Play Development

A group of people sitting in front of a stage.

Actresses Tomi Nelson, Delores King Williams and Kellee Knighten Hough ‘Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone’ 2013 Page-to-Stage Festival John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Photo by Linwood Dailey

New Play Reading Series

The New Play Reading Series is created to give voice to work of new and established playwrights. It is in substance an incubator that serves to nurture the work of participating writers for a three-year period in a supportive and collaborative environment with other artisans, actors and directors. Further, it is a forum where audience members are welcomed to engage in an open, frank dialogue with playwrights about issues presented in the material as well as techniques used to present them. The New Play Reading Series was initiated in the spring of 1992.

Meet our Playwrights

John Becker

A man with long hair and mustache standing in front of a brick wall.

Title of Play Developed: “A Field of Thorns”*
Year completed development 2001

John Becker was awarded 1st place in the play competition for new American plays at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. His work has been produced off-Broadway at the Emerging Artists Theatre Ensemble. He has been awarded two Individual Artist’s Grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, one for playwriting and one for fiction. His plays were produced at the Source Theatre Company for three consecutive years during its annual Summer Theatre Festival. His play titled, “The Last Sacred Place,” was produced at the Top Floor Theatre in Baltimore, MD. Additionally, his work has been produced by the Potomac Theatre Company, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, the Run of the Mill Theatre, and the Writer’s Center.

James J. Hsiao, MD

A man with short hair and a smile.

Title of Play Developed: “People for Whom the World Spins and Turns”
Year completed development 2006
World Premiere June 29, 2018

James Hsiao is a writer, filmmaker, and physician. He studied film as an undergraduate at Yale University, where his thesis film, ‘Voices,’ a documentary about the 1947 Taiwan uprising that led to the massacre of tens of thousands of Taiwanese by Chinese Nationalists, was awarded the Howard Lamar Prize for Outstanding Work in Film and/or Video. Hsiao has written plays that have been read as part of the National Asian American Theater Festival and the Baltimore Playwrights Festival. He wrote and directed a feature-length film, ‘Water Lilies,’ which screened in several New York film festivals. Most recently, he has written several screenplays, which have received top awards in the national film festival circuit. Hsiao received his M.D. from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed his residency training at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He currently works as an emergency physician in San Diego. His essays have been published in the online ‘Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.’

Jamal Williams

A man with his arms crossed wearing glasses.

Title of Play Developed: “King Willie”*
Year completed development 2008

A novelist, short story writer, playwright and screenwriter, Jamal Williams has a Master of Creative Writing from The University of San Francisco at San Francisco. He is a Charter Member and former Executive Director of The Buriel Clay San Francisco Black Writers Workshop and Playwright-in-Residence of The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Company (1989-1992). He is a winner of the San Francisco Bay Guardian 1st Playwriting Competition for Best Full-Length Play, 1991 (‘Is You Is or Is You Ain’t’). His first novel, entitled Where Dark Things Hide, is an urban science fiction and horror novel. Jamal is a member of the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop and had a new play read in the Playwright Series of the 2001 and 2003 National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

His staged productions include, ‘Return to Crosscreek’ (R. Joyce Whitley Play Festival Karamu Theatre Company, ‘Ding Dong Daddy’ (Blacken Blues Theatre Festival Dallas, Texas), ‘Yesterday Came Too Soon: The Dorothy Dandridge Story’ (Los Angeles Production and Berkeley Black Repertory Company, Berkeley, California and National Black Theatre Festival, Winston Salem, North Carolina and National Black Theatre, NY).

Additional stage productions are: ‘Eulogy for the Blackman‘ (Theater for the New City, New York, June 2002); ‘The Blue Mirror Revue’ (via The Writer’s Clique at Harlem Theatre Company, New York, February 2002), ‘Yesterday Came Too Soon: The Dorothy Dandridge Story’ (The 4305 Village Theatre, September 2001). This Los Angeles production was nominated for eight Hollywood/Beverly Hills NAACP Theater Awards of 2001. The production won for Best Actress. And ‘House on Fire’ (Theater for The New City, New York, March, 2000) was highly acclaimed.

Jamal has won numerous awards, fellowships, and scholarships.

Natalie Blank

A woman with brown hair wearing a green shirt.

Title of Play Developed: “Samson and Ms. Delilah”
Year completed development 2015

Natalie Blank’s, “Carrots” was presented at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in a school production sponsored by the Theatre Council of Majors in February of 2008. She also directed the production. Her ten minute one-acts, “The Train Station,” “Night Lie,” and “Walking Off Pluto,” were performed in a new and exciting one-act festival sponsored by the Theatre Majors in April of 2008. Natalie organized the event and directed her three plays. In September of 2009, “Walking Off Pluto” was performed a second time at the Laurel Mill Playhouse. Natalie graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a BFA in Acting and BA in Interdisciplinary Studies in Dance and Culture. Acting credits include, “Waiting for the Trigger,” (DC Fringe), “The Tragedy of Antonie,” (National Woman’s Museum), “The Butterfinger’s Angel” and “Intelligence” (Rep Stage), “The Three Penny Opera,” “Silence Cunning Exile,” “The Faulkner Project,” “The Edge of Ross Island,” “Markers,” and “The Vagina Monologues,” (UMBC). Natalie is also a novelist and dance teacher. She plans to study creative writing in graduate school.

La’Chris Jordan

A woman with long black hair wearing red.

Title of Play Developed: “A Matter of Faith”
Year completed development (in process)

La’Chris is a poet, actress, screenwriter, and award-winning playwright who was named one of the’50 to Watch’ by the Dramatists Guild of America. She was recently awarded the Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs smART Award (2009, Piney Ridge) and the Artist Trust Grants for Artists Award (2005, Sadie’s Kitchen), a Washington state grant awarded to individual artists for artistic excellence. Born and raised in Oakland, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana, La’Chris began her writing career as a poet and journalist in 1995 after studying communications at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 2005, she penned her first full-length play “Sadie’s Kitchen,” (2005 National Black Theatre Festival) which was produced to critical success during the same year at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center in Seattle. Since then, La’Chris’ one-act and full-length plays have been produced throughout the country including Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York. Her full-length plays include “Piney Ridge,” (Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center), “Haram,” (Finalist, 2007 Seattle Dramatists New Play Festival; 78th Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition), and “Roses in the Water,” (2009 National Black Theatre Festival).

A woman is performing on stage with her feet up.

Actress/Playwright Perri Gaffney(Alice) in Helen Hayes Award(registered trademark) ‘The Resurrection of Alice.’

“Roses in the Water,” recently received a staged reading at the award-winning Urban Stages in New York City. It also won 3rd place in the 2009 WriteMovies International Writing Competition, beating out 1,000 scripts from across the world. WriteMovies is currently pitching Roses to film and production companies. ‘A Matter of Faith’ represents her fourth full-length play along with a historical romance novel, The Embers of Bellevue, which is scheduled to be released in 2011. She teaches playwriting at ACT Theatre’s Young Playwrights Program, and is a well-known actress in the Seattle theatre community performing in such plays as, “The Crucible,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Hamlet” and “Well.” La’Chris is a member of the Dramatists Guild, International Centre for Women Playwrights, and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance.

* Indicates scheduled for world premiere.

It’s Essential!

Playwright, James J. Hsiao, MD (People for Whom the World Spins and Turns,” discusses benefits of his participation in the new play development program.