Rorschach Theatre announces free staged readings of three new plays

As part of the company's 'Magic in Rough Spaces' new play lab series, the readings will be held April 1-2 at Atlas Arts Center.

Rorschach Theatre proudly announces the three plays selected for development through its 2023 MAGIC IN ROUGH SPACES New Play Lab: AMERICAN DREAM by Trish Cole; EVEN WHEN THE WORLD BURNS I AM STILL WITH YOU by Elizabeth Shannon; and HUMAN MUSEUM by Miyoko Conley.

Each play will have a public staged reading, including a designer’s presentation of a theoretical design and a post-show discussion with the playwright, director, and performers. The staged readings return to the Atlas Performing Arts Center for the first time since 2019, and take place on the set of Rorschach’s upcoming production, SOMETIMES THE RAIN, SOMETIMES THE SEA, which itself was workshopped in 2022’s MAGIC IN ROUGH SPACES.

Launched in 2018, MAGIC IN ROUGH SPACES develops new plays that utilize magic realism or otherwise present “impossible” theater. Rorschach assembles a team of industry professionals to read over 100 plays collected from a nationwide call and select three playwrights – one of whom is always from the DC area – for an intensive online and in-person workshop process and staged reading.

Rorschach Magic in Rough Spaces playwrights Trish Cole, Elizabeth Shannon, and Miyoko Conley

By Trish Cole
Directed by Rebecca Rovezzi
April 1, 2023 @ 2:30PM

In AMERICAN DREAM, five high school cheerleaders attempt to navigate purity and over-sexualization as Adam and Eve revisit their origin story and Joan of Arc battles not only the English, but the high school principal, gender roles, and rape culture. At the intersection of these stories is Bubbe, an intergalactic prophet and Jewish grandmother, traversing time and space to weave the narratives together, revealing the connections among generations and generations of women, including the women in her own family who left Odessa for America in hopes of finding their own Garden of Paradise…or, the American Dream.

Playwright Trish Cole says: “Playwriting is solitary, and I love it, living in my head, listening to the voices, imagining metaphorical worlds. Yet I also love what comes after the script. The creative collaboration. I want to hear my voice and see my vision come to life through the collective creative process, through the theater expertise Rorschach is offering …. Through this workshop, I hope to see how expansive, how big and untethered, I can go with my writing and my ideas.”

The AMERICAN DREAM team includes director Rebecca Rovezzi, who directed DRACULA: A FEMINIST REVENGE FANTASY for Rorschach last fall; dramaturg Liv Wilson; and a designer to be announced, who will join the conversation and present a theoretical design for Cole’s expansive, time-bending epic. The cast includes Gretchen Weigel Doughty, Jessica Ludd, Jen Rabbit Ring, Dylan Arrendondo, Mira Klein, Rachel Johns, Lisette Gabrielle, Julia Marks, Matt Clyne, Fatime Dyfan, Andrew Quilpa, and Maryanne Henderson.

About the Playwright

TRISH COLE is a playwright whose work often explores the intersections of social construct, gender, identity, resistance, and resiliency. Her plays have been produced in New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Asheville, and regionally in Maryland. Trish is a Samuel French finalist, a Bakeless Literary Prize finalist, and is the recipient of three Maryland Community Theatre Festival Association script awards, including the 2023 Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting. Trish earned her M.A. in Sociocultural Feminist Criticism from the University of Northern Colorado and a post-graduate certification in Library Media from the Notre Dame of Maryland University. Trish lives in Southern Maryland where she works as a public high-school librarian.

By Elizabeth Shannon
Directed by Madeleine Regina
April 2, 2023 @ 2:30PM

A play with poetry intertwined, EVEN WHEN THE WORLD BURNS I AM STILL WITH YOU tells the tragic love story of Freja and Noor, two high schoolers from wildly different backgrounds and life outlooks who meet and fall in love. As they struggle to overcome obstacles in their relationship and mental health issues, the climate change and forest fires in Paradise, CA threaten to destroy their lives.

Playwright Elizabeth Shannon says: “I’m excited to continue to work on a play dealing with the issue of climate change and climate anxiety. The world has changed so much since I first wrote this play and I’m excited to see how it changes in response to the world now. I also can’t wait to explore the mix of poetry and dialogue in this magical realist setting and see how the language interacts with the form of the piece.”

The team includes director Madeleine Regina, who directed in our artist development program Klecksography in 2019; dramaturg Shana Laski; and a designer to be announced, who will present a theoretical design that captures the darkness and romantic light of Shannon’s play. The cast includes Kate Kenworthy and Jolene Mafnas.

About the Playwright

ELIZABETH SHANNON is an actor, playwright, and director. She is a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College, working to obtain her BFA Acting and BA Writing for the Stage degrees. Her play, WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?, which she co-wrote with Morgan Southwell, was a winner of Baltimore Centerstage’s Young Playwright’s Festival, and a finalist in The Secret Theatre’s Act One: One Act Festival. Her play, NUCLEAR, was a winner of The Blank Theatre’s 28th Annual Young Playwrights Festival, received an honorable mention in the 43rd Annual Marilyn Bianchi Kids’ Playwriting Festival with Dobama Theatre, and was produced with The Trailblazers Collective. Her play, LOAD, was a winner of #Enough: Plays to End Gun Violence, a project comprised of 7 plays by young women addressing gun violence. Its world premiere was with South Coast Repertory and is published in an anthology with Playscripts. Her play, MAMA BUSHWICK IS DEAD, was a winner of The Blank Theatre’s 29th Annual Young Playwrights Festival, and had a year-long residency with Young Playwrights Theatre in Washington, DC. Her play, HERE’S TO ALL THE BROKEN GIRLS was a winner of The Blank Theatre’s 30th Annual Young Playwrights Festival.

By Miyoko Conley
Directed by Randy Baker
April 2, 2023 @ 7:30PM

HUMAN MUSEUM begins on the centenary of human extinction and follows three robots who run the Human Museum on Earth: the Director, who founded the museum; 65, the curmudgeonly head of digital data; and 237, a sensitive robot who works with physical artifacts. At the start of the play, the robots are putting the finishing touches on their largest exhibition yet, about humanity’s final days on Earth. Delivery Bot, a curious robot searching for something more in life, delivers a package to the museum and decides to stay until the exhibition’s opening. The group of robots then receive a startling radio call that upends everything they thought they knew about the last days of humanity.

Playwright Miyoko Conley says: “I’m excited to continue to refine the sci-fi world in my play, including developing more specific speech patterns for the robot characters. In past revisions, I’ve focused on tightening the flashback structure in the play, so this time around I’d like to focus on clarifying certain conflicts. [Since] this will be the first in-person development opportunity this play has had, I’m looking forward to seeing how having the actors in the same space will affect my revisions.”

The team includes director Randy Baker, who along with Jenny McConnell Frederick is the co-Artistic Director of Rorschach Theatre; dramaturg Divinia Shorter; and a designer to be announced, who will join the conversation and present a theoretical design for Conley’s robot-run museum space. The cast includes Karen Lange, Jordanna Hernandez, Ben Topa, Jennifer Knight, Sydney Dionne, and Christina Day.

About the Playwright

MIYOKO CONLEY is an Asian American playwright, games writer, and scholar. Her plays have been presented in the Bay Area and New York City, including at UC Berkeley; UCLA; Second Generation (2g); The Tank; The Wild Project; and New York University. Works include HUMAN MUSEUM (developed at the 2021 Bay Area Playwrights Festival); STARSHIP DANCE PARTY (developed with the New Play Reading series at UC Berkeley); END OF THE WORLD PLACE (2015 semi-finalist Bay Area Playwrights Festival); UNTITLED FANTASY (part of 2g’s Jumpstart Commissions); and INTERCHANGEABLE PARTS (part of 2g’s Free Range Commissions). She has also received screenwriting commissions from the Oklahoma City University MFA Screen Acting Program in Los Angeles. Miyoko holds a BFA in Theatre from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, an MA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in Playwriting and Japanese Popular Culture, and a PhD in Performance Studies and New Media from the University of California, Berkeley.

About Rorschach Theatre

Through uncommon uses of environment and intimate, passionate performances, Rorschach Theatre seeks to lure its audiences beyond the limits of ordinary theatrical experience so that they may discover new elements of their own humanity.

Rorschach Theatre tells stories that allow for innovative design and visceral performances. The company treats productions as “installations” that surround the audience with the world of a play. Our work centers on the intersection of magic or impossible moments and every day human experience. Without proselytizing, it provides a complex, intellectual catalyst for self-exploration of challenging subjects.

Rorschach is a vital launching pad for emerging artists. By trusting early-career actors, directors, playwrights and designers with substantive artistic responsibilities, and surrounding them with established professionals and ample resources, the company has become an essential showcase for new talent. In addition to its regular season, Rorschach produces “Magic in Rough Spaces,” an annual new play development series; “Klecksography,” an annual new artist development event (for actors, local playwrights, and directors); and “Fight Camp,” a stage combat training program held every summer. The company also organizes “Other People’s Ink,” a monthly offering of non-theatre social events that speak to the company’s aesthetic.

Beginning during the Covid-19 pandemic, Rorschach began producing its “Psychogeographies Project” – season-long immersive narratives that take participants to lesser-known spots around their city as a story unfolds through letters, artifacts, and objects mailed in monthly chapters and culminates with an in-person play in the summer.

The Helen Hayes award-winning Rorschach Theatre has produced more than fifty plays seen by tens of thousands of people in the Washington area. The company has been recognized more than a dozen times by the Helen Hayes Awards; won a Mary Goldwater Award; been a finalist for the Mayor’s Arts Award; and has been the recipient of multiple grants and awards from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The company’s work has garnered the attention of The New York Times, The Washington Post, American Theatre magazine and National Public Radio, as well as countless local publications.

All MAGIC IN ROUGH SPACES readings will take place in Lab II at the Atlas Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC. Tickets are FREE. Reserve your seats here:



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