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Month: March 2017

PlayPenn gets to play on Broadway

On this podcast, PlayPenn artistic director Paul Meshejian discusses the PlayPenn Annual Conference. I spoke with Meshejian in 2013 about the conference; since then, many plays that have been workshopped there have helped shaped the national conversation around contemporary theater. These new plays transfer from the conference to regional stages, and J.T. Rogers’s drama Oslo, about the negotiations surrounding the Oslo Accords, opens on Broadway April 13, 2017, featuring New Paradise Laboratories founding member and longtime Philly actor Jeb Kreager.

PlayPenn artistic director Paul Meshejian. (Photo via PlayPenn.org)

The highlight reel

PlayPenn describes itself as “an artist-driven organization dedicated to improving the way in which new plays are developed. Employing an ever-evolving process, PlayPenn creates a relaxed tension within which playwrights can engage in risk-taking, boundary-pushing work free from the pressures of commercial consideration.”

Some of the conference’s esteemed graduates and awards include:

  • MacArthur Fellowship: Samuel D. Hunter (PlayPenn 2010)
  • Whiting Award: James Ijames (PlayPenn 2013, 2015)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship: Gabriel Jason Dean (PlayPenn 2013), Jordan Harrison (PlayPenn 2005), J.T. Rogers (PlayPenn 2005, 2009, 2015)
  • Lilly Award for Playwriting: Lucy Thurber (PlayPenn 2005)
  • Pew Fellowship: James Ijames (PlayPenn 2013, 2015)
  • Sky Cooper Prize for American Playwriting: Samuel D. Hunter (PlayPenn 2010), Martin Zimmerman (PlayPenn 2012)
  • American Theatre Critics Association’s Osborn Award: Jonathan James Norton (PlayPenn 2012)
  • Susan Smith Blackburn Prize: Sheila Callaghan (PlayPenn 2005)
  • Terrence McNally New Play Award: James Ijames (White, 2015)
  • Barrymore Award for Best New Play: R. Eric Thomas (Time Is on Our Side, PlayPenn 2015), Michael Hollinger (Ghost-Writer, PlayPenn 2009), Jacqueline Goldfinger (Slip/Shot, PlayPenn 2011)
  • Top 10 Plays, New York Times: J.T. Rogers (Oslo, PlayPenn 2015; Blood and Gifts, PlayPenn 2009)
  • Top 10 Plays, Time Magazine: J.T. Rogers (The Overwhelming, PlayPenn 2005)
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No business like show business

On this podcast, we meet Mindy Dougherty, co-founder with Dan Dunn of Midtown Village’s musical-theater training program Music Theatre Philly. Both Dougherty and Dunn have Broadway bona fides, and they have worked on some of the region’s best-known stages. The company offers a unique blend of classes for both children and adults with “quadruple threat” aspirations: acting, voice, (several types of) dance, and music (guitar and piano).

A couple of young Music Theatre Philly students get into character. (Photo courtesy of Music Theatre Philly)

Mind the gap

About 20 years ago, Dougherty noticed a gap between what she learned in Philadelphia’s performance-training programs and the skills she saw in students coming out of a comprehensive independent program in Pittsburgh. She worked and attended graduate school in New York, but when she returned home to Philadlephia, she realized nobody in this city had stepped in during the intervening years to fill that gap. That’s where Music Theatre Philly comes in, and Dougherty hopes it will help create this city’s next generation of great stage talent.

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