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Jeremy B. Cohen.

Jeremy B. Cohen to Lead Ojai Playwrights Conference

Cohen will remain with the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis through June 2024, even as he begins programming for Ojai.

OJAI, CALIF. and MINNEAPOLIS: The Ojai Playwrights Conference (OPC) has named Jeremy B. Cohen their new producing artistic director. The new job means he will step down as producing artistic director at Minneapolis’s Playwrights’ Center, a role he’s filled since 2010, when his contract there ends in June 2024. But his duties at OPC have already begun as he works with staff to program this summer’s New Works Festival in California.

“We are so lucky to have Jeremy leading us into OPC’s next chapter,” OPC board president Mark Helm said in a statement. “His national and international artistic and strategic leadership make him the perfect person to continue and expand the artistic vision that has made OPC a star in the world of new play development.”

A director, playwright, and arts leader, Cohen is known for his work in new-play development. In addition to the Playwrights’ Center, Cohen has served in positions at Hartford Stage and Naked Eye Theatre Company. As a director, he has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Baltimore Center Stage, the Guthrie Theater, the Goodman Theatre, the Alley Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, among others, as well as Off-Broadway. As a playwright, he received a commission for Malicious Animal Magnetism (co-written with Dipika Guha) from American Contemporary Theater and Z Space. He is currently writing the book for the musical Playing With Fire, with music and lyrics by JC Chasez and Jimmy Harry, and is developing a musical adaptation of the documentary The Gospel of Eureka with Emily Saliers.

At the Playwrights’ Center, Cohen expanded the number of playwrights who receive annual support to over 50, developed programs to expand support for marginalized voices in theatre, including LGBTQ+ and BIPOC playwrights, and launched a partnership with Augsburg University to provide access to writing courses for students around the world.

“Being the producing artistic director of Playwrights’ Center has been one of the greatest joys of my career,” Cohen said in a statement. “It has been an honor to work with the tremendous people, past and present, who have served on the Center’s staff and our board of directors, and to support the artistry and livelihoods of so many brilliant playwrights.”

In his final year at the Playwrights’ Center, Cohen will work with managing director Robert Chelimsky to oversee the completion of the Center’s $19 million fundraising campaign to construct a new home for the theatre in St. Paul, Minn.

“Jeremy’s decision gives the Center time to undertake a deliberate, thoughtful leadership transition process,” Harrison David Rivers, president of the board of directors and a Playwrights’ Center Affiliated Writer, said in a statement. “Our dual leadership model means that even as a new artistic leader brings in fresh energy, Robert, as managing director, will provide consistency and continuity of leadership.”

Of his move to Ojai Playwrights Conference, Cohen said in a statement, “There is a powerful legacy of playwrights who have received tremendous support from Ojai Playwrights Conference over the years. It is an absolute honor to be taking this organization, legendary in its scope and reach, into this next era.”

The Ojai Playwrights Conference has developed new plays for the American theatre since 1998. Plays developed at OPC have gone on to regional, Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions, and have been nominated for and won many prestigious awards. As of 2021, the organization had a budget of approximately $256,000.

The Playwrights’ Center was founded in 1971 by five writers seeking artistic and professional support. The Center is one of the nation’s most generous and well-respected theatre organizations that supports playwrights and promotes new plays to productions at theatres across the country. The Center is known for its many fellowship programs, the Core Writers Program, and other services. As of 2021, the organization had a budget of approximately $3.2 million.

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