L to R Alex Trow, Laurel Casillo. Copyright 2016 Rob Strong
Every January, Northern Stage presents New Works Now, a showcase for the development of new plays. The Northern Stage artistic and administrative staffs work together throughout the summer and fall to curate a festival that features both nationally renowned and locally relevant talent. New Works Now includes plays and musicals alike, and all projects speak in some way to our audiences in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Stay tuned for more information on New Works Now 5.0.
World Premiere Plays at Northern Stage
In 2013, the leadership team of Northern Stage made a commitment to the development of new work for the American theater. To create is to be alive, to be vibrant, and a laboratory environment for Northern Stage would serve to enrich the theater experiences of our audiences and artists. The development of new work in regional theaters is considered a risky proposition. Companies often stay away from new work because of the unpredictability of sales, lack of title recognition, and inability to predict audience response to a piece that has not been vetted. However, Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne recognized that theaters who create work in addition to producing a broad spectrum of already-produced theater make a more profound difference in the power of theater to change lives. Northern Stage, as the major LORT regional theater in the states of Vermont and New Hampshire, is now committed to ushering in new work with the involvement of our audiences who are hungry for daring and impactful theater. New Works Now, our festival held each January, has served as a guiding light for our company and has helped rebrand Northern Stage as a bold and visionary theater for our complicated times.
History of Fostering and Producing New Work at Northern Stage
New Works Now was launched in 2014 in the middle of Carol Dunne and Managing Director Eric Bunge’s first season with Northern Stage. The first festival attracted small audiences, but our talk backs and superb audience response proved that our unique audiences were willing to try out new work in a collaborative environment. Under Dunne’s leadership, and now with the help of Literary Manager Alek Deva, New Works Now attracts submissions from all over the country and brings plays to packed houses. All readings are free and open to the public.
Perhaps the most profound effect of New Works Now has been the success of Northern Stage’s three full world premiere productions since the festival’s founding. Orwell in America by Joe Sutton played on Northern Stage’s main stage in March of 2015 followed by an Off–Broadway run in October of 2016 at 59E59 Theaters in New York City, where it garnered acclaim in the New York Times from theater critic Ken Jaworoski: “As the title character, (Jamie) Horton delivers perhaps the finest performance I’ve seen Off Broadway this year.” Mad Love by Marisa Smith enjoyed its world premiere on Northern Stage’s main stage in January 2016, followed by a run at New Jersey Repertory Company in the fall of 2016. Jack Neary’s Trick or Treat, from 2015’s New Works Now festival premiered at Northern Stage in March 2017. Bob Stevens’s Only Yesterday, from last year’s festival comes to the Northern Stage main stage in January 2018.
From the Playwrights: New Works to Full Productions
We asked playwrights from past New Works Now festivals to discuss how their new plays evolved from new works to fully produced plays at Northern Stage and beyond.
Joe Sutton, Pulitzer Prize nominee, Orwell in America
First workshopped in New Works Now 1.0 in 2014. Produced in Northern Stage’s main stage season in 2015, followed by an Off-Broadway run at 59E59 Theaters in 2016.
“I had already been working on Orwell in America for some time when I brought it to Northern Stage, and the first thing I discovered in that process was my Orwell. Jamie Horton was involved in that very first reading, and I knew instantly that I had found the actor who could truly deliver the role. He and Peter Hackett, the director, along with Carol Dunne, Northern Stage’s Artistic Director, were involved in the process throughout. And together we concentrated on finding the play’s poetry. Its prose, the vast amount of material covering Orwell’s biography and philosophy, was already there in abundance. But the poetry necessary to hew from that material an ‘entertaining evening of theatre’ required endless discovery and fashioning. And the Northern Stage team was there in support every step along the way. I am forever grateful to them all.”
Marisa Smith, Mad Love
First presented in New Works Now 1.0 in 2014. Fully produced in Northern Stage’s main stage season in 2016, followed by a production at New Jersey Repertory Company in 2016.
“The reading of Mad Love in New Works Now at Northern Stage provided me the opportunity to edit, sharpen, and focus the play and create a rehearsal ready draft. This was achieved in an exacting professional atmosphere that was creatively uplifting and supportive, a perfect working environment for a playwright! I received invaluable input from my director and the actors during the rehearsal period. The actual feedback from the audience at the reading informed further work on the play. The production fully revealed the play to me, and I built on that knowledge for the subsequent production at New Jersey Rep.” Smith adds: “Northern Stage miraculously combines exacting professionalism with inspired creativity–a perfect environment for a playwright developing a new play.”
Jack Neary, Trick or Treat
First presented in New Works Now 3.0 in 2016. Fully produced in Northern Stage’s main stage season in 2017.
“I met Gordon Clapp when he performed in my play Auld Lang Syne at Peterborough, and I knew that I wanted to write something especially for him. I wrote the first act of Trick or Treat and gave it to Gordon, who, in turn, gave it to Carol, suggesting she consider it for New Works Now. Carol liked Act One enough to include the play in New Works, so I wrote Act Two. We rehearsed the play for three days leading to the New Works reading. During that time, working with Gordon and four other superb actors, we prepared the script. The reading went extremely well, and Carol booked the play for this season. In rehearsal for the full production now, with Gordon still in the cast, under Carol’s direction, I’m discovering more nuances and making adjustments which will, we hope, contribute to a successful script. The New Works experience was vital to the process which continues in our current rehearsal. And the process never really ends, because each new audience brings a new energy, complementing the work of the playwright, the director, the actors, designers, and technicians.”
Northern Stage does not know what the future holds in the creation of new work. However, with your support, we can seek out and nurture artist whose voices should be heard. We cannot wait to see what we bring you next!
“How wonderful that Northern Stage is a research and development lab for the next generation of classics!” – Alex Trow, Actor
A Note to Playwrights
We do not generally accept unsolicited scripts, but if you would like to send a resume and current electronic copy of manuscript to Alek Deva (firstname.lastname@example.org), we’d be delighted to add you to the list of playwrights under consideration for inclusion in our new play development programs. Please DO NOT mail physical copies of manuscripts.
The selection process for New Works Now has become highly competitive, as we have only 3 spots, and a great many plays/playwrights under consideration each year. If your work is in alignment with Northern Stage’s vision and mission, we will consider including it as a possible selection for our New Works Now festival.
Please do not hesitate to contact Alek if you have any further questions.
New Works Now 4.0: December 2016 – January 2017
Yesterday (later titled Only Yesterday) by Bob Stevens
Portugal by Elizabeth Heffron
She Exits, Laughing by Marisa Smith
Piece Of by Tasha Gordon-Solmon
Thirsty Theater: Runway Lounge by Elisabeth Gordon
Thirsty Theater: Polar Bear Swim by Marisa Smith
New Works Now 3.0: January 2016
Letting Go by Joe Sutton
The Standby Lear by John W. Lowell
The Calamity by Christopher Wall
Trick or Treat by Jack Neary
Thirsty Theater: Welcome to the Beekman Arms by Marisa Smith
Thirsty Theater: The Dog Walker by Elisabeth Gordon
New Works Now 2.0: January 2015
Here Today (later titled Only Yesterday) by Bob Stevens
The Land Where the King is a Child by Henri De Montherlant, adapted by Wayne Lawson and Julian Sancton
The Last Queen of Canaan, book by Harrison Rivers, lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik, music by Jacob Yandura
New Works Now 1.0: January 2014
Mad Love by Marisa Smith Krauss
The Reluctant Lesbian by Kate Mulley
Orwell in America by Joe Sutton