New Play Festival

The first week of May is a special time for us, as we mount our annual Iowa New Play Festival (NPF). Join our annual week-long festival of new work written by MFA and undergraduate playwrights. Four full productions and daily staged readings are presented to audiences that include visiting professional writers, dramaturgs, directors, producers, theatre lovers, and new play enthusiasts.

Festival participants also have opportunities to discuss these new works through workshops, roundtable discussions, and receptions.

2016 Schedule of Events

View the full schedule of events for 2016 here!

2016 Productions

squeeze: A Motel Play
By Theresa Giacopasi
Directed by Ariel Francoeur

Cut & Run
By Eric Micha Holmes
Directed by Tlaloc Rivas

By Sam Lahne
Directed by Marina Bergenstock

Great Emergencies
By Sean David DeMers
Directed by Nina Morrison and Sean David DeMers

The Reading Series

Written and Performed by Scott Bradley
Directed by Meredith Alexander

Quiz Out
By Margot Connolly
Directed by Alison Ruth

Household or Must be a Duck
By Michael Tisdale
Directed by Rachel Howell

Dr. Lovely
By Alysha Marie Oravetz
Directed by Sam Collier

Wolf at the Door
By Marisela Treviño Orta
Directed by Tlaloc Rivas

By G. Flores
Directed by Marina Bergenstock

Readings by Undergraduate Playwrights

2016 Festival Guest Artists

Since its inception in the 1970s, the Iowa New Play Festival has brought guest artists to campus to meet with students. Festival Guests attend all performances and give feedback to the creative team for each show. The feedback is given in roundtable discussions following each reading and on the morning after each production or workshop. These roundtables help the playwright and his or her collaborators see their work in a professional context.

2016 Festival Guest Biographies

Smith College’s Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Theatre Professor for 47 years, Len Berkman has helped 500+ plays/ productions develop at Sundance, South Coast Rep, Mark Taper Forum, Epic Theatre Ensemble, WordBRIDGE, and NY Stage & Film. Among former students: Wendy Wasserstein, Kathleen Marshall, Liev Schreiber, Patricia Wettig, Rob Corddry, Margaret Edson, Kevin Heelan, Leah Ryan, Addie Walsh, John Eisner, Jordan Baker, Erin Cressida Wilson, & (yes!) Dare Clubb. Plays, e.g.: Adultery Without Touch, ‘Til The Beatles Reunite, Voila! Rape In Technicolor, Oh, the Undoing, Quits, and These Are Not My Breasts. Essays, e.g.: in Modern Drama, Massachusetts Review, The Prairie Schooner, HowlRound, and Parnassus; in The Suzan-Lori Parks Casebook, Marie-Irene Fornes: Conducting a Life, and Upstaging Big Daddy. His latest play, We Three/ Wir Drei, is being translated into German. A Yale MFA and DFA grad, Len’s been an NEA and performance-training program consultant countless times, a recurrent U. Hamburg Guest-Professor, and twice awarded a Fulbright Specialist Grant.

Jacqueline E. Lawton was named one of 30 of the nation’s leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute. Her plays include: Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Intelligence, Love Brothers Serenade; and Noms de Guerre. She received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She is a 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color award recipient, an alum of Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena and Center Stage’s Playwrights Collective, and a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America.

Todd Ristau designed the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University and has served as program director since its launch in 2007. He is a distinguished graduate of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. His work has been performed in theatres across the U.S. and England, including London’s West End. He founded No Shame Theatre in 1986 and oversaw its evolution into a national network of venues for new works in dozens of cities. He has an extensive theatre background, with expertise in acting, directing, and design. He worked with Mill Mountain Theatre for six years as coordinator of their second stage and as literary associate overseeing new works programming. Ristau served as the first artistic director of Studio Roanoke, a storefront theatre space dedicated to new works development in downtown Roanoke.

José Rivera is a recipient of two Obie Awards for Marisol and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot. Another Word for Beauty, Cloud Tectonics, Boleros for the Disenchanted, Sueño, Sonnets for an Old Century, School of the Americas, Massacre (Sing to Your Children), Brainpeople, Adoration of the Old Woman, and The House of Ramon Iglesia have been produced across the country and around the world. Rivera’s screenplay “The Motorcycle Diaries” was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award in 2005. Also nominated for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild Award, “The Motorcycle Diaries,” won top writing awards in Spain and Argentina.

Cori Thomas is a playwright and actress. Her plays include: When January Feels Like Summer (World Premiere City Theatre Co., Pittsburgh); Pa’s Hat (Pillsbury House Theatre, MN); Flight 109, My Secret Language of Wishes (Various theaters and University productions including Mixed Blood, MN); The Princess, The Breast, and, The Lizard; The Unusual Love Life of Bedbugs and Other Creatures; Waking Up; His Daddy; our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Cori’s plays have been developed and produced at Sundance Theatre Lab, Goodman Theatre, City Theatre Co. (Pittsburgh), Page 73, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Playwrights Horizons, Lark Play Development Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Going To The River, Pillsbury House Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Penumbra Theatre, Passage Theatre, The Playwrights Realm, New Federal Theatre, New Georges, The Black Rep (St. Louis), The New Black Fest, and Queens Theatre in the Park. She has been commissioned by South Coast Rep Theatre, The Sloan Foundation, NYSCA, EST, Pillsbury House Theatre. Publications: (Viking Press) Plays for Two, Waking Up; (Smith and Krauss) Best short plays 2010, His Daddy; (Smith and Krauss) selected monologues and scenes from When January Feels Like Summer. Awards, Residencies, and Honors: New Dramatists, MacDowell Fellow, Edgerton New Play Award, Sundance Theatre Lab, and 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Osborn Award for Best New Play (When January Feels Like Summer); 2005 Theodore Ward Prize (My Secret Language of Wishes), 2003 2nd Place Theodore Ward Prize (our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor). Cori is a co-founder of The Pa’s Hat Foundation, Inc., an organization focused on helping the former child soldiers of Liberia heal after the long standing civil war through focus on arts education and literacy.


For more than two decades, Theatre Arts has presented an annual festival centered on producing, reading, and discussing new scripts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. The Workshop was formally organized in the fall of 1971, although a strong tradition of playwriting has existed at Iowa since the 1920s when the department was under the leadership of E.C. Mabie. From 1923 until his death in 1956, Mabie was strongly dedicated to the writing and production of original plays. The Workshop was one of the first programs established to concentrate solely on playwriting and is one of the most production oriented playwriting programs in the country.

The New Play Festival is presented during the last week of spring term classes. Four to five plays by MFA playwrights are selected for full productions, most of them directed by MFA directing students and faculty members. Readings of full plays written by the other MFA writers are also presented during the week, as is a selection of work by undergraduate playwrights. Classes in the department are cancelled for the week so everyone may participate. Professional playwrights, directors, and producers from around the country are in residence to see and discuss all aspects of the work.

Many of the plays premiered during the Festival have gone on to win prestigious awards and have productions at professional theatres throughout this country and abroad. Preparing five new plays and presenting them in a single week is a monumental undertaking that is only possible by the utilization of the department’s wide-ranging resources in acting, directing, design, dramaturgy, stage management, and technical support. The development of new work through production continues to be a fundamental emphasis of the entire department.

Iowa New Play Festival 2015 guests included Len Berkman, Bryan Delaney, Matthew Maguire, Sydné Mahone, Lisa Rothe. These guests came to Iowa City and responded to the following productions and readings.

Faculty Portrait by Sean David DeMers
Silo Tree by Sam Collier
TRICH by Sarah Cho
Below the Pacific by Ryan Oliveira
Hunting BigFoot by Theresa Giacopasi
Right by Sam Lahne
Binary Star by G. Flores
Boom Boom Town by Alysha Oravetz
Meloman (a music lover) by Michael Tisdale
Cut & Run by Eric Holmes

Iowa New Play Festival 2014 guests included Elissa Adams, Keith Josef Adkins, Len Berkman, and Amy Rose Marsh. These guests came to Iowa City and responded to the following productions, workshops, and readings.

Four Stories by Micah Ariel James
and i will hold you/when you are broken by Lisa Flora Meyers
Swordplay by Ryan Oliveira
Speed of Light by Bella Poynton
Life of the Experiment by Sarah Cho
Phoebe by Sean David DeMers
#julys by Sam Lahne
Still Quiet by Emily Dendinger
Falls for Jodie by Eric Holmes
Suit of Leaves by Sam Collier
Order Now by Theresa Giacopasi


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