Iowa 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. Iowa New Play Festival 2017 will take place May 1-5.

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

2017 Schedule of Events

View the full schedule of events for 2017 here!

2017 Productions

By Scott Bradley
Directed by Patrick Du Laney

By Margot Connolly
Directed by Alison Ruth

By Nina Morrison
Directed by Nina Morrison

The Pirate Queen
By G. Flores
Directed by Lukas Brasherfons

The Reading Series

"...among other things..."
By Michael Tisdale
Directed by Taylor Edelle Stuart

By Marisela Treviño Orta
Directed by Tlaloc Rivas

The Book of Jonah [The Interim Years]
By Eric Marlin
Directed by Hoejeong J. Yoo

Readings from the Undergraduate Playwrights Workshop
By Undergraduate Playwrights

Tiny Thin Woman Inside
By Courtney Meaker
Directed by Molly Winstead

A Desert Fugue
By Charles Green
Directed by Emma Genesen

2017 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.

2017 Festival Guest Biographies

Elissa Adams is the Director of New Play Development at The Children’s Theatre Company. Since 1998, she has overseen the commissioning and development of more than fifty new works by playwrights including Nilo Cruz, Philip Dawkins, Melissa James Gibson, Naomi Iizuka, and Taylor Mac. Prior to her position at CTC, she served as Literary Manager at La Jolla Playhouse and Director of Playwright Services at The Playwrights’ Center. She is an Artistic Associate at Theatre Latte Da, a frequent guest dramaturg at the Sundance Theatre Lab, and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from UC San Diego.

Smith College’s Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Theatre Professor for 48 years, Len Berkman has helped nearly 600 plays/productions develop at Sundance, South Coast Rep, Mark Taper Forum, Epic Theatre Ensemble, WordBRIDGE, and NY Stage & Film. His former students include: 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, and (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. His essays appear 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. Len’s 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.

Matthew Maguire’s plays include Instinct, Phaedra, Abandon, and the creation with Philip Glass and Molissa Fenley of A Descent Into the Maelström for Australia’s Adelaide Festival. His most recent book (NoPassport Press) is Matthew Maguire: Three Plays. He is the Director of the Theatre Program at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and Co-Director of the Fordham/Primary Stages MFA in Playwriting Program. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists. He is currently writing an adaptation of Goethe’s Faust Part II, commissioned by Mabou Mines, to be directed by Sharon Fogarty. His awards include an OBIE for Acting and an OBIE for Directing.

Elsa Menéndez is a writer, director, producer and performer with Tricklock Company in Albuquerque, NM (since 2001). She is the current Education Director and incoming Performing Arts Director at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. She has spent more than 35 years working in theatre around the world. From 1993-98, she co-founded and ran BOOM!theatre, a theatre company within a medium-security men’s prison comprised of individuals serving the longest sentences. Menéndez served as artistic director of Tricklock Company from 2004-2009. She co-founded and directs the annual NHCC Summer Institutes. Elsa served for five years as a producer for UNM’s Words Afire! New Play Festival (now Linnell Festival), and now works as a producer of Tricklock’s Revolutions International Theatre Festival and the Revolutions/Theatre Without Borders Symposiums.

Jenni Page-White is the Literary Manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she plays a key role in the selection process for the Humana Festival of New American Plays and the National Ten-Minute Play Contest, and co-edits the annual published anthology of Humana Festival plays. Dramaturgy credits at Actors include the world premieres of We’re Gonna Be Okay, I Now Pronounce, Wellesley Girl, and This Random World. Prior to joining Actors, she was the Literary Associate at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where she helped select and develop new plays for First Look. In Chicago, she has developed plays with American Theater Company, Sideshow Theatre Company, and LiveWire Chicago Theatre. She holds a BFA from the University of Oklahoma and an MFA from the University of Iowa.


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 four or 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 2016 guests included Len Berkman, Jacqueline E. Lawton, Todd Ristau, José Rivera, and Cori Thomas. These guests came to Iowa City and responded to the following productions and readings.

squeeze: A Motel Play by Theresa Giacopasi
Cut & Run by Eric Micha Holmes
Doxxed by Sam Lahne
Great Emergencies by Sean David DeMers
Packing by Scott Bradley
Quiz Out by Margot Connolly
Household or Must be a Duck by Michael Tisdale
Dr. Lovely by Alysha Marie Oravetz
Wolf at the Door by Marisela Treviño Orta
Alcyone by G. Flores

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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