Play Group is a two year residency in which members become a part of the Ars Nova Resident Artist community. In addition to biweekly meetings where members share new work and receive feedback from their Play Group peers, members also receive dramaturgical support and artistic match-making advice from the Ars Nova artistic staff; invitations to Ars Nova shows, Resident Artists mixers, and to see the work of Play Group alums around the city; two Play Group writing retreats; and the opportunity to further develop and showcase one of their plays in a weeklong workshop that can culminate in a public reading.
MELIS AKER is a writer, actor and musician from Turkey. She is currently a 2050 Playwriting fellow at NYTW and a 2019-2021 member of Ars Nova’s Play Group. She was recently commissioned by Atlantic Theater Company for their Middle Eastern Mixfest to develop her one-act Scraps and Things, and she is part of the Middle East America writers room hosted by Mona Mansour, Heather Raffo and Kareem Fahmy at the Lark Play Development Center. Melis’ plays include: Field, Awakening (2018 Sundance Theatre Lab semifinalist, 2018 Berkeley Rep Ground Floor finalist, Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellowship finalist), which performed at Signature Theatre’s New Plays Fest, Golden Thread’s New Threads reading series and Corkscrew Festival at Paradise Factory; Manar (2017 Columbia@Roundabout finalist, 2016 Theatre503 Playwriting Award semi-finalist) which was at The New Group’s New Works series, LaMaMa, Golden Thread’s 2017 ReOrient Festival, LPAC’s 2017 Rough Draft Festival and was featured by Silk Road Rising on NPX; 330 Pegasus: A Love Letter [Part I] (Lark’s 2018 Jerome New York Fellowship finalist) received a Noor Highlight series reading at NYTW; Azul, Otra Vez [Blue, Revisited] was workshopped at NYTW and the BRICLab Residency; When My Mama was a Hittite (2018 Columbia@Roundabout finalist) is currently in development at NYTW. Her acting credits include: The Blacklist: Redemption (NBC), Love in Afghanistan (Arena Stage / Roundabout), Daybreak (Pan Asian Rep), Opium (New Dramatists), Tear a Root from the Earth (Kennedy Center / New Ohio), We Live in Cairo (New World Stages). Melis recently gave a TEDx Talk in Ankara, and works as Ayad Akhtar’s assistant. MFA Playwriting (Columbia), Acting (RADA), BA Drama and Philosophy (Tufts). melisaker.com
PRESTON MAX ALLEN is a trans masculine writer based in New York City. His work has been featured at the New Amsterdam Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York Musical Festival, Signature Theatre, York Theatre, Musical Theatre Factory, Feinstein’s/54 Below and Joe’s Pub. Preston conceived and wrote book, music and lyrics for We Are The Tigers (Hudson Backstage Theatre, L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation winner for Best Lyrics/Composition), Agent 355 (co-book/dramaturgy by Jessica Kahkoska, Marion International Fellowship Winner), NEVER BETTER (NYMF Developmental Reading Series) and Carrie 2: The Rage, An Unauthorized Musical Parody (Jeff Nominee, Best Musical/Underscore Theatre). His original music can also be heard in Bradical and the Pink Sock and The Hunted: Encore. Preston is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, the Second City Chicago Comedy Studies Program and the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. @prestonmaxallen
SERENA BERMAN is a playwright, performer and producer living in NYC. She is a semi-finalist for the 2020 Page 73 Playwriting Fellowship and a member of Ars Nova Play Group. Her plays include The Experiment (fka ‘The Splitting’; Westport Country Playhouse’s New Work Initiative), Études (Princess Grace semi-finalist, Less Than Rent Theater, Renegade Theater Festival), The Difference Between Big Girls and Little Girls (The Bechdel Group), sea/sick (devised in collaboration with Artilliers Theatre Company) and Wisdom (The Davenport Theater). Serena’s short plays have been performed at The Samuel French OOB Festival (two time finalist: The Dark 2018, Sex Friends 2019), Williamstown Theatre Festival, Absolu Théâtre, The Brick, The Players Theater and more. You can hear her audio plays on Flying V’s anthology podcast Paperless Pulp (“Apocalypse Airbnb”) and on Season 2 of Roommate From Hell (upcoming). She is Director of Performance at LES gallery Chinatown Soup, where she produces theatre and organizes political activism events. As an actor, favorite credits include Diaspora (NY Premiere), Set it Up (Netflix), Murder at the Gates (Steven Sater) and Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (Voice of Lucy, ABC). BFA NYU Tisch. serenaberman.com
VICHET CHUM is a Cambodian-American playwright and theater maker from Dallas, Texas and currently dreaming and scheming in New York City. His plays have been workshopped at Steppenwolf Theatre, the Magic Theatre, the Alley Theater, the UCROSS Foundation, Fault Line Theatre, Second Generation Productions, Crowded Outlet, Weston Playhouse, All For One Theater, Amios, Florida State University and the New Harmony Project. In 2018, his one-man show KNYUM at Merrimack Repertory Theatre received a special state citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives for “… contributions in raising social awareness and bringing to the forefront the complexity and the beauty of the Cambodian culture.” He received the 2018-19 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting with New Dramatists. He serves as an Associate Artist at Merrimack Repertory Theatre and is a board member for the New Harmony Project. This season, Vichet is a part of the Resident Working Farm Group at Space on Ryder Farm and is working on commissions for Audible Theater and Cleveland Play House. In January 2020, his play High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest will be workshopped at the Alley Theatre’s All New Festival. He is a proud graduate of the University of Evansville (BFA) and Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company (MFA). vichetchum.com
GUADALÍS DEL CARMEN is a playwright, actor and Co-Artistic Director of the Latinx Playwrights Circle in residence at Primary Stages. She’s an Ars Nova Resident Artist and Artistic Associate of Black Lives Black Words. Her plays include Bees and Honey (Kilroys 2019, 50 Playwrights Project List of Unproduced Latinx Plays 2019), My Father’s Keeper (Steppenwolf Theater’s The Mix List 2019), A Shero’s Journey or What Anacaona and Yemayá Taught Me… (Parsnip Ship Season Four, Theater Magazine Issue 49), Not For Sale (UrbanTheater Company Chicago 2018, Jeff Award Nominee 2019), Daughters of the Rebellion (Montclair State University New Works Initiative 2019) and Blowout (Aguijón Theater 2013). As an actor, she’s performed in various independent films and commercials and has worked with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, UrbanTheater Company, Aguijón Theater, Victory Gardens and LATEA.
ERIKA DICKERSON-DESPENZA is a Blk feminist poet-playwright, cultural worker, educator and grassroots organizer from Chicago, Illinois. She’s the recipient of the 2019 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting/Fellowship at New Dramatists and was a 2018 Relentless Award Semifinalist. Erika is a National Arts & Culture Delegate for the U.S. Water Alliance’s One Water Summit 2019. She’s the 2019-2020 Tow Playwright-in-Residence at the Public Theater, a 2019 Writers’ Gathering Jerusalem Writer-in-Residence, a 2019 New York Stage and Film Fellow-in-Residence, a 2019 New Harmony Project Writer-in-Residence, a 2018-2019 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow and was The Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellow. Erika is a 2019-2020 member of Ars Nova Play Group and a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Obie-winning Youngblood collective. Her work has been developed at The Lark, The Public Theater, Vineyard Arts Project, New York Stage and Film, Public Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, Fault Line Theatre and Jackalope Theatre. Current plays in development include: ocean’s lip/heavn’s shore, took/tied, hung/split and cullud wattah (2019 Kilroys List; Public Theater, 2020). In addition to this water tetralogy, Erika is developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, including [hieroglyph] (2019 Kilroys List) and shadow/land, focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned man-made disaster.
GRACIE GARDNER is a playwright based in New York. Her play Pussy Sludge was a Theatertreffen Stükemarkt selection at Berliner Festspiele and is published in German by S. Fischer. She’s a resident at New Dramatists, and she’s the recipient of the Claire Tow Fellowship at the Atlantic Theater Company, a James Stevenson Prize, a Relentless Award, the James E. Michael Prize, a Clubbed Thumb Commission and a Manhattan Theatre Club Sloan Commission. Her plays Ballgirl and Athena are available on Samuel French. She’s also developing projects at Anonymous Content and Annapurna Interactive.
DYLAN GUERRA is a gay, Latinx New York City-based artist originally from Miami, Florida. He has been a finalist for The Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater, NBC Universal’s Writers on the Verge Program, The MTC Directing Fellowship, The Drama League Hangar Directing Fellowship and a semifinalist for the Sundance Episodic Television Writers Program. His most recent play, Let’s Have a Seance, premiered at HERE Sublet Co-Op Series in February. And his next play, The Yalemihkeinsploke, is currently in development with Really, Really Theatre Group. BFA Southern Methodist University. He is a proud member of EST/Youngblood. One half of karen. dylanguerra.com
GETHSEMANE HERRON-COWARD is a poet-playwright from Washington, D.C. She has developed work with JAG Productions, The Hearth, Magic Time @ Judson, The Ice Factory Festival at the New Ohio Theatre and Playwright’s Playground at Classical Theatre of Harlem. Alumna of 24 Hour Plays: Nationals, VONA and The Fire This Time Festival. Residencies from The Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and the Millay Colony, where she was the recipient of the Yasmin Scholarship. Semi-Finalist for the Many Voices Fellowship at Playwright’s Center, the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship, Rising Circle INK TANK and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Finalist for Space on Ryder Farm and the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award. B.S. University of Wisconsin-Madison. MFA Columbia University. She’s enamored with Sailor Moon, witches and other magical girls warriors.
IFE OLUJOBI is a Brooklyn-based playwright and screenwriter from Columbia, Maryland. She is a member of the 2018-19 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater, a 2019-20 New Voices Fellow at The Lark and a member of Youngblood at Ensemble Studio Theater. Her work has been seen at The Public Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater, Bishop Arts Theater Center (Dallas, TX), Abe Burrows Theater at NYU and more. She also is the founder and editor of Townies, a zine exploring the experiences of POC and queer people who have a relationship to suburban and rural areas of the US and abroad. She received her BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2016.
MARA VÉLEZ MELÉNDEZ is a playwright born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her playwriting debut took place at the 2016 UPR Student Theatre Festival with The Natives Fight for Their Cave: Part 2. Their work has also been developed with The Lark, Teatro SEA, Pregones/PRTT, The Latinx Playwrights Circle, Fresh Ground Pepper and What Would The Neighbors Say?. Other plays include We Built Our Homes Near Kingdoms of Animals and Magic (The Lark’s 2019 Playwrights’ Week, 2019 Rita & Burton Goldberg Playwriting Prize), The Last Episode of El Super Mega Show and Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members. Playwriting MFA: Hunter College.
Applications for Play Group 2022 were accepted beginning June 21st and needed to be submitted by midnight on July 19th to be eligible for consideration. Applications required one full-length play, a playwriting resume, two theater references and a personal statement.
All playwrights who identify as emerging and who are able to attend meetings in NYC are eligible to apply. In selecting new members, we will take into account the writing in the submitted play (all plays are read in their entirety), how/if the writer stands to benefit from membership at this point in their career, what they would bring to the other writers in the group, and the overall balance of voices, styles and experiences in Play Group. Ars Nova recognizes both that it is a predominantly white organization and that historic institutional theater practices have led to an exclusionary and harmful environment for those who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We are actively working to become a more diverse, anti-racist, inclusive organization in all ways. Writers of all races, genders, backgrounds and abilities are strongly encouraged to apply.
What appeals to you about this particular writers group for you right now?
Why do you write for live theater?
Do you have a next play kicking around in your brain? (we’d love to hear about that- and don’t worry we won’t hold you to it!)
What non-theater hobbies or obsessions inform your practice/process?
If you could design an unconventional workshop process, what would it look like?
What are your hopes and dreams (concrete or abstract) for theater you want to be involved in moving forward?