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Announcing Line Up of Six Plays for Playwrights' Week 2016!

Lark News
Playwrights' Week Writers

New York, NY– The Lark is thrilled to announce six plays and playwrights have been chosen through its open access program for the 23rd Annual Playwrights’ Week.  This year’s plays, selected from a pool of over 1,000 submissions, will be: at the very bottom of a body of water by Benjamin Benne; The Found Dog Ribbon Dance by Dominic Finocchiaro; The Blameless by Nick Gandiello; Against the Hillside by Sylvia Khoury; Pilgrims by Claire Kiechel; and Europa by Sarah Saltwick. Playwrights’ Week will culminate in a festival of public readings, which will take place October 17-21, 2016. The week will kick off with The Lark’s annual Meet the Writers event, moderated by Beth Blickers, featuring a panel discussion with the writers and excerpts from each of their plays, which will be livestreamed on HowlRound TV.  For the full schedule and for information regarding tickets, click here.

“These six singular plays provide striking explorations of the search for human connection across geographical, cultural, and personal divides large and small,” said Andrea Hiebler, Director of Scouting & Submissions at The Lark. “As a cohort, there is an unmistakable emphasis on empathy as a vital framework for the inevitable conflicts created by our perpetual striving outward in pursuit of a greater understanding of ourselves.”

Playwrights’ Week aims to provide support for plays in various stages of development, by writers at a range of places in their careers.  Each submission is read blind by members of The Lark’s Literary Wing, a committee of readers from the theater community, and evaluated using a multi-step process that reviews the play’s strength of voice, diversity of perspective, and emotional impact. Recommended plays advance through a careful assessment of the author's statement, which details their goals for developing the script, and how they believe The Lark's particular process would be beneficial.

The selected playwrights participate in an intensive seven-day retreat, designed to foster a peer-based community among the writers, their creative teams, and The Lark’s staff, through a series of conversations around the work. The playwrights receive ten hours of rehearsal in advance of a public staged reading, focusing on the writer’s self-stated developmental goals.

Playwrights Adi Hanash and Patrick Vassel, whose play Nothing Left to Burn was part of the festival last year, had this to say of their experience, “The Lark creates and fosters a remarkable sense of community.  We learned so much from every conversation we had - whether it was with other writers during a meal or with audience members between readings.  The overall sense is one of celebration and inspiration - this community celebrates the creation of new plays while inspiring writers to work harder and to create more. We were in awe of the talent around us at all times.”

Other recent works developed in Playwrights’ Week include: Parachute Men by Mando Alvarado, receiving its world premiere at Teatro Vista this fall; The Ghosts of Lote Bravo by Hilary Bettis, produced by the Unicorn Theater in April 2016 as part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere; The Tomb of King Tot by Olivia Dufault, produced by Clubbed Thumb in Summerworks 2016; Detroit ‘67 by Dominique Morisseau, winner of the 2014 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, produced by the Public Theater; and The Nether by Jennifer Haley, winner of the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, winner of seven Ovation Awards (2013) including “Playwriting for an Original Play,” and produced by Center Theatre Group.

Playwrights' Week is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and Axe-Houghton Foundation.


at the very bottom of a body of water by Benjamin Benne – Marina, a Latina immigrant, has led a reclusive existence with only her daughter’s ghost to keep her company.  But when her ritual meal of catfish soup is disrupted by the disappearance of her Japanese fishmonger, she can no longer swim in the routine circles of her solitary life.  She embarks on a quest for connection that takes her into surreal territory where paper cranes take flight, volcanoes speak, the sea and sky are inverted, and traveling to the ocean floor is possible.

The Found Dog Ribbon Dance by Dominic Finocchiaro – Norma, a professional cuddler in Portland, Oregon, has devoted her life to healing others and ignoring her own needs. When she discovers a lost dog and attempts to return it to its rightful owner, her ordered life takes a series of surprising turns. A story of loneliness, intimacy, and the healing power of the music of Whitney Houston.

The Blameless by Nick Gandiello – The boisterous Garcia family has always tackled their days with warmth, humor, and tough love. But today, they are struggling to recover from a painful event in their past.  They must find a way to hold everything together as they welcome to dinner the one man who might help them heal – or reopen their wounds.

Against the Hillside by Sylvia Khoury – With the pervasive buzz of American drones filling the sky above the Pakistani countryside, Sayid and Reem worry that their daughter will grow up too quickly in the presence of so much death and destruction. Meanwhile, Major Matthew Walker becomes increasingly drawn into their lives as he monitors their every move from an Air Force base in the Nevada desert. In a world where wars are fought from a distance, who suffers more: the observer or the observed?

Pilgrims by Claire Kiechel – On a spacecraft on its way to colonize a newly discovered planet, a soldier and a young girl live together in one of the ship’s cabins with only an outdated robot and each other for company. After they are quarantined in their close quarters due to a potential outbreak, they are forced to explore their own traumatic pasts through role-playing and ever increasingly dangerous games.

Europa by Sarah Saltwick – On a quiet day, in a neighborhood park, Leslie and Alma meet for the first time. As their children play, the women discover they know the same man. Fourteen years later, their children are almost grown. Bruce wants Louise but Louise just wants to be free.


Benjamin Benne is a 2016-17 Playwrights' Center Many Voices Fellow.  He is currently doing a one-year residency at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, MN.  Ben was also a finalist for the 2016 Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship.  He participated in a "Leda and the Swan" bake-off with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel as part of the Dramatists Guild Fund's Traveling Masters Program.  Ben was also a participant in the New York Theatre Intensives 2011 summer conservatory (in association with EST/NY) and in the 2013 NoPassport Playwriting Intensive with OBIE Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich.  His trilogy of mortality-themed plays (Terra Incognita, What \ Washed Ashore / Astray, & at the very bottom of a body of water) each achieved semi-finalist status in the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference in consecutive years (2014, 2015, & 2016 respectively).  at the very bottom of a body of water was also a 2016 Bay Area Playwrights Festival finalist and has received development support from Umbrella Project, a Seattle-based new play advocacy group. Terra Incognita had its world premiere (dir. Pilar O'Connell) at Annex Theatre (Summer 2016).  Ben is the literary manager of Forward Flux Productions, a literary intern for Washington Ensemble Theatre, and an alum of the Seattle-based playwright group Parley.  He is a theater artist of Guatemalan heritage and biracial identity, who was born and raised in Los Angeles County.

Dominic Finocchiaro is a Brooklyn-based playwright, performer, and freelance dramaturg. His full-length plays include brother brother, complex, The Found Dog Ribbon Dance, Gold Person, The Lucky Ladies (someday you will be loved), and Trees in their youth. His writing has been produced and developed around the country, including with Roundabout Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Civilians, The Lark, the National New Play Network, Portland Center Stage, the Flea Theater, the Kennedy Center, PlayPenn, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, the UCross Foundation, the Amoralists, Pavement Group, Ugly Rhino, Pipeline Theatre Company, and at the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival. BA Reed College, MFA Columbia University.

Nick Gandiello’s plays include The Blameless, which will have a World Premiere at the Old Globe San Diego in 2017, Sunrise Highway, which won Marin Theatre Company’s 2016 Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Award, Oceanside (Merrimack Repertory Theatre) and The Wedge Horse (Fault Line Theatre).  Nick was the 2015 Page 73 Productions Playwriting Fellow.  He is an alumnus of the Ars Nova Play Group.  His work has been developed or presented by Manhattan Theatre Club, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Keen Company, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Samuel French’s OOB Festival, Capital Stage, Premiere Stages, and Wide Eyed Productions, among others, and his short plays can be found published in Smith and Kraus's “Best 10 Minute Plays of 2015 and 2016.”  For the screen, he developed and shot a television pilot, “Substance,” with Ready Set Go Productions.  Nick was the Literary Manager of Young Playwrights Inc. from 2012-2015, and was the Associate Artistic Director of Writopia Lab’s 2016 Worldwide Plays Festival. As a Teaching Artist, he has worked with Naked Angels, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Ojai Playwrights Conference, and the New School for Drama.  MFA, New School for Drama.

Sylvia Khoury is a New York-born playwright living in Manhattan. Her play Against the Hillside has been featured at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, on the Kilroys List, at the Roundabout Underground Reading Series, at NNPN’s National Showcase of New Plays and at the Kennedy Center/NNPN’s MFA Playwrights’ Workshop. She is a member of EST’s Youngblood, a member of the 2016-2018 Women’s Project Lab and a 2015-2016 Dramatists’ Guild Fellow. Other full-length plays include Selling Kabul, The Place Women Go, and An Inferno. Sylvia completed her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University (2012) and received an MFA in Playwriting at the New School for Drama (2015). She recently began her second year at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Claire Kiechel is a playwright and theater maker living in New York. Her plays include: Pilgrims (upcoming production at the Gift Theatre in Chicago; the Kilroys' List 2016; developed in Pipeline Theatre Company's PlayLab); Lulu is Hungry with composer Avi Amon (ANTFEST 2016); Some Dark Places of the Earth (New School for Drama); Wolf Play (winner of the 2012 OOB Short Play Festival, published by Samuel French). Her work has also been developed or presented by Cincinnati Playhouse, the Civilians, Colt Coeur, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Fresh Ground Pepper, Hangar Theatre, Judson Church MagicTime, The Lark, the Millay Colony, Naked Angels, the Orchard Project, Sewanee Writers’ Conference & 3-Legged Dog.  She is a current member of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s group Youngblood and a 2016 recipient of South Coast Rep’s Elizabeth George Emerging Writers Commission. BA: Amherst College. MFA: New School for Drama.

Sarah Saltwick is a playwright based in Austin, TX, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin and a past Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. Her play Tender Rough Rough Tender was recently produced by groundswell theater and awarded the David Mark Cohen New Play Award by the Austin Critics Table. Recent and upcoming work includes readings of The Pleasure Trials at Luna Stage (West Orange NJ) and Amphibian Stage (Fort Worth TX), development of Europa at the Drama League (New York NY) and a production of A Perfect Robot at the Vortex Theater (Austin TX). Her play A Perfect Robot was a finalist for the O'Neill Playwright Conference and a Kilroy Honorable Mention for 2014 and 2015.  Her play She Creatures/Of Myth and Mud was produced by Barnyard Theater and Mira Loma High School in Sacramento CA, Nouveau 47 in Dallas TX, and Weber State University in Ogden UT. Some additional developmental and production partners include groundswell theatre company, Scriptworks, New Century Theater Company, Forward Flux, Kitchen Dog Theater, Swan Dive, the Navigators, The Exchange Artists, Red Theatre Collective, Phoenix Theatre, the Icicle Creek Theater Festival, WildClaw Horror Theater, Weber State University, Barnyard Theater. Her plays have been seen in theaters as well as in cars, backyards, dressing rooms, lobbies, and a swimming pool. You can find more about Sarah’s work on or on the New Play Exchange.