Victor Lesniewski, Cold Spring
“I was thoroughly impressed with the support and respect shown to each of us playwrights and our work throughout the week. The festival is so well organized. Having an opening event allowed me to get a better sense of the community before the work even began. And the closing party gave me a chance to step back, breathe, and say thank you again after a hectic week.
As advertised, the audiences are large and thoughtful. It’s really unique in a reading setting to have an audience engage with your play so deeply, and it makes their feedback all the more useful. I also felt extremely lucky that in my fellow playwrights, I found friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Opportunities like this one are rare for me and I’m so very grateful that I was selected. A huge thank you to all the readers, staff, and festival leadership for a tremendous experience.”
Stephanie Alison Walker, The Abuelas
“What can I say that hasn’t already been said by so many? ANPF is such a gift to playwrights. We get to come to theatre paradise for a whole week to work on our plays and just be playwrights. We are greeted with a lovely reception, we get to rehearse in the beautiful OSF rehearsal rooms, we are given such incredible support from Kyle Haden before even arriving. We’re treated like artists.
They truly roll out the red carpet for playwrights at Ashland New Plays Festival and it is so appreciated.
It seems the whole community gets invested in our plays. Several of us were stopped at breakfast or just walking through town to discuss our plays. It’s unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Everyone is so invested in this process, including the audience.
I love that ANPF staffs a host playwright for the festival to guide us through the week and create community and a rollicking good time. Beth Kander fills this role with grace, generosity and charm. The other winning playwrights, the actors, the directors, readers, the interns, the staff, the board, the audience… everyone is so wonderful.
I left ANPF this year with many new friends, a new rewrite of my play and so many wonderful memories. Thank you!”
Ian August, The Excavation of Mary Anning
“I’ve been to conferences and festivals where the playwright has been incidental; where the organizers barely know your name, let alone your work. ANPF is the antithesis of that. From the moment you set foot in Ashland, Kyle and Jackie and the festival staff go out of their way to make sure you feel valued. The community around this festival is unbelievably supportive—of you AND of your work.
I am eternally grateful for the professional development it provided, and the personal connections I made. And on top of that, the talent involved in the readings is top tier. I can’t recommend it more highly. Ashland New Plays Festival is something every playwright should have an opportunity to experience.”
Nate Eppler, Primary User
“I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of the 2018 Ashland New Plays Festival. The remarkable support and hospitality they provide extends from the ANPF team, to the artists assembled to help nurture the work, to the extraordinary volunteers and board members and hosts and donors, to the deeply engaged audiences, and to the community of Ashland itself. ANPF has gone out of their way to make an oasis for new plays and they have succeeded by any measure.
“I had a tremendous time at ANPF. My actors and I were given ample time to rehearse, both before and after our first performance. My director was brilliant and the quality of the artists I was able to work with was completely inspiring.
It’s also a thrill to be able to do a staged reading in front of a huge (200) audience for two different performances. The audience at Ashland is extremely well-informed and thoughtful – a large number of them were readers for the contest so they are very familiar with the work. In some ways, it’s a bit overwhelming. People were coming up to me on the street or in restaurants and telling me how much they enjoyed my play.
In short, it was everything you want from a developmental opportunity: a chance to work on the work, while reaping the benefits of an informed, passionate audience. And the accommodations were wonderful too!” – Don Zolidis, A Dark Sky Full of Stars
“My time in Ashland was meaningful and productive, as well as a ton of fun! It was a great to be in the room with such generous theater artists, who all worked hard to bring my play to gorgeous life.
A huge part of what made the week so worthwhile was connecting with my fellow playwrights and spending time with my director talking about process and our respective experiences. Ashland has an incredibly thoughtful and engaged theater community, and I was so glad to get to know the ANPF staff, as well as my lovely hosts and the donors who underwrote my play.<.P
I felt thoroughly supported through the entire week and am so grateful for the many resources I was given. I hope I can return one day!” – Callie Kimball, Sofonisba
“I had a great time at ANPF! I enjoyed getting to see Ashland for the first time, meeting some lovely actors and directors from all over the country and feeling the love and support of the whole community at both of my readings. I’m very impressed with the level of deep engagement the ANPF audiences have with the plays and playwrights they encounter.
I left the week with my spirits bolstered and with warm feelings about the vibrant Ashland theater community. I also must mention the beautiful and bountiful gift bags we received upon arrival! Thank you to everyone who makes this week possible and hope to see you all again soon!” – Emily Feldman, Go. Please. Go.
“What a gift what a gift what a gift! Ashland New Play Festival is a true oasis for playwrights, and an experience to cherish. From first contact, I felt taken care of, respected, and encouraged to do my best work. My accommodations were lovely. My hosts were gracious to a fault. The coffee was AMAZING! My fellow playwrights were inspirational, kind, and generous with their insights and feedback. Beth Kander was the perfect artistic host – the smartest, most articulate cheerleader one could ever hope to meet. Kyle Haden led the festival with a calm, cool, collected hand that made everything seem possible. The artistic team assembled to work on my play could not have been bettered.
But the real prize of the festival was the community. The depth and breadth of their engagement with the process from beginning to end was truly astonishing – to have a talkback with a hundred people who have read your play MULTIPLE TIMES!!!!!!!! What?!!?!?!?!?! If my punctuation is a little hysterical, so be it. The people of the Ashland New Play Festival – all of them – every one – deserve all the exclamation points I can throw at them. It was an honor to be in their presence.” – Blake Hackler, What We Were
The very worst thing about the Ashland New Plays Festival is coming home to your drab little life after the week is over. I cannot stress how perfect everything was. The town is gorgeous and filled with some of the nicest people on the planet. Really, everyone is nice! It kind of freaked me out a little (I’m a New Yorker.) We were housed in what must surely be the very best B&B in Ashland, with no-question-about-it the most delicious and enjoyable breakfast in town! And the innkeepers, Bill & Corbet, are so much fun and – you guessed it – really, really nice!
But most important, I was treated with respect and admiration as a playwright and that is worth more than everything else combined. Before we arrived, Kyle worked to understand and align my goals and concerns for the play and the readings. He and Jackie assembled an amazing cast and recruited Scott Kaiser to direct them, which he did with an inspirational amount of insight and patience and care.
I learned so much about my play from the excessively talented actors, from the deeply intelligent director, and from the smart and eager audience. My ANPF experience is among the most important, inspiring, enlightening and downright fun events I have had as a writer! I must begin work on my next play so I can maybe, just maybe, be invited back! —Mike Teele, winning playwright for EdanEv, ANPF 2016
What’s ANPF? It’s a packed week of rehearsals and rewrites with a terrific director and brilliant actors. A week culminating in two public readings in front of full houses of smart, enthusiastic theater-goers. It’s a week of meeting dozens of wonderfully helpful ANPF staff and volunteers who were always there with a ride or helpful advice. It’s a week of getting to know our awesome host playwright/moderator Ellen Lewis and the other winning (and I mean winning) playwrights. And it’s a week of exploring amazing Ashland and all it has to offer: great restaurants, the co-op (Kambucha on tap anyone?), hot springs, book stores, and the incredible Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The takeaway is inspiration, a much improved play, and a smile. —Michael Erickson, winning playwright for Oberon Springs, ANPF 2016
The week I spent in Ashland as one of the winning ANPF playwrights was one of the best weeks in my life as a playwright. The people of ANPF have downright spoiled me for any other residency experience. First of all, Ashland is a beautiful and unique place filled with natural beauty, incredible coffee shops and so much theater and theater lovers! My family accompanied me on the trip as I have two small boys and needed help with childcare. Everyone loved it- my husband, our two young boys, our Pug dog (yes, we brought the dog too,) my mom and my step dad. By the end of the week my mom was plotting to have our whole family move there.
From the moment my play was selected for the festival, I felt like I was in good hands. Kyle listened carefully to what I was hoping for in a director and paired me up with the lovely and talented Leah Anderson who directed the play beautifully. Because of the relationship with OSF, we were blessed to have a ridiculously talented cast. Our team beautifully brought my play to life. Now let’s talk about the audience… what a dedicated audience! It was a packed, I mean, packed house for both readings. People come from different places just for this festival and because they love hearing new plays at the beginning of the process. They were such careful listeners and so committed to sharing feedback. The feedback sessions were masterfully guided by host playwright, EM Lewis. EM is a huge part of what makes the week in Ashland so special. It makes a huge difference to have a fellow playwright guiding us through the week, answering our questions, making sure that we are comfortable and getting what we need from the experience. She also hosted a playwriting workshop that is open to the public and that was a highlight of the week for me.
Upon arrival I was greeted with a gift bag that contained wine, snacks, a souvenir wine glass, information about the week and a gift card for one of the local coffee shops. There was a reception in our honor that first night with food and champagne. The festival provides a driver for each playwright to make sure we get to each of the events and there is a closing night party with pizza and beer where we could all celebrate the wonderful week and cry together about having to leave.
The other amazing thing about the week is getting to know the other playwrights. I left with more confidence in my play and many more friends than when I arrived. I could only hope for the opportunity to return as a “winning playwright” one day. —Stephanie Walker, winning playwright for The Madres, ANPF 2016
When asked about playwriting, I often say that what makes it such a unique genre of writing is the element of collaboration. The creation of a play demands contributions not only from the writer, but also from actors, directors, designers, audiences; a play is only fulfilled when it becomes a shared experience.
The intense, immersive residency experience I had at the Ashland New Plays Festival this year might have been the best embodiment I have yet experienced of how powerful the contributions of other artists and thoughtful audiences to the evolution of a play can be. My director, Kyle Haden, assembled a cast of brilliant actors who were totally game when it came to conversations, reflection, so much more than just performance (although they also knocked it out of the park on the performance front). The audiences one finds at Ashland are unlike audiences almost anywhere else—true lovers of theater who understand their vital importance in bringing new plays into the world. ANPF is a gift, and getting to devote a week to this script was incredible.
My play grew tremendously over the course of ANPF 2016, and I am so grateful for the experience. My thanks to Kyle, our actors, the ANPF Board and volunteers, EM Lewis, and every audience member. I hope I’ll find my way back to Ashland again soon. —Beth Kander, winning playwright for Hazardous Materials, ANPF 2016
Reading through past testimonials from ANPF winning playwrights, I immediately had to delete the first draft of my own testimonial in fear of appearing to be nothing more than a broken record. (That’s being a writer for you. Always trashing your first draft because it doesn’t feel original enough!) I think that, alone, is a fitting tribute to the festival: all of its playwrights singing similar songs of praise. We do so for good reason. Ashland New Plays Festival is truly an artistic gift. Playwrights often work in isolation; in the journey from page to stage, we almost always travel the first long leg of the journey alone. When a script is ready for other eyes, other ears, other voices, we have to hope that we’ll be joined on this journey by worthy companions to keep us moving forward—and there are no worthier companions than the people who coordinate, implement, and attend ANPF. The artists with whom I was able to collaborate were incredible, and the audiences simply blew me away. Where else will 200 people show up to hear a new play read aloud…and then almost all stay for the postshow talkback, providing a chorus of thoughtful insights, supportive feedback, and truly engaged commentary? I am honored and humbled to be able to contribute a few lyrics to this medley, and I am already plotting and planning my return to Ashland. Thank you, and bravo, to the entire ANPF community for cultivating such a rich artistic endeavor. —Beth Kander, winning playwright for The Bottle Tree, ANPF 2015
Where to begin describing the joy of returning to Ashland? To stroll through Lithia Park, to sit on the bricks again. As a former actor at OSF, what a pleasure it was to steal into the outdoor theatre and close my eyes, listening to murmuring echoes from years long past. But ANPF is about the present, and what a present—as in gift—it is. Each staged reading felt like a major event, thanks to the efforts of all the volunteers, especially the readers. Their enthusiasm is the fuel that drives this festival, and mixing with them was my greatest pleasure of the week. Getting to know my fellow playwrights—well, that was beyond wonderful. And at the talkbacks, I was struck by the commitment and passion conveyed by directors like Lydia, Kyle, and Jackie for the plays they’d chosen to helm; it was clear that for them, ANPF 2015 was truly a labor of love. I’m grateful, of course, to my cast, and to Norma and Fred Wright, whose warmth and generosity haven’t dimmed in 30-plus years. Finally, special thanks go to Jim Pagliasotti and Kyle Haden—their dedication is palpable and ensures that the future of ANPF will be very bright indeed. —Brian Mulholland, winning playwright for The Return of Tartuffe, ANPF 2015
At the risk of acquiescing to cliché, if I’m being honest, I have no choice but to say that my time at the Ashland New Plays Festival changed my life. I keep telling people I had to be dragged kicking and screaming from Ashland at the end of the week, and it’s true. The support and generosity of the staff, board, and volunteers at ANPF was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The enthusiasm and dedication of the readers was overwhelming and truly moving. And the audiences—the patrons of ANPF—are in a class all their own. While in Ashland, strangers stopped me on the street to talk to me about my play. You can’t get that anywhere else. And as for the talent, I can’t speak highly enough about my extraordinary cast and director—all straight from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Despite their busy lives and schedules, they poured themselves into my work heart and soul, and I was in love right from the start. All of this combined with the companionship of my fellow winning playwrights made this experience a transformative one for me. I’m already plotting my return to Ashland. ANPF is magic, and I’ll always be grateful for their extraordinary gift. —Skye Robinson Hillis, winning playwright for And Vaster, ANPF 2015
The spirit of ANPF is one of generosity and enthusiasm. From the opening night reception through the talkback following my reading, I was part of a community energetically committed to nurturing and encouraging emerging dramatists. The artistic director, staff, and board of ANPF go above and beyond to ensure that each playwright feels welcomed and appreciated, and they have managed to cultivate an audience that responds to new work with extremely smart, thoughtful, and constructive feedback. ANPF marked the first public reading of my new play, The Luckiest People, and I can’t imagine a better setting for putting a new work out into the world. It’s always scary to take something out of the safety of the rehearsal room and put it in front of an audience, but ANPF does a wonderful job of providing each playwright with a first-rate cast of actors who are truly committed to serving the play. I was able to hear exactly what I had written, which was incredibly helpful in terms of next steps in the revision and development process. I would recommend ANPF highly to any emerging dramatist looking for a wonderfully supportive and collaborative environment to hear their work aloud. —Meridith Friedman, winning playwright for The Luckiest People, ANPF 2015
It’s hard for me to put into words what a tremendous experience we had in Ashland. Not only did I get a chance to see my play The Groyser performed by a wonderful ensemble of actors, but I made some great new friends in my fellow playwrights Jack, Bob, and Michael; got a chance to meet and talk theater with the remarkable Ellen Lewis, who is as nice as she is talented; was taken care of in first-class fashion by everyone associated with ANPF; and was able to experience firsthand what a unique and singular place Ashland, Oregon, is. Not only are the audiences attentive and involved—they’re smart and insightful and they love theater. There is no other place quite like it. So thanks again for making this one of the more memorable weeks of my life. I’ll be back! —James Harmon Brown, winning playwright for The Groyser, ANPF 2014
Getting to work on a script in any prestigious new plays festival is a great opportunity, but the week in Ashland offers some that are rare if not unique in my experience. The value in hearing our plays read twice is impossible to exaggerate. It means two separate audiences, which will never be identical, especially when any cast, however remarkable, has never read the play in front of an audience until those two performances. Offering each play a matinee and evening slot makes an even wider range of audience reactions likely, based the average theatregoer’s relative fatigue and blood alcohol level, especially for plays in which incomplete thoughts and jagged dialogue often fly past at approximately the speed of sound. Having attended ANPF once before, I was able to work with the same astute director again. When rehearsal time is scarce, nothing increases efficiency like an already existing rapport with a skilled collaborator. The playwright mentor set a positive, constructive tone to ensure that we playwrights got together often enough to benefit from each other’s feedback and enjoy one another’s company in what is for the most part a solitary profession. Then there’s Ashland itself. —Bob Clyman, winning playwright for A Little Quid Pro Quo (now The Good Bet), ANPF 2014
Like any human being, there are two fundamental longings that a playwright has. To be heard and to be seen. Playwriting, as might be expected, is a solitary exploration, and hopefully a revelation, into the vast territory of the human condition through story. For a playwright to have his story heard and seen is important because a play is meant to be brought to life by living, speaking actors in front of a living, and hopefully aware, audience. When this happens—and especially when it happens in a caring, respectful, welcoming, professional manner—the playwright feels he has given birth to something that is both appreciated and supported to move forward into its unique and potential life. Such was my experience with the Ashland New Plays Festival. From the initial honor of being selected as one of four winners; through friendly and clear email communications before departing for Oregon, initial arrival, and greeting; being provided with shelter in a lovely B&B with thoughtful proprietors; welcomed at rehearsals by a talented cast and director; dined, nourished, and supported by a remarkable host playwright; and then the rewarding experience of the readings themselves with useful feedback from intelligent audiences—my experience was quite frankly amazing. These people care about plays and playwrights in a way that makes one feel truly valued. If you’re a playwright and you’re wondering about what new plays festival to submit to, do yourself a favor and submit to ANPF. If you’re selected, you won’t be disappointed. —Michael Edan, winning playwright for Homecoming, ANPF 2014
Participating in the Ashland New Plays Festival was definitely one of the highlights of my career as a playwright so far. I was privileged to work with terrific and talented actors and a wonderful director, all of whom did an excellent job of bringing my words to life. The Ashland audiences were smart and supportive and were very excited to talk with me about my play, both at the talkbacks after the readings and even when I ran into them around town. And all the people organizing and running the festival, including the wonderful host playwright Ellen Lewis, bent over backward to make sure I had the best possible experience. Add to all this Ashland’s beautiful surroundings and the superfriendly and cozy accommodations, and I can honestly say I have never been treated so well as a playwright as when I was at ANPF. I met so many people I know I will keep in touch with and hopefully get to work with again down the road. I left inspired to keep writing and, hopefully, to make it back to Ashland in the future. —Jack Karp, winning playwright for Irreversible, ANPF 2014
I was one of the four winners of the Ashland New Plays Festival in 2008 with my play Song of Extinction, and they have invited me to return for the past five years as host playwright. That means I get to welcome the winning playwrights, moderate their talkbacks, and teach the occasional playwriting workshop. I love ANPF! It is an extraordinary festival that has been carefully constructed to celebrate new plays and the people who write them. Each year I have seen playwrights arrive alone and leave a week later with an amazing sense of community. They have worked with talented directors and actors from the Ashland community, conversed with the smart and engaged audiences who attend their readings, and made lifelong friendships with their fellow playwrights. The hospitality of the people who run the festival is astounding, and they work hard to make sure that each year is better than the last. I am very grateful to have fallen in with this wonderful organization. —EM Lewis, winning playwright for Song of Extinction, ANPF 2008, and host playwright for ANPF 2010–2015
When I was growing up in Iowa, my family would spend New Year’s Day watching college football bowl games on television. And it was during the Rose Bowl that I first heard a commentator use the phrase “Chamber of Commerce Day,” referring to the perfect weather, the beautiful setting, and the ideal community environment for the game. Now I finally have reason to use a variation of this phrase—ANPF 2013 was a Chamber of Commerce Week for me. It is very rare indeed for a theatre festival to be dedicated entirely to the nurturing of playwrights and the further development of their work—and to have the opportunity to do so in a savvy theatre community that takes so much ownership and pride in the process is even rarer still. I met so many wonderful people, developed what I am sure will be lifelong friendships, and enjoyed many conversations about the craft of theatre. All of this happened because of the passion, commitment, and generosity of so many volunteers, audience members, and business and civic leaders of the Ashland community. How you managed to also deliver seven clear-blue-sky days with temperatures in the mid-seventies at the peak of the autumn leaf color season remains a mystery to me, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that you found a way to make it a nearly perfect week. —Robert John Ford, winning playwright for Sleeping Dogs, ANPF 2013
Many years ago, when my wife and I were both in the business world, she would take a once-a-year break from her 80-hour workweeks to visit Canyon Ranch, a superspa somewhere in Arizona. She always came home refreshed, relaxed, and eager to take on the grind again. I mention all of that so the next statement makes sense. In answer to someone’s question about being back in Ashland for the third time in the past 12 months, I said, “It’s the Canyon Ranch of playwriting venues.” I go on and on about this place so often, I wonder if some of the townspeople are beginning to think I have a kinder, gentler subset of Tourette’s syndrome. At the slightest provocation, I shout out compliments. I can’t help it. One time in Ashland, maybe it’s a fluke. Two times, it could be a coincidence. Three times in a year, I’m convinced. Something special happens here—by design. I head home from Ashland each time feeling energized about playwriting in general and especially my place in that world. Thank you again. —Richard Manley, winning playwright for A Question of Words, ANPF 2013
It is hard to sum up what a gift Ashland New Plays Festival is for a playwright with a very new play. The opening night reading was only the second time I had heard the play aloud, which can be nerve wracking. But the knockout combination of Kimberly Scott at the helm (and in the cast), the amazing actors, and ANPF’s educated and invested audiences made the experience a dazzling one. The play came alive (flaws and all), followed by thoughtful, generous, open-hearted, and truly incisive talkbacks that have already helped me move the play forward. If this were not enough, there was also my beautiful room at Arden Forest Inn (thank you, Bill and Corbet!), the marvelous town of Ashland, the opportunity to see genuinely inspiring plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the care of a full team of ANPF supporters, and the gracious hosting by Ellen Lewis. It is no wonder that fellow playwrights have ANPF at the top of their list of applications when they have a new play in hand. I am so grateful for the experience and only hope that I can return again soon. Thank you, ANPF! —Jamie Pachino, winning playwright for Other Than Honorable, ANPF 2013
Early in my career, I spent about 10 years as the happy guest of many of the festivals and events devoted to the development of new plays in America. All of them did their best to make playwrights feel welcome and to offer them strong collaborators as they worked together to make the plays stronger. Then came 20 years or so during which I stepped off the development/festival path, largely because the raising of two kids required my presence closer to home. Last year, when both kids had left home for the wide world, I again began to submit my work to such events. When ANPF selected The Boatwright, I reached out to my playwright friends all over the country to ask how happy I should be. Each and every one of them expressed great, teeth-gnashing envy and assured me that I would have an amazing experience. They undersold it. I have never felt more honored, more pampered, or more welcome. I’ve also—and this is probably more important—never been better supported in the delicate work of introducing a new text to an audience. My director was sensitive and smart and wholeheartedly devoted to the things my play and I are trying to do. My actors were stunningly talented. My audience was savvy and wise, and the entire experience was bathed in the light of passionate devotion. The entire experience was a gift of rare generosity, and I am and always will be humbly grateful. Thank you. —Bo Wilson, winning playwright for The Boatwright, ANPF 2013
After a terrific week at ANPF 2012, my trip home was interrupted by a major Hurricane Sandy–caused delay. I mention this delay only because I’m the kind of person who would normally let a hurricane follow-up to a great week put me in a sour mood and cloud my memory of the days before. However, my experience with ANPF was so wonderful, so helpful to the development of my play, and so moving to me in terms of how an entire community can be involved in supporting playwrights and their work, that I find I’m still high as a kite as I think about my experience with ANPF. From the bonding and friendships formed with the other playwrights to the focused, insightful, and invaluable talkbacks to the phenomenally well-cast and well-directed readings themselves, there was an amazing feeling of theatrical community throughout. I left not only feeling like my play was in better shape, but that I, as a playwright, was in better shape, too. —Suzanne Bradbeer, winning playwright for The God Game, ANPF 2012
I had a wonderful time. It was an example of the “circle” I mentioned in conversations a couple of times. I am, to a large extent, my work. I put it into your hands and stood back, somewhat tentatively, wondering what the Ashland community would do with it (and me). You treated it and me like something of value, worthy of time and care. Negative criticism was given carefully and with respect. Positive feedback was everywhere and presented as credible, intelligent comment. I gave you my words, and they circled back to me filtered through the warmth and curiosity and encouragement that is Ashland. And my hosts, Joe and Jean Collonge, must be praised as well, not just for their generous hospitality—and knowledgeable conversation and sense of humor and support (they came to both readings)—but for the fact that they treated me like family. —Richard Manley, winning playwright for This Rough Magic (now The Truth Quotient), ANPF 2012
From the moment I got off the phone when Gray called to say I’d won, to . . . well, a few minutes ago, I’ve been using the same words to describe ANPF: class act! The warm embrace of the festival staff and the people of Ashland; the respect for our art and the esteem for our talent; the unqualified support of everyone involved on any level of the festival; the welcome of my cast and the willingness to collaborate; the intelligent, perceptive level of feedback in post-reading discussions; the support and the safety net provided by EM Lewis, our host playwright; the way we were taken care of day to day; and then, the topper: When it was over, and all was said and done, the people spearheading the festival asked us, “How can we do this better?” ANPF is an invaluable, unforgettable experience—personally, professionally—for any working playwright. —Cary Pepper, winning playwright for How It Works, ANPF 2012
Every few years or so, there is a lot of hand-wringing and talk, lamenting the death of theater. Well, theater may or may not be in trouble generally, but it is obviously thriving in Ashland, Oregon. I am so impressed by the entire ANPF community. It is a truly astonishing group effort. Corbet and Bill, who run my B&B, started the day for me with delicious food and great conversation. My “buddies,” Marguerite and Jim, got me where I needed to be and were often delightful and generous dinner companions as well. Fred and Norma (indefatigable!), Doug, Gray, Elizabeth—tireless. Thank you, Joe Collonge, for the late-night rides home. The readings were enthusiastically attended, the talkbacks lively and thought-provoking. I hope to know my director, Kimberly Scott, for a very long time. My cast knocked it out of the park. Ellen Lewis is a treasure and I both liked and admired my fellow writers. Does all this sound like hyperbole? It is not. Because finally, and most importantly, my play is stronger for the experience. I am so grateful. —Joshua Rebell, winning playwright for Omission, ANPF 2012
How would you respond if someone asked you if you’d like to spend a week in the most perfect, picturesque little town where the residents rarely lock their doors, surrounded by the most beautiful countryside any landscape artist would sell his soul to discover, where every restaurant either has a vegan option or is more than happy to adjust to your needs (if those be your needs), and during that week you will hear a play you’ve written performed by uber-talented professional actors who’ll take your words to places you hadn’t imagined possible and you’ll get support and encouragement and an outpouring of, dare I say, love, from people with names like Melissa and Elizabeth and Norma and Terry and Gray and Doug, just to name a very few? How would you respond? I responded with a solid “yes” and had one of those weeks one can only dream about. Oh, and as for the unlocked doors, please don’t spread the word if you’re from New York or LA or any of those other places where crime exists, as the residents of the picturesque little town of Ashland, Oregon, might get upset . . . well, that may be too strong a word . . . they would politely ask you to refrain and then offer you a cup of tea and a scone. —Gary Dontzig, winning playwright for Couples, ANPF 2011
It is almost impossible to express adequately what a wonderful experience ANPF was for me. The town itself is, of course, very beautiful, and autumn there is spectacular. Both the people who run the festival and the artists who participate go to great lengths to make it a creative and dynamic experience for everyone. The main thing is working on a new play and making it better. This happened with Fernando, and I am doubly inspired to get the play to the next level, more confident that the play is worthy and ready. The actors (all great Oregon Shakespeare Festival people), director John Stadelman, and artistic director Doug Rowe were all at such a high level of professionalism and commitment that to not improve the play would have been simply embarrassing. When it was time for the readings themselves, there was little doubt the audience would have a blast. They did and so did I. —Steven Hayworth, winning playwright for Fernando, ANPF 2011
Festival Week in Ashland was unquestionably a singular occasion. From the warm and welcoming reception with ANPF Board members to the final decompression session—two Sundays apart—we playwrights were accorded every courtesy and consideration. My directors were impressively dedicated and my actors immensely talented and giving. The readings of Countdown to the Happy Day were solid and gripping, and the subsequent audience talkbacks stimulating and helpful. What I most appreciate about the ANPF experience was the way it tightly focused and concentrated my attention upon my play. The rehearsals, the discussions (with actors and directors, with Board members, with audiences, with fellow playwrights) kept my play so intensely before me that, almost immediately upon leaving Ashland, I launched into a rewrite of the script, working diligently throughout my air travel from the West Coast to the East. And Countdown, I believe, is all the stronger because of the festival. My sincere thanks. —Thomas W. Stephens, winning playwright for Countdown to the Happy Day, ANPF 2011
ANPF was one of my best theater experiences ever! As a longtime playwright and director in regional theater, I was awed by the combination of enthusiasm, knowledge, and generosity I encountered at every stage of the process: submitting my script, receiving updates, learning I was a winner, and then being welcomed as an honored guest. Before arriving in this delightful town, I worried about not meeting my director and cast until their final rehearsal; but everyone knew what he or she was doing, including the wonderful actors who squeezed in my play between Oregon Shakespeare Festival performances, and we consulted by phone and e-mail. After our two public readings, each followed by an expertly managed talkback with the audience and an informal discussion with my fellow playwrights, I came home with excellent feedback and a fully informed revision plan. I highly recommend ANPF and look forward to returning, as a spectator and I hope as a participant. —Carol Verburg, winning playwright for Spin, or Twilight of the Bohemians, ANPF 2011
The good people of Ashland New Plays Festival treat all playwrights with the utmost respect, and, just as important, they are spirited, hardworking champions of new plays. Simply put, ANPF is an invaluable organization, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my experience. They give me hope for the future of new plays. I wish I could come back every year! —Jami Brandli, winning playwright for Technicolor Life, ANPF 2010
From the vantage point of being 3,000 miles and a little more than a week away from Ashland, I realize ever more clearly that the week I was in residence with ANPF was an extraordinarily valuable experience for me. While I could list a slew of reasons, including the generous and attentive audiences and the great “salons” every morning at my breakfast table (hosted by Corbet and Bill), this was the first new plays festival I have attended in which each script was read on two separate occasions. As for how that affected my own script, I was able to experiment with two different choices at junctures in the script where I had the greatest uncertainty. This allowed me to leave Ashland with confidence that whatever had seemed to work either well or not so well was a function of the script itself and not the particular likes and dislikes of one particular audience on one particular night or afternoon. I also found that in listening twice to my fellow writers’ plays as well, I was able to let myself experience the first reading of each writer’s play as any audience member would and the second as an opportunity to focus in a more workmanlike way on the sort of dramaturgical questions playwrights need to be able to raise with each other. —Bob Clyman, winning playwright for The Exceptionals, ANPF 2010
There are not enough adjectives to describe the scope and depth of my pride and gratitude for having been honored with a reading at your prestigious festival. From the day I arrived to a “welcome basket” of wine and goodies at the sweet B&B you generously provided, to the welcoming reception, the director/playwright dinner with the phenomenal Doug Rowe, my wonderful director, Lenny Neimark, and spot-on cast—Doug, Judith, Eve, Brent, Paul, and Holly—the opportunity to meet awesome playwrights David and Bob and Jami, not to mention Ellen, who tended us with such grace, to more wine, more receptions, the writers workshop, and two glorious readings of A Gold Star in the Window, plus $500! It could not have been more perfect. Hats off to all of you for stepping up to the plate and not letting this beautiful tradition die. I hold who you are and what you’ve done in high esteem. You are truly awesome. —Harlene Goodrich, winning playwright for A Gold Star in the Window, ANPF 2010
It would be hard to overstate the immense value of the Ashland New Plays Festival. The collaborative and supportive environment, the incredibly warm and generous people, and above all the smart, savvy Ashland audience—all contribute to a focused, enjoyable developmental experience. And the chance to spend a week talking about plays and writing with other playwrights is itself a gift. I have come away from ANPF with not only a stronger play but a stronger sense of my own writing identity. Fabulous. —David Hilder, winning playwright for The Insidious Impact of Anton, ANPF 2010