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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 for our complicated times.

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

History & Successes of New Works Now

In 2013, the leadership team of Northern Stage made a commitment to develop new work for the American theater by instituting New Works Now. An annual festival of workshops that culminate in 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. New Works Now attracts submissions from all over the country, sees talented performers, directors, and dramaturgs lending their expertise to the process, and plays to sold-out houses. The fesitval, 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.

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.

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, had 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 and will premiere Off-Broadway in 2019. Marisa Smith’s Venus Rising, first workshopped as She Exits, Laughing in New Works Now 2018 had its Northern Stage premiere in the 2018-19 Season.

For the first time in the company’s history, Northern Stage will present two world premieres in one year during its 2019-20 Season.

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 newworksnow@northernstage.org. We will get in touch if we would like to request a full script copy. The deadline for consideration for New Works Now 2020 is June 15, 2019.

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 (jchayes@northernstage.org) if you have any questions.

Click here for a list of past New Works Now plays.