Baltimore Center Stage: Play Labs

Play Labs

Developing a new play doesn’t happen overnight.

The process of workshops, readings, and rewrites play a vital role in helping playwrights see and hear their work—as plot holes get fixed, characters get solidified, dialogue comes to life, and the play gets on its feet. First audiences are at the heart of that effort. Baltimore Center Stage Play Labs are dedicated to this cause.

Every year the theater hosts a series of diverse readings that invite patrons to join the process, complete with open rehearsals and audience talkbacks. (Not to mention the ever-popular Toast Bar of breads and spreads!)

Play Labs provide an opportunity to witness, and even participate in, the process of making a new play.

New play development is made possible in part by the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund and the Nathan and Suzanne Cohen Foundation Fund for Commissioning and Developing New Plays.

Past Labs 


This event included one-act plays from two homegrown Baltimore playwrights:

To The Flame
by Miranda Rose Hall
What do you see when you see a moth? For one Kentucky family a moth may bring prayer, passion, or possibly even a plan. So now, sisters Kay and Sissy must confront what’s real in this story of memory, violence, and hope.


Handle It
By Rachael Knoblauch
When Alice opens the door to a new relationship, naturally she doesn’t know what will come next. What she discovers is that the door, and the choice to leave, is always there–if sometimes just out of reach.



Each and Every Thing & Borders/No Borders
Written and performed by Dan Hoyle
Directed by Charlie Varon

Each and Every Thing: A new piece of journalistic theater about finding connection in our digital age. From the hardscrabble corner boys of Chicago to the intellectual temple of Calcutta’s famed Coffeehouse, from a Digital Detox retreat in remote Northern California to an intimate confession in Midtown Manhattan, Each and Every Thing brings a comic and riveting story to vivid life on stage.

Borders/No Borders: The very first draft of Hoyle’s newest solo project, employing his signature style to a host of indelible characters who challenge us with questions about how we negotiate borders every day, from the international to thedeeply personal.


The Thanksgiving Play
By Larissa FastHorse
Directed by Gavin Witt

A mismatched but well-meaning foursome sets out to devise a politically correct school play that can somehow sensitively celebrate both Thanksgiving and Native American Month. How can this wildly diverse quartet—separated by cultural chasms and vastly different perspectives on history—navigate a complicated, hilarious thicket of privilege, representation, and of course school district regulations? The schools are waiting, and the pageant must go on!

This play was developed though the Joe Dowling Annaghmakerrig Fellowship from the Guthrie and a Table/Room/Stage Finishing Commission from Artists Repertory Theatre.


A Center Stage Play Lab, Presented in Association with Carolyn Black-Sotir
Music by Frank Proto
Libretto by John Chenault
Conducted by Timothy Long
Directed by Leon Major

Shadowboxer—a new opera based on the life and career of legendary boxing champion Joe Louis—traces Louis' personal and professional journey against the backdrop of American history, from the Great Depression through the Second World War to the Civil Rights Movement. By focusing on the life behind the legend, the opera looks beyond the image of the Brown Bomber—the millionaire prizefighter, and the Great Black Hope—to reveal the humble man from rural Alabama who took on the world with his fists and won his place in history.


Protect the Beautiful Place
By Nathan Alan Davis
Directed by Gavin Witt

Gail doesn’t have time to die. She has a house to hold together and a tenuous legacy to preserve. But her dead husband, Walking Man, has been visiting at night, insisting that it it’s time to join him on the Other Side. When the rest of the family won’t let her ignore this summons, Gail’s reluctant journey to acceptance begins. Protect the Beautiful Place is the first in a series of plays about an eccentric and mystically inclined Black family that has carved out an existence for itself in an Illinois forest.

“Nathan Alan Davis’ work often addresses his experience being Black in America and being a father. He is a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at Juilliard and a 2050 Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. His plays have been produced or developed at professional theaters across the US, including at Baltimore Center Stage.



King of the Yees
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Gavin Witt

Take any Chinese last name, and there exists a corresponding “family association” with branches in each major American city: Chinese men’s clubs formed over a hundred years ago after the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. For nearly 20 years, playwright Lauren Yee’s father Larry had been a driving force in the Yee Family Association. And now Lauren is writing a play.

“King of the Yees is my attempt to cram everything I love and less than love about Chinese-American culture into a play,” says Yee of her work. “It’s also an ode to my father and the difficulty of passing down stories you never truly had a firm handle on. It’s about the communities we choose and the ones we inherit, and the inherent difficulties in navigating those fields.”

Lauren races through history, space, and the fourth wall to find her father’s story and chronicle this disappearing piece of American culture.

Waiting for the Flood
By Carey Perloff
Directed by Daniella Topol

In Perloff’s latest play, Waiting for the Flood, Natasha, having just discovered that she's pregnant, sits alone in a San Jose parking lot contemplating what to do next. That is until a wildly disparate group of unknown women suddenly appear to help her. Waiting for the Flood is about inheritance, displacement, and the joys of moving on.

Carey Perloff is a director, producer, and the Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. She has also written numerous plays, including Kinship which premiered at the Théâtre de Paris in October 2014 in a production starring Isabelle Adjani and Niels Schneider, and is being produced at the Williamstown Theater Festival summer 2015, starring Cynthia Nixon and directed by Jo Bonney. Waiting for the Flood has received workshops at A.C.T., New York Stage and Film, and Roundabout Theatre.


The American Football Project
By KJ Sanchez with Jenny Mercein

KJ Sanchez’s work as a playwright has been produced at Asolo Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Two River Theater, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Round House, Cornerstone, and Off-Broadway at Urban Stages. Directing credits include The Diary of Anne Frank at Milwaukee Rep, 26 Miles at Round House and Two River Theater, The Giver at Asolo Rep, 9 Parts of Desire and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Private Lives and Mere Mortals at Two River Theater Company. She is the founder/CEO of American Records, a theater company devoted to making work that chronicles our time. 

Jenny Mercein is an actor, teacher, director, and writer based in New York City—and the daughter a former professional football player. A graduate of Yale University and The University of Washington, she currently teaches acting at American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Acting credits include 30 Rock, Blue Bloods, Unforgettable, and Law & Order, as well as roles at many regional theaters. New York acting credits include The Keen Company, HERE, and New Georges. She is a founding member of Human Animals Theater Company.


The Show-Off
Play Lab by George Kelly in a new adaptation by Jerry Patch
Directed by Seret Scott

Nothing has prepared Philadelphia’s Fisher family for their daughter’s new beau, the totally irrepressible and utterly irresponsible Aubrey Piper. Bold braggart and charming chump, Aubrey’s the ultimate self-made man—and the biggest challenge a mother-in-law ever confronted. Originally written in 1924, and immediately hailed as “the best comedy [yet] written by an American,” this landmark laugher gets a fresh new adaptation.

Before assuming his current position as Director of Artistic Development at Manhattan Theatre Club, Adaptor Jerry Patch served as Resident Artistic Director of The Old Globe, and for many years as Dramaturg and a senior artistic leader at the Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory—where he coordinated the development of 150 new plays, including two Pulitzer Prize winners and numerous other Pulitzer finalists. In addition to his work as dramaturg on numerous world premieres (including the co-commission with Baltimore Center Stage of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel), he co-conceived The Education of Randy Newman with Michael Roth and Mr. Newman.

A quintessential man of the theater, Playwright George Kelly got his start in vaudeville writing his own sketches to perform. His first Broadway success came in 1922 with The Torchbearers. This satire of artistic pretension was quickly followed by a comic skewering of social and economic pretension, The Show-Off, which premiered in 1924 and became an instant classic—hailed by leading critic Heywood Broun as “the best comedy which has yet been written by an American.”


Way to Curacao
By Chiori Miyagawa

From 1939 through 1940, millions of Polish Jews were trapped between advancing German and Soviet armies. Those who escaped to Lithuania found only temporary refuge, as Soviet occupation forced a choice between exile to Siberia and getting shut behind the Iron Curtain. Then word spread of a few who had found a way out via Japan, ostensibly for the Dutch West Indian island of Curaçao. But that loophole was closing fast.

Three Plays: Mary, Southern Promises, Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist
By Thomas Bradshaw

Thomas Bradshaw’s plays have been produced at regional theaters, in New York, and in Europe. In 2012 he was among playwrights commissioned by Baltimore Center Stage to write a monologue for My America. In fall 2012, his play Job was produced by The Flea Theater, and is being revived this month. In 2011, Burning ran to rave reviews off-Broadway at the New Group Theater, and the Goodman Theater commissioned and produced his play Mary. His play The Bereaved was named one of the Best Plays of 2009 in Time Out New York and a New York Times Critic’s Pick, and was subsequently produced at the State Theater of Bielefeld in Germany and in Berlin. In 2008, Southern Promises and Dawn premiered in New York, and both were listed among The New Yorker’s Best Performances of Stage and Screen. A German translation of Dawn was presented at Theater Bielefeld in October 2008 and published by Theater Der Zeit. His plays Purity, Prophet, Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist, and Cleansed were produced in New York and L.A. Mr. Bradshaw received his M.F.A. from Mac Wellman’s playwriting program and is Professor of Playwriting at Northwestern University. He has received commissions from Soho Theatre (London), where he was Playwright in Residence in 2009 and wrote The Ashes; The Goodman Theater; Soho Rep and The Flea (New York); Theater Bielefeld (Germany); Partial Comfort Productions; and Manhattan Theater Club. Bradshaw is the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2010 Prince Charitable Trust Prize, The Lark’s NVNY Fellowship for 2011, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts award for 2012. He is creating a television series for HBO and Harpo Films, and is working on a screenplay adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.



Play Lab Dance
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Liz Lerman

For more than 30 years, dance pioneers Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Liz Lerman have been colleagues in the continuing struggle for human rights and democratic practice in and through the arts. Each is an ordinary woman who has done extraordinary things to create art that matters, using artistic skills to challenge bias in her own community and expand society’s sense of moral purpose and creative possibility. Now they embark upon their first collaboration, a multi-faceted partnership to explore important questions about civil rights, poverty and economic inequality, aging, and feminism in today’s United States. Jawole and Liz use their artistic rigor, distinctive creative processes, friendship, and humor to imaginatively address these issues across the country.


Dunkler-Related Disorders
By James Magruder

When Cary Dunkler, an AIDS activist at the height of the crisis, returns home to save his sexaholic brother from their mother's religious righteousness, he becomes embroiled in a decades-long delusion that turns the phrase "family values" on its head. Over one very memorable Memorial Day weekend, the volatile Dunklers duke it out in Associate Artist James Magruder’s corrosive comedy about food, sex, and intergenerational sin.


A Walk in August
By James A. Williams

In his one-man show, Williams weaves a moving and dramatic memoir out of his experiences performing in August Wilson’s commanding 10-play cycle. From his first meeting with Wilson in 1978 to the playwright’s death in 2005, Williams traces a journey through the cycle that led him to find peace with himself, his family, and his profession.


Knife on Bone
By Jerome Hairston

Against the backdrop of a meatpacking plant on the other side of the tracks, necessity and a series of snap decisions bring one young couple to the brink of an almost impossible choice—weighing the competing demands of justice and family. Jerome Hairston’s new play, a Baltimore Center Stage commission, grabs hard at the double-edged blade of responsibility. Hairston’s previous work here includes his play a.m. Sunday in 2003 and a workshop of an earlier draft of Knife on Bone, as well as a staged adaptation of the Supreme Court arguments in Brown v Board of Education.