Don Zolidis is a playwright, novelist, and former middle and high school teacher. He holds a BA in English from Carleton College and an MFA in playwriting from the Actors Studio Program at the New School University, where he studied under Romulus Linney. Honors include the Princess Grace Award, multiple Edgerton New Play awards, and others. His work has appeared or been developed at the Purple Rose Theatre, the Phoenix Theatre, Victory Theatre, The Great Plains Theatre Conference, The Ensemble Studio Theatre, and many others.
He writes extensively for young people as well. His plays for youth are among the most-produced in the world, receiving more than 10,000 productions, appearing in every state and 61 countries. His first novel, The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in 2018.
The action of Don’s play A DARK SKY FULL OF STARS concerns Brandon, a young man in and out of trouble with the law, who is shot to death by a rookie cop after a suspicious traffic stop. The perspective of the play shifts to the six people most involved in Brandon’s life from the police officer to his girlfriend to his family and explores the long series of unrelated events that eventually led to his death.
Directed by Claudia Alick
One of my best friends’ younger brothers was shot and killed about ten years ago. I wasn’t sure how to process that moment and have thought about it a lot. His mother actually asked me, maybe five years ago now, to do something to commemorate his death. So this play is an attempt to tell his story as best I can.
Emily Feldman is a member of The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm. She is a recent Jerome Fellow and former Core Apprentice at The Playwrights’ Center. Her plays include THREE WOMEN IN FOUR CHAIRS, MY LOVER JOAN and GO. PLEASE. GO. Her work has been developed by Colt Coeur, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Magic Theatre, The Alliance Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Playwrights Realm, and more. Commissions include the Actors Theatre of Louisville Professional Training Company and The TRIP in San Diego to write site-specific plays. Her short plays have been produced by Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival.
Emily was a 2016 Alliance/Kendeda finalist and has been an artist in residence at The Atlantic Center for the Arts as well as a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference. She earned her MFA in Playwriting from UC San Diego, with a BA from Middlebury College.
GO. PLEASE. GO. A couple decides: This isn’t working. He says he’ll leave, and then he doesn’t. He stays and stays and stays. Through 70 years of marriages, bar mitzvahs, baptisms, and funerals, he stays. People get drunk. People get sober. People plan vacations. People die. Somebody wins the lottery. A baby grows up. Everybody dances. The story asks what it means to love somebody for a lifetime, and what a lifetime even means.
Directed by Jackie Apodaca
I have been obsessed with OUR TOWN for many years. Every time I read it, I find a new line that I think could be the starting point for an entire play. This play started with the Stage Manager’s line: “You know how it is: you’re twenty-one or twenty-two and you make some decisions; then whisssh! you’re seventy: you’ve been a lawyer for fifty years, and that white-haired lady at your side has eaten over fifty thousand meals with you.”
Callie Kimball earned her MFA under Tina Howe at Hunter College, where she won the Rita & Burton Goldberg Playwriting Award two years in a row. Her plays have been produced and developed in New York, Chicago, LA, and Washington, DC (Kennedy Center), Portland Stage Company, Lark Play Development Center, Halcyon Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Stoneham Theatre, Echo Theatre, The Brick Theater, Project Y Theatre, Team Awesome Robot, Washington Shakespeare Company, Everyman Repertory Theatre, Absolute Theatre, Mad Horse Theatre, The Drama League, and many colleges and festivals across the country.
She’s an Affiliate Writer at the Playwrights’ Center and a former MacDowell Fellow. She won a Ludwig Vogelstein grant to research her play SOFONISBA, which won the Clauder Gold Prize, was a finalist for the O’Neill, a semifinalist for the Princess Grace Award, and was included on The Kilroys’ 2016 List. The play has had readings at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and at the Farnsworth Museum.
In SOFONISBA we follow the Italian artist Sofonisba Anguissola, a student of Michelangelo, during her 20 years at the Royal Court of Spain’s King Philip II. Her time at court is like one long chess game, since Sofonisba must play to and against the expectations of the king, the bishop, the fool, a lovelorn knight, and a 14-year-old queen. What negotiations and sacrifices did she make in the service of her art, and how did she navigate the tricky waters of court politics as an unmarried woman? This is a play about the hunger for creation–of birth and of art–and what it costs.
Directed by Stefanie Sertich
Watching a young woman over 20 years from 3 centuries ago, it’s surprising how relevant her journey and obstacles are. I hope that the audience finds meaning in watching how she navigated the tightness of her world and succeeded in running her life on her terms.
Blake Hackler is an actor, teacher, and playwright. He currently holds faculty positions at Yale University and Southern Methodist University. His plays and musicals have been produced in Dallas, Chicago, and New York. Most recently, his play THE NECESSITIES received its world premiere with Second Thought Theatre. He is a member of the esteemed BMI/Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing Program and is the recipient of the Harrington Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre Writing as well as a Dramatist Guild Intensive grant.
As an actor, Blake has appeared in productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theatres throughout the country as well as in TV and film. He holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and is a Fulbright Senior Scholar.
Blake’s play WHAT WE WERE is set in East Texas over a span of two decades, tracing the lives of three sisters: Nell, Tessa, and Carlin, whose adult lives have been impacted by a childhood of abuse. After disappearing 17 years ago, Tessa, the youngest sister, resurfaces. It seems she has spent her adult life on the run, moving from state to state and foster family to foster family, pretending to be a teenage girl. When she is found out, her sister Nell must decide how much of her past she is willing to face to save her sister. Weaving scenes from the past and present, this story is a meditation on responsibility, on what we do to cope, and on the very difficult work of healing.
Directed by Holly L. Derr
I was very moved at certain moments while writing [this play] – by the pain and the plight of these three sisters. It’s like I knew them and hoped so much for them. I hope audiences will feel the same way.
ANPF 2017 Testimonials:–“I had a tremendous time at the 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 artitsts 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–“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.–“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. 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–
“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–More testimonials here.
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