kenyon Institute partnership under the new leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, who is the artistic director. He has channeled the State Theatre of Maryland’s signature focus on civic and community engagement in My America, a remarkable portfolio of 100 short-form works by American playwrights.  From this project, Center Stage selected veteran playwright, author, translator James Magruder to develop his submission, Joan and Bootsie, into a full-length play for future production. Magruder is widely known for his adaptations of 18th and 19th century French plays by Marivaux, Moliere, Lesage, among others, which have appeared at Arena Stage, American Conservatory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and Yale Repertory Theatre. He takes a step into the American idiom with the Center Stage commission.  Gavin Witt, associate artistic director/director of dramaturgy at Center Stage, will represent Center Stage on the workshop teaching staff.

Registration for the 2014 Kenyon Playwrights Conference begins on November 1, and space is limited.  To register, please visit

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