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New Works Now: Nurturing New Plays for the American Stage

An annual festival of workshops that culminate in free public readings, New Works Now is designed to enrich the theater experience of our audiences and artists who are hungry for daring and impactful stories. Post-show responses are valuable to the play development process and have shown that our unique audiences are willing to engage with new work in a collaborative environment. The 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.

“How wonderful that Northern Stage is a research and development lab for the next generation of classics!”
– Alex Trow, Actor

New Works Now 2021 Schedule

Saturday, January 16, 7:30 PM: Drive by Deborah Yarchun 
Saturday, January 23, 7:30 PM: Enough by Celeste Jennings
Saturday, January 30, 7:30 PM: Shook by Zoe Sarnak and Alexis Scheer
All readings will be streamed live. A post-show conversation will follow each reading. 

Admission is free (with a $10 Suggested Donation).
Call (802) 296-7000 or click below to reserve.

By Deborah Yarchun
Saturday, January 16, 7:30 PM
A community of truckers in a small town in Iowa are forced to shift gears when they lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. When Gloria becomes the only trucker in town still employed, resentments surface and tensions escalate. Set in a time not far down the road, Drive explores our collective fears for the future, and what happens when individuals who are fiercely defined by their work are forced to reevaluate what drives them. Drive is the winner of the 2020 Dartmouth College Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting. 

Click HERE to view the DRIVE Playbill

Deborah Yarchun’s honors include two Jerome Fellowships, a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellowship, an EST/Sloan Commission, Dartmouth’s 2020 Neukom Literary Arts Award for Playwriting, The Kennedy Center’s Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, the Kernodle New Play Award, the Richard Maibaum Playwriting Award, and Women in the Arts & Media Coalition’s 2019 Collaboration Award. Her play Great White was an Honorable Mention for the Relentless Award. She was recently a playwright-in-residence at the William Inge Center for the Arts and a member of the Civilians’ R&D Group. Deborah earned her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow.

By Celeste Jennings
Saturday, January 23, 7:30 PM

How do you define yourself if you don’t know your history? In this piece, a family discovers beauty and strength in things not remembered.  They realize that some things are meant to be forgotten, and that the relics of resilience occupy their veins and teach them that what they have has always been enough. A brand new work by Celeste Jennings, writer of Citrus (New Works Now 2019, Mainstage premiere 2020).

Click HERE to view the ENOUGH Playbill

Celeste Jennings is a playwright and costume designer who is passionate about creating art that challenges social norms and accurately represents minority characters and their stories. Most recently, her choreopoem, Citrus, was produced at Northern Stage.  She’s very proud to be working with Northern Stage again! Design credits include: Assistant design credits include Mlima’s Tale (Public Theater) as well as Cardinal (2nd Stage Theatre). Recent design credits include Jonkonnu (Howard University) Twelfth Night (National Black Theatre Festival), It’s Fine, I’m Fine (Dartmouth College), Citrus (Northern Stage), The Ties that Bind (Catholic University).

Music and Lyrics by Zoe Sarnak
Book by Alexis Scheer
Directed by Maggie Burrows
Saturday, January 30, 7:30 PM
Join us for a sneak peek into the original songs and artistic process behind Northern Stage’s first-ever commissioned musical work: Shook. High school thespians have been preparing for the highly anticipated National Shakespeare Competition for months, and Mia, always second fiddle, is ready to take first place by storm.  Shook takes us on a rollercoaster ride through song and sonnet, foes turned friends, kingdoms lost and won…and at least one good showmance.  Don’t miss our first look into the deeply human world of Shook, and a chance to meet its award-winning creative team: Zoe Sarnak, Alexis Scheer, and Maggie Burrows (director of The Sound of Music).

Click HERE to view the SHOOK Playbill

Zoe Sarnak is a New York City-based composer, lyricist, and writer. She is a recipient of the 2018 Jonathan Larson Award, and a finalist for the Ebb Award, Kleban Award, and Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award. Her work has been developed with and presented by Second Stage, New York Stage & Film, The Public, Roundabout Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Geffen Playhouse, New York Theatre Workshop, WP Theatre, MCC, and many others. Upcoming productions include: A Crossing (with Josh Bergasse and Mark St. Germain, Barrington Stage Company), Afterwords (with Emily Kaczmarek, 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle). Projects in development include: Galileo (with Danny Strong, Michael Weiner and dir. Michael Mayer), The Lonely Few (with Rachel Bonds, Geffen Playhouse commission, New York Stage & Film 2021), Empire Records (with original screenwriter Carol Heikkinen), Secret Soldiers (with Marsha Norman and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins), Afloat (with Emily Kaczmarek, WP Theater commission), Split (with Michele Lowe, Transport Group Theatre Company), as well as consulting and co-writing music for Band Aid (with Zoe Lister-Jones, dir. Leigh Silverman) and projects for 20th Century Fox and Netflix. Her music has been featured by the NY Times Live, The Shannara Chronicles (Spike), Silent Witness (BBC) and in benefit concerts and albums for Everytown.

Alexis Scheer‘s plays include Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (WP Theater/Second Stage, NYT Critic’s Pick, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Kilroy’s List, LTC Carnaval of New Latinx Work, Relentless Award semifinalist); Laughs in Spanish (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Kennedy Center’s Harold & Mimi Steinberg National Student Playwriting Award, NNPN Showcase), Christina (Roe Green Award), The Sensational (Actors’ Theatre of Louisville), and A Very Herrera Holiday (New Rep). Her work has been developed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theatre Center, Cleveland Playhouse, San Diego REP, and others. Currently commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club and Second Stage. BFA: The Boston Conservatory. MFA: Boston University. she/her 

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History & Successes of New Works Now

In 2014, the leadership team of Northern Stage made a commitment to develop new work for the American theater by instituting New Works Now. Since then, 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.
New Works Now attracts submissions from playwrights all over the country, sees talented actors, directors, and dramaturgs lending their expertise to the process, and plays to sold-out houses. 
For the first time in the company’s history, Northern Stage will presented two world premieres in one year during its 2019-20 Season.
New Works Now-Nurtured Main Stage Productions:
Orwell in America by Joe Sutton (2014)
Mad Love by Marisa Smith (2016)
Trick or Treat by Jack Neary (2017)
Only Yesterday by Bob Stevens (2018)
Venus Rising by Marisa Smith (2019)
Jordan by Brenda Withers (2019)
Citrus by Celeste Jennings (2020)
New Works Now-Nurtured Off-Broadway Productions:
Orwell in America by Joe Sutton (2016, 59E59 Theaters)
Trick or Treat by Jack Neary (2019, 59E59 Theaters)
Only Yesterday by Bob Stevens (2019, 59E59 Theaters)
Click here for a full list of past New Works Now plays.
“As the title character, (Jamie) Horton delivers perhaps the finest performance I’ve seen Off-Broadway this year.” –  The New York Times, on Horton’s performance in 2016’s Orwell in America

A Note to Playwrights

Thank you for your interest in Northern Stage and New Works Now. At this time, submissions of full-length plays for Northern Stage’s New Works Now festival are by invitation only. We invite you to introduce us to your work by sending a resume along with a synopsis and a 10-page selection from one of your plays to We will get in touch if we would like to request a full script copy. The deadline for consideration for New Works Now 2021 has passed. The deadline for consideration for New Works Now 2022 is June 15, 2021.
Selections for our January festival are announced in December. Only plays selected (3-4 per year) will be given a workshop/reading and the possible opportunity for further development or a full production. We see more than 100 submissions per year.

Please do not mail physical copies of manuscripts and do not submit on behalf of a playwright without their express permission. Finally, contact Jess ( if you have any questions.