The Playwrights' Center

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The Playwrights' Center
Type Non-Profit
Industry Theatre
Founded 1971
Headquarters Minneapolis, Minnesota
Employees 13 (2012)

The Playwrights' Center is a non-profit, theatre organization located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Its mission is to champion "playwrights and new plays to build upon a living theater that demands new and innovative work."


The Playwrights' Center was founded in 1971 by a group of University of Minnesota undergraduate and graduate students, including Greg Almquist, Erik Brogger, Tom Dunn, Barbara Field, Gar Hildenbrand, and Jon Jackoway. These playwrights conceived of the Playwrights' Center (initially called the Minnesota Playwriting Laboratory) as a place where writers could have the opportunity to hear their work read aloud by professional actors, to hear comments and criticism from peers and audience members, and to develop their scripts with the help of artistic collaborators and working professionals. After becoming a not-for-profit company in 1973, the founders held a series of play readings, discussion series, and one-acts performed at various venues in the Twin Cities.[1] The focus was on a continued playwriting conversation and aiding works-in-progress. These ideals continued to be the mainstay of the center as membership expanded. In 1979, the center moved into the Olivet Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis, which remains its home today.[2]

Since its founding, the Center has grown into a national resource for script development, and currently provides a range of services for writers at all stages of their careers. Jeremy Cohen serves as the producing artistic director,[3] and the center is further supported by a full staff, an eighteen member board of directors and a national advisory board of theater professionals. Members of the Playwrights' Center include nationally distinguished artists such as Lee Blessing, Ping Chong, Paula Vogel, and Jeffrey Hatcher, and the work of Center playwrights has won every major recognition the field offers, including two Pulitzers and the Tony Award.


The Ruth Easton Lab[edit]

Each year a handful of plays are selected from the Core Writers for development in The Ruth Easton Series. With funding from the Ruth Easton Lab, the plays receive a director, a designer who works with the playwright on one design element of his or her work, rehearsal time, and, if the playwright chooses, a free public reading.[4]

Core Writers[edit]

The Playwrights’ Center’s Core Writers are a group of 25-30 leading playwrights from across the country. Approximately seven playwrights are selected per year. As a core writer, a playwright has a three year term in which they receive development funds, use of rehearsal spaces, casting pools, and other resources to further support their work.[5]

Core Apprentices[edit]

Five student playwrights are selected each year to be “Core Apprentices”. These writers come from partnerships with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, GA. Each Core Apprentice receives a developmental workshop and a mentorship with a Core Writer for the full year of their apprenticeship.[6][7]


PlayLabs is an annual new play festival that occurs during a two-week span in October and is the largest development event of the Playwrights' Center's season. Each playwright is paired with a director, designer, and cast of actors. The selected plays receive 30 hours of rehearsal and two readings with allocated writing and revision time. All readings are free to the public. The festival extends beyond the readings including a Jerome Fellows showcase, a panel discussion, and a festival celebration.[8] According to The Playwrights' Center 2005 annual report, seventy four percent of Playlabs playwrights go on to receive professional productions or further development opportunities.[9]


Jerome Fellowships[edit]

  • The Playwrights' Center Jerome Fellowships are awarded annually, providing emerging American playwrights with funds and services to aid them in the development of their craft. Fellows spend a year-long residency in Minnesota and have access to Center opportunities, including workshops with professional directors, dramaturgs and actors.[10]
  • Supported by a grant from The Jerome Foundation, the Playwrights' Center's Many Voices program is designed to increase cultural diversity in the contemporary theater. The fellowship provides a stipend, development support, and the resources of the Playwrights' Center to emerging playwrights of color. Although initially established for Minnesotan artists, the fellowship will be offered to national artists as well beginning in 2013-2014.

McKnight Fellowships[edit]

  • The McKnight Advancement Grants recognize playwrights whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and excellence in the field, and whose primary residence is in the state of Minnesota. The grants are intended to significantly advance recipients' playwriting development and their careers.[11]
  • The National Residency and Commission aids in the commissioning and development of new works from nationally recognized playwrights through a stipend, residency, developmental workshop, public reading, and presentation in the McKnight fall fellowship retreat.
  • The McKnight Theater Artist Fellowships at the Playwrights' Center recognize theater artists other than playwrights whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and potential and whose primary residence is in the state of Minnesota. The grants are intended to significantly advance recipients' art and careers.


The Playwrights Center offers private membership for a fee. Members have access to a restricted website cataloguing submission and educational opportunities, as well as (private or public) roundtable readings, one-on-one dramaturgy consultations, and monthly seminars. There are currently over 1,100 members world wide.

Affiliated Organizations[edit]

Workhause Collective[edit]

Workhaus Collective became The Playwrights' Center's company in residence in 2008. Workhaus Collective is a Twins-Cities based organizations of nationally recognized playwrights that produces the work of its members and aims to "communicate directly with [their] audiences with shows that are adventurous and event-driven."[12]

The Unit Collective[edit]

The Unit Collective is a community of playwrights in the Twin Cities committed to developing and promoting under-represented new work. The collective holds Minneapolis Madness, a monthly development event, at The Playwrights' Center to test new work. Their mission is to "create Theatre/er that reflects who we are and the world in which we live. Through the quality of the shared experience we make the invisible audience visible."[13]


  1. ^ Olive, John. "The Playwrights' Center: Confessions of a Founder". Minnesota Playlist. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  2. ^ French, Rose (2/8/2011). "Heavenly Homes". Star Tribune. Retrieved 16 November 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Skinner, Quinton. "Playwrights' Center hires Cohen as Producing Artistic Director". CityPages. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Coakley, Jacob. "Playwrights' Center Selects Core Writers, Gives More than $200,000 in Direct Support to Playwright". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Kraar, Adam. "Selected for Core Membership at The Playwrights Center". 
  6. ^ "Core Apprentice". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Amina, Henry. "Core Apprentice at the Playwrights' Center (Minneapolis, MN)". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Mitchell, Angela. "PlayLabs Festival Spotlights New Playwrights, Opportunities". Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "The Playwrights' Center Annual Report". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Playwrights Center Jerome Fellowship and Many Voices Program". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "McKnight Artist Fellowship Program". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  12. ^ "About". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "Our Mission". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 

External links[edit]