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NEWS: Playwrights’ Center Announces Ambitious, COVID-era Programming Expansion

A word cloud of text of the Playwrights’ Center press release announcing new content series.

The Playwrights’ Center announced today an ambitious plan to expand its programming for theatre artists in its 2020-201 season. “As the world and its challenges continue to evolve, so must the work of Playwrights’ Center,” said producing artistic director Jeremy B. Cohen. “This season, we’re offering an expanded PlayLabs Festival and Ruth Easton New Play Series, in terms of additional plays and increased development time, as well as increasing all artist compensation.”

The Playwrights’ Center is also adding two new programmings series:

  • The In The Lab series, showcasing a trio of works created specifically to explore an online environment.
  • Artists in Conversation, a four-part discussion series with playwrights and other theater-makers.

The coming soon, the venerable organization’s 49th, will feature new plays from Playwrights’ Center Core and Affiliated Writers Erin Courtney, Dipika Guha, Jessica Huang, Jake Jeppson, Daaimah Mubashshir, Heather Raffo, Harrison David Rivers, Crystal Skillman, Jonathan Spector, Dominic Taylor, Ken Urban, and Rhiana Yazzie. It will also include excerpts from new plays by 2020–21 Fellows and Mentees Cristina Florencia Castro, Marvin González De León, Gracie Gardner, JuCoby Johnson, Candrice Jones, Katie Ka Vang, Shannon TL Kearns, Nora Montañez, Savannah Reich, and Tylie Shider.

The Playwrights’ Center will offer each season event online without charge. However, ticketed reservations are required to attend, and can be obtained via


All times listed in Central Time (CDT/CST)

PLAYLABS FESTIVAL (October 19–25, 2020)

  • Room Enough (For Us All) by Daaimah Mubashshir 
    Monday, October 19 at 7 p.m. and Friday, October 23 at 8 p.m.
  • we are continuous by Harrison David Rivers 
    Tuesday, October 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 24 at 1 p.m.
  • Mother of Exiles by Jessica Huang
    Wednesday, October 21 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 24 at 8 p.m.
  • Begin, Begin, Begin Again by Erin Courtney
    Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 25 at 1 p.m.
  • Playwriting Fellows Showcase
    Friday, October 23 at 5 p.m.

RUTH EASTON NEW PLAY SERIES (December 2020–April 2021)

  • No Cure by Jake Jeppson
    Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 7 p.m.
  • Getting There by Dipika Guha
    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 7 p.m.
  • This Much I Know by Jonathan Spector 
    February 3, 2021 at 7 p.m.
  • Pulp Vérité by Crystal Skillman
    Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at 7 p.m.
  • Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie 
    April 7, 2021 at 7 p.m.

IN THE LAB (Dates to be announced)

  • Tomorrow Will Be Sunday by Heather Raffo
  • Cell Surface by Dominic Taylor
  • Vapor Trail by Ken Urban

ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION (Artists and dates to be announced)

PlayLabs Festival

For the 37th annual presentation, the Playwrights’ Center is adapting the premier new play incubation program—the PlayLabs Festival—to meet the changing needs of the moment. The roster has expanded to four playwrights to develop their new work. Each writer partners with the creative collaborators of their choosing and receives a full two weeks of writing and rehearsal, as well as a generous stipend for their time. In addition, the Center is moving the entire process online, enabling audiences from around the world to share in the experience of hearing these new plays for the very first time.

Room Enough (For Us All) by Daaimah Mubashshir
Monday, October 19 at 7 p.m. CDT
Friday, October 23 at 8 p.m. CDT

Fatimah, a recently widowed matriarch, is determined to have it all. She wants the opportunity to set right a 10-year mistake by inviting Jamillah, her queer daughter, to return home after a long forced absence. Can she have it all when Abdullah, her son, is driven to fight against this decision even though he loves his mother deeply. Room Enough (For Us All) is centered on a contemporary African-American Muslim Family coming to terms with how to treat queerness up against long-standing ideals and faith. 

we are continuous by Harrison David Rivers 
Tuesday, October 20 at 7 p.m. CDT
Saturday, October 24 at 1 p.m. CDT

When a son reveals that he is HIV positive, his mother must decide how far her unconditional love extends. In this tender autobiographical play, Harrison David Rivers explore how people can change and how love can evolve.

Mother of Exiles by Jessica Huang
Wednesday, October 21 at 7 p.m. CDT
Saturday, October 24 at 8 p.m. CDT

In 1898 California, a pregnant Eddie Loi faces deportation. In 1998 Miami, her grandson Braulio accidentally summons her spirit while patrolling the border. In 2063 somewhere on the ocean, their descendants try to survive the climate crisis. An epic multigenerational tale of sacrifice, love and survival that spans 150 years in 90 minutes

Begin, Begin, Begin Again by Erin Courtney
Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m. CDT
Sunday, October 25 at 1 p.m. CDT

In a re-imagining of “The Oresteia,” set in an art museum in the near future, an audio tour guide voice artist is haunted by the desire to kill her husband.  Is it possible to seek justice instead of revenge? In this formally inventive work, Erin Courtney invites us to see the horror behind the brutality of our current justice system and to invite change through collective imagination.

Playwrights’ Center Playwriting Fellows Showcase
Friday, October 23 at 5 p.m. CDT

An evening of scenes from plays in progress by the 2020–21 Playwrights’ Center Fellows. The Showcase will feature works by:

  • Cristina Florencia Castro, Many Voices Fellow
  • Marvin González De León, McKnight Fellow in Playwriting
  • Gracie Gardner, McKnight National Residency and Commission
  • JuCoby Johnson, Many Voices Mentee
  • Candrice Jones, Jerome Fellow
  • Katie Ka Vang, Many Voices Fellow
  • Shannon TL Kearns, Jerome Fellow
  • Nora Montañez, Many Voices Mentee
  • Savannah Reich, McKnight Fellow in Playwriting
  • Tylie Shider, Jerome Fellow

The Ruth Easton New Play Series

No Cure by Jake Jeppson
Wednesday, December 9 at 7 p.m. CST

Two lonely souls meet. They fall in love. They dance to Leonard Cohen’s “Ain’t No Cure for Love.” Turns out, there ain’t no cure for terminal cancer, either. In this tender, unflinching play, Jake Jeppson offers a deeply personal portrait of one family’s experience with the two big things that can’t be cured.

Getting There by Dipika Guha
Wednesday, January 13 at 7 p.m. CST

College best friends Kai and Julie are due to head back to New York after a miserable vacation in Paris when things come to a head pulling them apart. Kai meets Radha and Anissa—a sophisticated French couple in a life-changing moment, while Julie meets Ira—a woman deep in a war against herself. Twenty-four hours later no one’s life is the same. Getting There is a lyrical, funny, and philosophical play about love, and what it means to come home.

This Much I Know by Jonathan Spector
Wednesday, February 3 at 7 p.m. CST

A psychology professor’s search for his missing wife launches the audience on a time-hopping fugue, weaving together the stories of Stalin’s daughter defecting to America, the son of a white supremacist growing to doubt the beliefs he was raised with, and the secret despair of becoming an accidental killer. In This Much I Know, Jonathan Spector takes audiences on an explosively theatrical interrogation of how people make decisions, how they change others’ minds, and how much responsibility people bear for the things they do not control.

Pulp Vérité by Crystal Skillman
Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. CST

Joy, an active member of the filmmaking collective Pulp Vérité, is captured and held overseas for four years. After being released from captivity, she returns to the United States to reunite with her friends and restart her life. But when the group realizes Joy has gathered them together for the impossible—to bring her sister who is still a captive with ISIS home—their strength as a collective, youthful ideology and commitment to the cause are shaken to the core.

Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie
Wednesday, April 7 at 7 p.m. CST

Nancy is a loosely based bio on first lady Nancy Reagan who is a descendant of Pocahontas, and the story of a Navajo mother and daughter, Esmeralda and Jacqueline. While Nancy tries to control the future through astrology and New Age-ism, Esmeralda fights nuclear waste storage on her homelands and while her daughter develops a debilitating anxiety disorder. The story details how internalized racism, skin color, misogyny, and economic mobility create classism and racism inside tribal communities revealing how some become gladly complicit with white supremacy when it benefits their own desires.

In the Lab

The Playwrights’ Center new online development and performance project series is called In the Lab. Three writers will develop wildly experimental new works, pushing the boundaries of form and content, and aiming to revolutionize the way audiences experience stories.

Tomorrow Will Be Sunday by Heather Raffo
A theatrical experiment into the future of migration and the global economy. Understanding our connection to economic forces and people across the globe has only become increasingly heightened. We cannot begin to create a new relationship to human value without first unpacking what we value—understanding how every economic decision we make impacts others locally and across the world.

Cell Surface by Dominic Taylor
On its surface, Cell Surface is a play about two significant African-American Biologists: one was the first African-American graduate of Dartmouth College, the other was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. How did these Cells interact?

Vapor Trail by Ken Urban
Bennett and Leslie experience unspeakable tragedy. Bennett is a music journalist who, in the face of great loss, can no longer listen to music. Leslie runs away from her old life when she realizes her relationship cannot recover. In the Hudson Valley, at a chance meeting at a farmer’s market, these two strangers develop an impossibly strong connection. It’s an encounter they can’t forget.


Building on the Playwrights’ Center sold-out Public Discussion series from past seasons, Artists in Conversation offers an intimate look at playwrights and their process. Unlike the Center’s many scripted events throughout the year, these conversations offer audiences a chance to connect directly with writers, hearing artists’ thoughts on craft, the field, and the world through their own unfiltered words. Specific artists, topics, and dates will be announced throughout the year.

Twin Cities Arts Reader