The Playwrights' Center

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The Playwrights' Center
Industry Theatre
Founded 1971
Headquarters Minneapolis, Minnesota
Number of employees
13 (2012)
Website Official website

The Playwrights' Center is a non-profit theatre organization focused on both supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to production at theaters across the country. Its mission is to champion "playwrights and new plays to build upon a living theater that demands new and innovative work." It is located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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 August Wilson, Lee Blessing, Ping Chong, Paula Vogel, and Jeffrey Hatcher, Suzan-Lori Parks, Jordan Harrison, Carlyle Brown, Craig Lucas, Melanie Marnich, and Kira Obolensky. The work of Center playwrights has won every major recognition the field offers, including two Pulitzers and the Tony Award, and has been seen nationwide on such stages as Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, the Guthrie Theater, Goodman Theatre, and many others.

Recent partners have included Tectonic Theater Project, Mixed Blood Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Public Theater (NY), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ten Thousand Things Theater Company, Berkeley Rep, Marin Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and others. The Center also collaborates with local cultural institutions as the Walker Art Center and Minnesota History Center to develop theater that deepens their programming.


The Ruth Easton Lab[edit]

The Ruth Easton New Play Series[4] is a uniquely intimate and accessible way to experience the thrill of raw new work. It gives selected Core Writers 20 hours with collaborators to workshop their script—to write, rewrite, experiment, and shape their work. 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 two public readings of the play which are free for everyone. In the 2014-2015 Ruth Easton Series the names of the plays and playwrights as well as the dates of public readings are:

  • Forget Me Not When Far Away by Kira Obolensky - Monday, December 8, 2014 & Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 7:00pm
  • Dust by Qui Nguyen - Monday, January 12, 2015 & Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 7:00pm
  • Marie and Rosetta by George Brant - Monday, February 2, 2015 & Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 7:00pm
  • The REALNESS: the second break beat play by Idris Goodwin - Monday, March 2, 2015 & Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 7:00pm
  • Romeo & Naomi Ramirez by Kathryn Walat - Monday, April 6, 2015 & Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 7:00pm

Core Writers[edit]

The Playwrights’ Center invites committed professional playwrights to apply for the Core Writer Program. Created in recognition of the particular needs of emerging and established writers, the program offers significant resources intended to further a playwright's career and is available to writers nationally.

Playwrights who have benefited from the Core Writer program include Christina Anderson, Trista Baldwin, Lee Blessing, Carlyle Brown, Lonnie Carter, Constance Congdon, Marcus Gardley, Jeffrey Hatcher, Sherry Kramer, Carson Kreitzer, Melanie Marnich, Winter Miller, Gregory Moss, Qui Nguyen, Kira Obolensky, and Elaine Romero.

The Core Writer program gives 25-30 of the most exciting playwrights from across the country the time and tools to develop new work for the stage. All Core Writers receive play development workshops at the Center, in collaboration with prominent directors, actors, dramaturgs, and designers. Selected work by Core Writers makes up our formal season of public readings: the PlayLabs Festival and the Ruth Easton New Play Series. Core Writers are also promoted by the Center and provided opportunities through an extensive network of colleges and universities, cultural institutions, and producing theaters.

Each term is three years; Core Writers may re-apply for additional terms.[5]

Core Apprentices[edit]

Schools participating in the New Plays on Campus program may nominate students to become Playwrights’ Center Core Apprentices, a unique and high-profile opportunity. In partnership with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, the Core Apprentice program provides student playwrights with such benefits as a year of mentorship with a professional playwright and a full workshop of a new play at the Playwrights’ Center. Five student playwrights are selected each year to be “Core Apprentices”.[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. Four $16,000 fellowships will be awarded for 2015-16, in addition to $1,500 in development support. Fellows spend a year-long residency in Minnesota and have access to Playwrights' Center opportunities, including workshops with professional directors, dramaturgs, and actors.[10]
  • The Playwrights’ Center has awarded these fellowships in partnership with the Jerome Foundation since 1976. Past recipients include Lee Blessing, Lisa D’Amour, Kristoffer Diaz, Dan Dietz, Sarah Gubbins, Naomi Iizuka, Melanie Marnich, Peter Sagal,[11] Rhiana Yazzie, Martín Zimmerman, and August Wilson. The 2014-2015 Jerome Fellows are Steve Moulds, Kate Tarker, Josh Wilder, Deborah Yarchun.

Many Voices Fellowships[edit]

The Many Voices Fellowship was created in 1994 in partnership with the Jerome Foundation in order to create a home for early-career playwrights of color who would provide the American theater scene with diverse voices and aesthetics. Since that time, the Many Voices program has provided 140 fellowships for some 100 emerging playwrights of color, offering class instruction, play development workshops, and mentoring opportunities.

  • Many Voices Fellowships are awarded annually to two artists of color with previous playwriting experience and/or training. One fellowship is awarded to a Minnesota playwright, and one fellowship is awarded to either a Minnesota or national playwright. Recipients include Aamera Siddiqui, Jessica Huang, Naomi Iizuka, Daniel Alexander Jones, Aditi Kapil, and Janaki Ranpura. Many Voices Fellowships provide:
    • a $10,000 stipend,
    • an additional $2,500 for living expenses,
    • $1,500 in play development funds
    • assistance building connections with theater leaders and companies in the Twin Cities and nationwide
  • Many Voices Mentorships are awarded annually to two Minnesota-based beginning playwrights of color. Mentorships focus on the nuts and bolts of playwriting through a curated package of writing and development services intended to aid the participant toward the completion of a play script. Mentorships provide a $1,000 stipend as well as free access to a number of services designed to introduce beginning playwrights to the craft of playwriting. These services include a staged reading with professional actors, two six-week classes taught by leading playwriting professionals, an array of one-night seminars, a One-on-One with a Dramaturg session, and a two-year Playwrights' Center membership.

McKnight Fellowships[edit]

  • McKnight Advancement Fellowships 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.[12]
  • McKnight National Residency and Commission aids in the commissioning and development of new works from nationally recognized playwrights. Past recipients include: Kia Corthron, Kate Fodor, Daniel Alexander Jones, Sibyl Kempson, Craig Lucas, Taylor Mac, Ruth Margraff, Dan O'Brien, Betty Shamieh, Kathleen Tolan, and Mac Wellman. The Residency provides artists with the following benefits:
    • A $14,000 commission
    • At least two U.S. round-trip airline tickets
    • Housing during the residency period
    • Up to $5,750 in workshop funds to support the development of the play
    • A public reading of the commissioned play
  • 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 $25,000 fellowships are intended to significantly advance recipients’ art and careers. Selection is based on a commitment to theater arts, evidence of professional achievement, and a sustained level of excellence in the applicant's work. Recent recipients include: Sarah Agnew, Ansa Akyea, Shá Cage, Sun Mee Chomet, James Craven, Marcus Dilliard, Kate Eifrig, Masanari Kawahara, Christopher Lutter-Gardella, Greta Oglesby, Sonja Parks, Denise Prosek, Robert Rosen, Joel Sass, Michael Wangen, and Stephen Yoakam.


The Playwrights Center offers private membership for an annual fee of $50. Member benefits include:

  • Opportunities board: A frequently updated and comprehensive online database of playwriting contests and submission opportunities in addition to helpful categorizations.
  • Classes and seminars: Free playwriting seminars and special pricing on extended writing classes (including online classes and seminars)
  • Member Stage Readings: A member's script, read for an audience by professional actors in the Waring Jones Theatre and optional feedback from a professional dramaturg
  • One-on-one with a Dramaturg: Personalized matching with an experienced dramaturg, who will work with the member playwright on her/his script (additional fee)
  • Member Open Play: Monthly get-togethers where members read and discuss each other's scripts. Members can join in person, online, or by phone.
  • Member profile: A page on the website members can use to promote themselves and their work, as well as connect with other members
  • Education and professional development: Regular articles educating members about playwriting and the theater industry
  • Discounts: Including $80 off Final Draft software; free associate level membership to Fractured Atlas; and discounts on TCG membership, theater books at Focus Bookstore and classes at partner institutions like the Loft Literary Center and Primary Stages’ Einhorn School of Performing Arts

Affiliated Organizations[edit]

Workhaus 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."[13]

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."[14]


  1. ^ Olive, John. "The Playwrights' Center: Confessions of a Founder". Minnesota Playlist. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  2. ^ French, Rose (8 February 2011). "Heavenly Homes" (PDF). Star Tribune. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  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" (PDF). Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Playwrights Center Jerome Fellowship and Many Voices Program". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Peter Sagal". Dramatic Publishing. Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  12. ^ "McKnight Artist Fellowship Program". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "About". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  14. ^ "Our Mission". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 

External links[edit]