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NEW WORKS NOW: Nurturing New Plays for the American Theater at Northern Stage

In 2013, the new leadership team of Northern Stage made a commitment to the development of new work for the American theater by instituting New Works Now. Established as an annual festival of new play workshops that culminate in public readings, New Works Now was designed to enrich the theater experiences of our audiences and artists. Northern Stage’s leadership team recognized that theaters that help to nurture and create new work while simultaneously producing a breadth of already-produced theater can make a profound difference in the power of theater to change lives. Northern Stage, as the major LORT theater in the states of Vermont and New Hampshire, is committed to ushering in new work to the American stage with the involvement of our audiences who are hungry for daring and impactful theater. New Works Now, 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.

The first festival attracted small audiences, but post-show responses proved that our unique audiences were willing to try out new work in a collaborative environment. After five years of engaging artists and audiences in the development process, NWN now attracts submissions from all over the country, sees talented performers, directors, and dramaturgs lending their expertise to the process,  and plays to packed houses.

In 2016, Northern Stage added Thirsty Theater to the New Works Now festival. A guerilla-theater, community outreach project, Thirsty Theater brings new 10-minute plays into area restaurants and businesses in order to bring theater into the lives of our community members. Playwrights Marisa Smith and Elisabeth Gordon were featured during NWN Thirsty Theater in 2016 and 2017; Jack Neary premiered his first Thirsty Theater play in January of 2018.

Since 2014, the New Works Now mission has grown to include providing additional workshopping opportunities, producing New Works Now-nurtured plays as part of our main stage season when possible, and making a concerted effort to shepherd these plays into a bright future on the American stage. Orwell in America, Joe Sutton’s intellectually stimulating play progressed through the first New Works play reading process in 2014, to Northern Stage’s main stage in 2015, and then to an Off-Broadway run at 59E59 Theaters in 2016 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. Trick or Treat, by Jack Neary, was first presented in New Works Now 2016, will have its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters in January 2019. Only Yesterday (initially workshopped during New Works Now 2015 and subsequently in December 2016 and September 2017) premiered on our main stage in February 2018. Marisa Smith’s Venus Rising, first workshopped as She Exits, Laughing in New Works Now 2018 will have its Northern Stage premiere this season.

Past New Works Now plays

New Works Now 6.0: January 2019

Choices People Make by Jessica Andrewartha
Where Are We Going? by Kate Benson
Citrus by Celeste Jennings
Thirsty Theater:
Deaccession by Todd Cerveris
Can You Hear Me Now? by Elisabeth Gordon

New Works Now 5.0:  January 2018

It’s Fine, I’m Fine. by Stephanie Everett
The Coup, Libretto by Rebekah Greer Melocik, Story by Rebekah Greer Melocik and Victor Lesniewski, Music by Jacob Yandura
Jane Burgoyne by Robert Moulthrop
Thirsty Theater: The Dual by Jack Neary

New Works Now 4.0: December 2016 – January 2017

Yesterday (later titled Only Yesterday) by Bob Stevens (World Premiere: Northern Stage 2018)
Portugal by Elizabeth Heffron
She Exits, Laughing (later titled Venus Rising) 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 (World Premiere: Northern Stage 2017,
Off-Broadway Transfer: 59E59 Theaters 2019)
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 (World Premiere: Northern Stage 2018)
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 (World Premiere: Northern Stage 2016, NJ Repertory Production 2016)
The Reluctant Lesbian by Kate Mulley
Orwell in America by Joe Sutton (World Premiere: Northern Stage 2015, Off-Broadway Transfer: 59E59 Theaters 2016)