Arlene and Robert Kogod New Play Development Program

Since its establishment in 1990, Theater J has made new play development a critical pillar of its work. With over 40 world premiere productions, English language premieres, and second productions of newly-revised plays, Theater J has made new work a key strategy for creating art that speaks to Jewish values and to the issues and concerns of the Washington D.C. community. In addition to producing new plays, each season Theater J conducts workshops and staged readings of plays in development in order to support playwrights in the creation of new plays.

Theater J is proud of its rich working relationships with playwrights of distinction who treasure the highly professional, intimate, and supportive environment. Notable writers who have had new work premiered at Theater J include Robert Brustein (Spring Forward/Fall Back, 2006), Richard Greenberg (Bal Masque, 2006), Ariel Dorfman (Picasso’s Closet, 2006), Joyce Carol Oates (The Tattooed Girl, 2007), Mark Medoff (Tommy J and Sally, 2002), Wendy Wasserstein (Third and Welcome to my Rash) and Thomas Keneally (Either Or, 2007).

Shows developed at Theater J often go on to receive follow-up productions across the country and artists with whom we have worked go on to make an impact on the theatrical world long after they leave DC.

For example, Stefanie Zadravec’s Honey Brown Eyes, the 2009 Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, was published in American Theatre Magazine.  It has gone on to productions at The Working Theatre Off-Broadway and in smaller venues throughout the country. Theodore Bikel’s Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears, a one-man, three-musician musical which premiered at Theater J in 2008, went on to a successful run at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene at Baruch Performing Arts Center in NY where Bikel was nominated for a 2010 Drama Desk Award for Solo Performance by an Actor. Subsequently, it has been produced in Los Angeles, Toronto, and toured throughout Eastern Europe.

Most recently, Theater J’s Locally Grown: Community Supported Art Festival, a new play development initiative that commissions and then produces plays by local playwrights has been called “quite simply one of the most important and worthwhile projects that any local theater has adopted, in the cause of making this a more hospitable city for playwriting talent” by The Washington Post

Playwrights who have participated in Locally Grown have seen their plays move on to be named Semi-Finalists for the Eugene O’Neill Playwriting Conference, to Off-broadway productions, and readings or productions in Tennessee, Florida, Virginia and California.

Additionally, Theater J has a long history of working with Israeli playwrights to develop the English-language premieres of their work, working with Boaz Goan on the English-language premiere of Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People, Hillel Milepunkt’s The Accident, Hadar Galron's Mikveh, with multiple premieres over the years from Motti Lerner (Passing The Love of WomenPangs of The MessiahBenedictus, and the workshop presentation of The Admission).

Theater J also has a history of important second productions that bring plays to the attention of the theatrical world beyond their world-premieres, such as the production of Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, first produced by Active Cultures Theater in Maryland and which has now gone on to be produced by 10 different theaters. 

Other second productions that included significant revisions include Jacquelyn Reingold’s String Fever in 2005, Kate Fodor’s Hannah and Martin in 2005, Jennifer Maisel’s The Last Seder in 2003, The Mad Dancers by Yehuda Hyman in 2003, co-directed by Liz Lerman, The Argument by Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, and the upcoming 2016 production of Another Way Home by Anna Ziegler. 

Theater J is dedicated to the nurturing and production of new work, and we take pleasure in introducing new plays and playwrights to the nation.

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