21st Century Voices

American Stage New Play Festival

Click Here for more information on how to submit to the 2020 New Play Festival

4 Days | 5 Plays | Live Staged Readings | 5 Chatbacks | 2 Panels | Youth Showcase | Behind-the-Scenes of a World Premiere 

American Stage is proud to continue our commitment to 21st Century Voices with a New Play Festival featuring live staged readings of five new plays from five exceptional up-and-coming playwrights from all over the United States.

A committee comprised of a diverse cross-section of community members worked with our producing artistic director to read, evaluate and discuss hundreds of new play submissions from Tampa Bay and beyond. The selected works will be featured in staged readings and workshops and will provide audiences the opportunity to contribute to the plays’ development through audience talk-backs with the Creative Team and Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte following each play reading.

Individual Play Reading Tickets: $15
Panels and Youth Showcase: $10 per event or “pay what you can” at the door
All-Access Pass: $40 General Public | $30 American Stage Subscribers & Act 1 Club Members

Festival Schedule:

Thursday, Feb. 27

8 p.m. – STRANGE COURTESIES by L. Peter Callender

Friday, Feb. 28

6:30 p.m. – Meet the Playwrights Panel

Saturday, Feb. 29

1 p.m. – 21CV Write ON! Student Playwright Showcase
3 p.m. – YOU TOO? By Taylor Leigh Lamb

Sunday, March 1 

12 p.m. – Conversation on the National New Play Front
1 p.m. – Behind-the-Scenes for the world premiere of THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS
3 p.m. – PREDICTOR by Jennifer Blackmer

21st Century Voices: New Play Festival Sponsor: Steven W. Walker

2019-2020 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival Committee

Alexandria Crawford, Alyssa Baumgardner, Benjamin Ismail, Chelsea Hooker, Colleen Cherry, Courtney McLaren, DJ Fourquet, Donovan Whitney, Dylan Renfrow, Elizabeth Brincklow, Fanni Green, Gavin Stark, Hannah Lehrer, Jenna Felder, Jerid Fox, Jessy Minson, Jim Sorensen, John Perez, Julianne Kovacs, Kara Goldberg, Kaylie Horowitz, Kianna Jackson, Kody Hopins, Kristina Kourkoulos, Linda Shanker, Lori Shannon, Lyle Sweppenheiser, Marcia Dobbin, Matt Acquard, Matt Conigliaro, Pat Windon, Rachel Harrison, Rose Hahn, Sadie Lockhart, Skye Lindberg, Stephanie Gularte, Steven Walker, Taran Haynes, Taylor McKee, Taylor Sweat, Thomas Brown, Thomas Vorpahl, Vickie Daignault, Wedeline Casimir, Willi Rudowsky

Click on the tabs below to learn more about each of this year’s play selections and playwrights.

STRANGE COURTESIES by L. Peter Callender 

Citizens of South Africa are confronting a painful past through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has heard thousands of reports about murders, tortures and other human rights abuses of the apartheid era. The TRC is grounded in a constitutional commitment to the African concept of ubuntu, or humanness. Amnesty is available on a conditional basis to alleged perpetrators. STRANGE COURTESIES explores the potential restorative power of truth telling; the significance of sympathetic witnesses; and the tasks of both perpetrators and bystanders in the TRC process. Can dignity be restored to victims and their families while offering a basis for individual healing, and promoting the reconciliation of a divided society?

About the Playwright

L. Peter Callender is Artistic Director of African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco, an award-winning actor and director; mentor/coach and writer from Trinidad, West Indies, living in Oakland, California. He received his formal training in theater at the Juilliard School, in New York, Webber-Douglas Academy in London, and the Waseda Sho-Gekijo in Toga-mura Japan. Peter’s first play, STRANGE COURTESIES was born from the ultimate sacrifices and undying grace of Black South Africans during and after the nightmare of apartheid. It received it’s early readings and workshops at Alter-Lab in San Rafael, California and subsequent readings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Inspired by Shakespeare, Wilson and Fugard, Peter wishes to unveil the mask of history’s harsh reality in his plays through his use of poetry, imagination, theatricality and, always, humor.


Nine months after a CIA-backed coup, the warden of a Guatemalan prison agrees to an interview request from Maxine Whitman of Life magazine. When Max arrives at the prison, she reveals that her true agenda is to interview Francisco, a prisoner who she believes is the last living assistant of Harry Houdini. With the warden’s grudging cooperation, Max urges Francisco to divulge Houdini’s secrets before they’re lost to history, but she ultimately becomes more interested in Francisco’s own career as a magician—and when he attempts a daring prison break, Max plays an unexpected role in his final performance.

About the Playwright

Hal Borden earned his M.F.A. degree from the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television, where he won the Hal Kanter Comedy Writing Award.  His first stage play, A POSITION OF RELATIVE IMPORTANCE, has been performed at numerous theaters and festivals, including Theatre Conspiracy in Fort Myers, the American Actors UK Playreading Festival in London and Dayton Playhouse’s FutureFest.  His new play, THE IMPOSSIBLE ESCAPE OF DON MISTERIOSO, was selected for the 2019 New American Voices Playwriting Festival at The Landing Theatre Company in Houston. Hal is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

YOU TOO? By Taylor Leigh Lamb

Liza is a strong advocate for the #MeToo movement and is pretty clear on a few things: all men who sexually assault women deserve to be exposed and, as a journalist, it is her job to help make that happen. In the course of her work, she discovers that her own father – the only Black partner at his law firm, and Liza’s biggest supporter – may be a perpetrator of sexual assault.  As she chases the story, she uncovers complicated and conflicting motivations, and grapples with the questions of loyalty to family versus belief in one’s own personal values.

About the Playwright

Taylor Leigh Lamb is a writer and theatre artist living and working in the D.C./Maryland area. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in Drama. Taylor is interested in creating stories about and for Black women that impact social change. From this interest, YOU TOO? was born. YOU TOO? is her first full-length play. YOU TOO? was part of the METLab 2019 Plays in Progress festival, as well as read on the Inkubator on Air podcast. Helping fulfill her desire for Black women centered storytelling, Taylor is also the Digital Media and Marketing producer for the web series Black Enough.


Side hustles. It seems like everybody has at least one these days. For Minerva Ross, the way to escape the doldrums of her graphic design job in Washington, DC is to write and narrate her own feminist true crime podcast about how and why women commit murder. Meanwhile, across the country, Felicity Evanston, a Mormon stay-at-home wife and mother—and Minerva’s high school nemesis—has just started selling ridiculously patterned leggings for the multi-level marketing company Linen & Fate, as much as a way of having something that’s just hers as to supplement her husband’s income. The two haven’t crossed paths in years, but when the bubbly and unassuming Felicity snaps and realizes the only way to get ahead in a rigged pyramid scheme is to literally start killing off the competition, both women suddenly experience the kind of overnight success they’ve been so desperately craving—but risk losing their families, freedom, and very souls in the process.

About the Playwright

John Bavoso is a Washington, DC-based playwright, book and theatre reviewer, marketer and aspiring wrangler of unicorns. He mostly writes plays about women and queer people who are awkwardly attempting (and generally failing) to engage with serious subject matter using only dry wit and impeccably timed combative taunts. John is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, a Pinky Swear Productions company member, a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow and the recipient of District of Columbia FY18 and FY19 Arts and Humanities Fellowships. His plays have been produced and/or developed in DC, Virginia, New York, Colorado, Texas, California, Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Washington, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Arizona; Toronto, Canada; and Gold Coast and Sydney, Australia. More at http://john-bavoso.com/

PREDICTOR by Jennifer Blackmer

PREDICTOR is the real-life story of Margaret Crane who, in 1967, defied all odds and expectations to become the inventor of the first home pregnancy test. Based on interviews with Ms. Crane herself, and told with a witty nod to 1960’s pop culture, this is a fascinating true account of a time when men had even more control over a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive fate.  

About the Playwright

Jennifer Blackmer’s plays have been produced off-Broadway and across the country, and include Human
Terrain, Unraveled, Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (Joseph Jefferson award for Best Adaptation),
Delicate Particle Logic, Borrowed Babies and Predictor. Jennifer was the recipient of the 2015 PEN/Laura
Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award for Emerging American Playwright, and her screenplay
for Human Terrain won the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation award through the Tribeca Film Institute. Jennifer
is a two-time O’Neill finalist, her writing has been short-listed for the Princess Grace Award and the
Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship, and has been developed by Seven Devils, Illinois Shakespeare Festival,
Nashville Repertory Theatre, The Playwrights’ Center, The Lark and Activate Midwest. She serves as
Professor of Theatre and Director of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State
University. Visit Jennifer on the New Play Exchange, and at www.jenniferblackmer.com.

Friday, Feb. 28

6:30 p.m. – Meet the Playwrights

Our festival playwrights come together in conversation about the art and the business of writing and developing new plays.

Saturday, Feb. 29

1 p.m. – 21CV Write ON! Student Playwright Showcase

American Stage brings the power of quality live theatre to each generation in our community, which is why we think it’s important to give students in our Write On! Programs the opportunity and platform to have their words performed during the festival. Write On! is part of our outreach program where our instructors go to local high schools and teach play writing to the students with the goal that they will create a ten minute piece by the end of the semester. There are 11 plays submitted that are being read by a committee of seven readers. The plays that are selected will be performed as staged readings created by professional actors and directors.

Sunday, March 1 

12 p.m. – Conversation on the National New Play Front

American Stage CEO/Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte interviews National New Play Network Executive Director Nan Barnett in a discussion about the national trends in new play development.

1 p.m. – Behind-the-Scenes for the world premiere of THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS

21st Century Voices: New Play Festival 2017

STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR by Andrea Lepcio – Selected for American Stage’s 2017-2018 mainstage season

FLYING by Sheila Cowley


PRUDENCE by Stefan Lanfer


21st Century Voices: New Play Festival 2018

LENI AND JOSEPH by Jacob Marx Rice


POSTLINGUAL by Brooke Downs

GROUP by Alex Rubin

GOOD BAD PEOPLE by Rachel Lynett


21st Century Voices: New Play Festival 2019

THE COLONY by Gina Stevensen




THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS by Playwright-In-Residence Natalie Symons

Playwrights Welcome Logo

Playwrights Welcome
Playwrights Welcome is a new program developed for Dramatists Guild of America Members by Samuel French along with Dramatists Play Service, Dramatic Publishing, Music Theatre International, Playscripts and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The goal is simple: to provide free access to theatre for playwrights, composers and lyricists. We are invested in the success and artistic health of our industry’s writers, and by extension the vibrancy of the American theatre. We’re also aware that attending theatre is an integral part to how writers learn their craft and grow as artists.

We are proud to take part in Playwrights Welcome, which offers available tickets to professional playwrights on the day of a performance, free of charge. To receive a ticket through Playwrights Welcome at American Stage, call or come to the box office on the day of the show. You must present your current valid DGA membership card to pick up your ticket, one ticket per member.

For more information on this national program, and to learn which theaters around the country are involved, please visit https://samuelfrench.com/resources/playwrights-welcome.