NEW YORK CITY: The Playwrights Realm has selected its 2023-24 cohort of Writing Fellows and Scratchpad Playwrights. This year’s writing fellows are T.J.L, J.C. Pankratz, Eliana Theologides Rodriguez, and Jesús I. Valles, and this year’s Scratchpad Playwrights are Nimisha Ladva, Malena Pennycook, and Sarah Saltwick. The fellowship program awards four early career playwrights with nine months of resources, including a $5,000 stipend, and culminates with a reading in the Realm’s INK’d Festival. The Scratchpad series supports early career playwrights with a paid developmental process of up to one week, concluding with an optional reading of the play.
“The 2023-24 cohort reflects just how exciting theatre can be and and how many lenses it can contain, as it pries open and examines with equal insight the interpersonal and the societal,” said associate artistic director Alexis Williams in a statement. “Coincidentally, with a myriad of approaches, all of our Writing Fellows’ works are examining the formative stages in our lives and exploring how we develop within (and against) family and society, whereas in the works of 2023-24 Scratchpad Playwrights, we see characters grappling with events that bring about abrupt changes of perspective. It’s an honor to get to support all these playwrights in honing these works, and to imagine how their development will bring seven new compelling visions to the American theatre.”
T.J.L (T.J. Lewis) is a queer, Southern Black playwright, actor, producer, and administrator originally from the Carolinas based in NYC. He received his B.A. in performance theatre from ASU. Since graduating he has worked with In/Visible Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, Florida Studio Theatre, Ars Nova, and Lime Arts Productions. His play tre, which follows three boys on senior ditch day, is a cosmic love letter to the 2000s and a wish for all Black boys to love each other softly, honestly, and openly.
J.C. Pankratz is a queer, trans, non-binary playwright and educator. Their plays are Mortals (Pridefest at The Tank), Eat Your Young (workshop production, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre), Little Kingdom (2nd Place, Mark Twain Playwriting Award; Distinguished Achievement, Paula Vogel Playwriting Award), Seahorse (2021 FMM Fellowship for Works in Heightened Language), and Redeemer Mine (Finalist, O’Neill Playwrights Conference). Their play Eat Your Young follows four mismatched teens enrolled together in a new-age wilderness therapy program.
Eliana Theologides Rodriguez is a writer and dancer whose plays include Marble Rooftop, Emma Has Church (2021 Princess Grace Semifinalist, 2020 John Golden Award for Excellence in Playwriting), Poor Queenie (2021 Playwrights Realm Writing Fellowship Finalist, 2021 Goldberg Play Prize Finalist, 2020 Kennedy Center MFA & Undergraduate Playwrights Workshop), and JuniPerfect (2021 commission with Adventure Theatre MTC). Based on a real-life Native American-themed father-daughter bonding program, her new play Indian Princesses tells the story of five girls of color and their white fathers as they go through a series of exercises and excursions meant to strengthen their bonds as fathers and daughters.
Jesús I. Valles is a queer Mexican immigrant, educator, writer-performer from Cd. Juarez/El Paso. Valles is the winner of a 2023 Princess Grace Award in Theatre, the 2023 Yale Drama Series (Bathhouse.pptx), the 2022 Kernodle Playwriting Prize (a river, its mouths), and was named the 2022 Emerging Theatre Professional by the National Theatre Conference. Their play Tesseract is a spell against the impulse to narrate sexual assault as a horrifying heirloom, a blood curse some families are bound to, in the service of pulling the earth apart to get ourselves unstuck.
Nimisha Ladva was born in Kenya, raised in the U.K. and now lives outside Philadelphia. Her solo play, Uninvited Girl, tells the true story of her journey from becoming an undocumented immigrant to becoming an American citizen. Her play Goddess at the Lucky Lady Motel was a 2022 Play Penn New Play Development Conference selection and a finalist for the Jane Chambers Award in Feminist Playwriting, and a 2022 Finalist for the Pittsburgh Public Theater Festival. Her short play Laundry Is Not Enough was a 2022 finalist in the Red Bull Short Play Festival. Goddess at the Lucky Lady Motel follows Mummy-ji as her plans to arrange her son’s marriage are upended by a death in the family and the revelation of Ravi’s own unsuitable girlfriend.
Malena Pennycook is a white-Latiné writer, performer, and theatremaker currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at the University of Texas at Austin. Malena’s plays include: Two Apprentices (Kennedy Center KCACTF Latinx Award); Diving Board (O’Neill Finalist; Austin Latinx New Play Festival); Below (Take Ten, Concord/Sam French) and their solo show Am I Busy Yet? (Oregon Fringe; Cosmic Cherry Arts). Their play How Should a Conversation Be follows a couple, Terry and Kati, who are forced to slow down and reconnect after a tragedy.
Sarah Saltwick is a writer based in Austin. She is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin and was a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. Recent productions of her plays include The Pleasure Trials at Amphibian Stage, Moxie Theatre, and Dramashop, and Egress, co-written with Melissa Crespo, produced by Amphibian Stage, SLAC, TheaterWorks, and Cleveland Playhouse. Her play The Caldera follows best friends Lizzie and Maggie as they hit the open road in search of health care—a.k.a., an abortion.
Submissions to Writing Fellows and Scratchpad Playwrights programs are open and free, and the Realm pays submission readers $25 per script.
The Playwrights Realm is an Off-Broadway nonprofit theatre company devoted to supporting early career playwrights along their journey. The Realm seeks to help playwrights hone their craft, fully realize their vision, and build meaningful artistic careers, by providing comprehensive services that include dramaturgical and production support as well as generous stipends and other discretionary funds. As of 2022, The Playwrights Realm had an approximate budget of $1 million.
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