2013 Pittsburgh New Works Festival


Staged Readings

August 18


Waiting for Dr. Hoffman by Michele Willens
Produced by Comtra

Three anxious women meet in the Beverly Hills waiting room of a cosmetic surgeon’s office. A chilly receptionist attends their needs while harboring her own pain. A fourth former patient enters with a grudge and a gun and all hell breaks loose. A funny, poignant, and resonant piece that hits every middle aged person when it hurts.  Michele Willens is a journalist and playwright. She writes the FACE IT column for the Huffington Post. She coined the term “tweens” for the NY Times. Her previous plays include Dear Maudie, published by Playscripts, Inc.

Ch-ch-ch by Mark Cornell
Produced by 12 Peers Theater

After grocery shopping, two friends watch their kids play in the lawn outside the market and mull the changes in their town and their lives.  Mark Cornell has had 10 new plays premiere around the country in the past year, including Tell Me You Love Me, the first play of Sprucehaven B, which ran last fall at Rising Sun Performance Company in NYC; and One Life at Theatre Three (NY).  His play The Rental Company won the grand prize at Short and Sweet Brisbane (Australia) in 2012 and won the People’s Choice Award this past month in Sydney.  Other plays include The Retreat, Duped, The Inciting Incident, Bugs Bunny, All the Answers, and Double Walker.  He has an MFA in playwrighting from UCLA.

Witness Seven by David Clow
Produced by Industrial Gardens

Following victory in a high-profile high-controversy trial over medical misconduct, the media consultant to the victorious drug company gloats over his tactics and questionable ethics to a reporter, but not all is as it seems.  David Clow is a Los Angeles based writer/journalist.


August 25



A Cricket, A Grasshopper by Tal Rayman
Produced by the Pittsburgh New Works Festival

William Henry, famed playwright and Bill to his friends, has just died unexpectedly. When he finds himself at the gate to the afterlife, Bill tries to cross from this world to the next. But a stranger bars him from entering. Bill has some explaining to do first, and the stranger who asks the questions and holds the key to eternity turns out to be another William – William Shakespeare.  As the two men uncover each other’s lives and deeds, the means of attaining worldly fame become clearer, as do their unavoidable costs. Tal Rayman is a graduate of Tel Aviv University’s English Department. When not writing plays, Tal goes to see them, works in the technology sector and spends time with his wife and two boys.

What Grows Back by Hilary King
Produced by Actors Civic Theater

Juliana is going through some major life changes. Her mother and her sister are sure a haircut will fix her right up.  What happens when Juliana refuses and what does a woman’s hair say about her position in life?  Hilary King‘s plays have been performed in Atlanta, New York, Colorado and elsewhere.  She is a member of the Dramatist Guild and Working Title Playwrights. This play was inspired by an article in the New York Times.

I Love You, Lynn Swann by Michael Soloway
Produced by New Horizon Theater

Set in Pittsburgh, this play is about two retired friends who return to the same bench along the Allegheny each year to get a glimpse of the black and gold lark, which never seems to leave the same tree. Having lost his wife to a long illness, one of the men, on the anniversary of her death, contemplates suicide each time by threatening to throw himself into the river. The two men discuss life, death, Pittsburgh Steelers football, the old days, and everything in between. Will he finally jump into the river and end it all? Will his friend allow him to kill himself or will he even want to this time? What key does the lark hold to healing? Is a life alone, a life still worth living? And are we truly ever alone?  Michael Soloway has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. Michael’s playwriting mentors have included Janet Burroway, Jean Klein, and Gregory Fletcher. His plays, Long Overdue, We Have Mums, and I Love You, Lynn Swann have all been read at Wilkes University.


Program A  September 5 – 14



All Things to All People by Kyle Zielinsky
Produced by The Baldwin Players

A young writer holds hostage a critic who panned his most recent production as well as the critic’s date.  As the writer and critic go head-to-head, they’re pulled into an experiment that recasts the entire production…while it’s still running.  Kyle Zielinsky is a full-time web developer and part-time writer.  His short play Tics was performed at the 2009 Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

Suddenly, Last Supper by David Katzin
Produced by The Summer Company

Nothing is sacred in this spoof of the Last Supper through the lens of Tennessee Williams. Old Mrs. Mary is determined to discover the final fate of her dearly loved son. Unfortunately, the only person who might have all the answered is a half-crazed fading Southern Belle named Magdalene whom Mary doesn’t feel inclined to trust, or even like. Despite all reason, Mary invites her to tea in her garden along with a blackmailed lobotomist, a fast-talking religious organizer, and a trigger-happy nurse. Tears, laughter, and electric shocks are all in store when the haughty matron and the reformed sex worker sit down for tea in this Tennessee Williams send-up.  David Katzin is a Pittsburgh-area playwright and humorist. He holds a Bachelors degree in Latin and Theater Arts from Duquesne University. In the past, he has worked with the Red Masquers, the Summer Company, the Gemini Children’s Theater, the Pride Theater Fest, NJ’s Ritz Theater Company, and the Arden Theater in Philadelphia. His recent performed works include Forgotten Names at last year’s New Works, and American Tragedy with the Red Masquers.

Moon Over Gomorrah by Byron Wilmot
Produced by The Red Masquers

Two parents, have concluded that their grown son Mark is gay and so have gone to great lengths to prepare themselves and their small town in anticipation of his coming out to them. When Mark invites them to San Francisco to tell them “something important”, they know that this is the moment they’ve been anticipating.  What takes place is a comedy of errors as the parents awkwardly encourage Mark to tell them his “secret” while he awkwardly tries to introduce his fiancée Cynthia. Things are complicated by Mark’s friend Eric, who happens to wander into the middle of things.  When the misunderstandings are finally sorted out, Mark is very upset with his parents, but Cynthia convinces him that they acted out of love.  Byron Wilmot, a native of Rochester, New York, has been writing plays since his retirement from teaching. His plays have been read and performed at a number of Rochester area venues, including Geva Theatre’s Next Stage, St. John Fisher College, Black Sheep Theatre Coalition, Writers and Books, and by community groups in Geneva, Auburn, and Rome, NY. This is his first submission outside New York State.


Program B September 6 – 15



Unveiled by J. Thalia Cunningham
Produced by CCAC South

ADRIENNE, a well-intentioned representative from an American NGO with funding to assist Afghan women, meets with DR. SORA ZADRAN, Minister of Women’s Affairs in Kabul, Afghanistan. ZADRAN’s assistant, MASUDA acts as interpreter. Through a series of cultural gaffes leading up to discovery of MASUDA’s injuries, ADRIENNE discovers the startling and unexpected truth about what Afghan women really want.  J. Thalia Cunningham, MD, FACEP is an emergency physician, playwright, travel writer, and photographer. FIRST, DO NO HARM, a play about medical ethics and racial profiling, has received staged readings in California, Texas, and New York. FOODFIGHTS, received a developmental reading at The WorkShop Theater Company in Manhattan.  Two monologues from CROSSING THE LINE will be published in Smith & Kraus’ “The Best Men’s Stage Monologues of 2013.” As travel writer, photographer and traveler, Cunningham has traveled to 120 of the “official” destinations of the Traveler’s Century Club, an international organization for people who have visited at least 100 countries. She has been on assignment for national magazines such as Arthur Frommer, Diversion, Specialty Travel Index, Spur, and International Travel News.  Cunningham founded Emergency Physicians Abroad, to provide training and care in emergency medicine in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Her experiences include trekking with mujhahideen in Tora Bora, sneaking over the Khyber Pass in a burqa disguised as an Afghan woman, and talking her way out of an arrest (erroneous) for prostitution in the tribal area of Northern Pakistan, while Pakistani soldiers aimed the nostrils of their AK-47s at her own. Cunningham’s predilection for spending time with insurgents – both in the emergency department and abroad – has proffered continuous opportunities to enter intimate worlds and thoughts of a diverse array of the human race. Her first-hand knowledge of people in crisis situations influences her work as both writer and photographer, allowing her to explore and confront some of society’s most challenging issues and to serve as catalyst for further reflection and discussion. She received her BA from the Johns Hopkins University and MD from Hahnemann University.

The Perhaps by F.J. Hartland
Produced by Stage Right

When a boy is sent to live with his grandmother, he discovers an imaginary friend–film legend Bette Davis.  F. J. Hartland has made a record setting twelve appearances in PNWF.  He was a 2008 recipient of a playwriting fellowship from the Pittsburgh Council on the Arts.  His plays have been published by Samuel French, United Stages and OriginalWorksProductions. His work has been seen in NYC at Emerging Artists Theatre and GayFestNYC.

The Test by Paulina Shur
Produced by Cup-A-Jo

Two wealthy, upper-middle-class WASP brothers, Rick and Bob, are engaged: Rick to Alice and Bob to Alice’s friend Marge. The brothers devise a plan to test whether Alice is marrying Rick for love or for his family connections and money. Meanwhile, the women get the same idea: to test if Rick really loves Alice and is strong enough to be with her in times of trouble. But what seems like a game at first suddenly turns into drama: not only doesn’t Rick pass the test, but Bob also confesses that he wouldn’t marry Marge if she had the same problems as Alice. Little does Bob know that Marge is listening to his conversation with Rick. Now all four of them have to decide what will become of their futures.  Paulina Shur was a founder and Artistic Director of the Magic Mirror Theatre in Charlottesville, Virginia where she directed, among others, works by Harold Pinter and Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare and Moliere, Lanford Wilson and Chekhov as well as her own play,The Age When Women Lived and Died for Love.


Program C  September 19 – 28


Bored Of Education! by Georgina Marsh
Produced by The Theatre Factory

Bored of Education is a sneak peak at what goes on in the wild world behind the closed doors of America’s Educational System and reveals what personalities decide the policies and futures of our children.  Holly Calloway, town gossip, gets the wheels turning for ousting a disliked teacher and will stop at nothing to see it through. Caught up in her personal vendetta are the power hungry school board president, the spineless superintendent and an out-of-control Baptist preacher.  As they trip over each other to “gather the goods” on the educator, we   begin to question who really is a danger to the small town’s students.  Georgina Marsh began her theater career singing as a child with Igor Stravinsky in his Persephone.  She then studied dance and became a professional ballerina with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, only to retire when they refused to let her break into song at the height of Swan Lake.  Ms. Marsh was a musical theatre actress in Roger Miller’s  Tony award-winning Big River and performed with Mr. Miller at the Grand  Ole Opry. She recently appeared in the Public’s production of Born Yesterday as Mrs. Hedges. Being a triple-threat was not enough for her, so she began her fourth foray into the theater world as a playwright with Bored of Education.

Even by Karen Lewis
Produced by Phase 3 Productions

Ten years ago Barb’s officer son was fragged (killed with a fragmentary grenade) in Viet Nam by an enlisted man.  On the day of his release from prison Barb arrives late for his “welcome home” party.  Barb and Kitty, the mother of the guilty man struggle to make sense of, and come to terms with, the fates of their sons and the incident that blew their worlds apart.  Karen L. Lewis began her creative life as an actress, transitioning to playwright at the suggestion of a valued mentor around 1980.  Under the Stars & Bars was performed at the Spoleto Festival,Behind a Mask produced off Broadway by Theatre of the Open Eye, George Sand, a Passionate Cantata was commissioned by Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake, NY and later produced at the Invisible Eye in Arizona.  A Mary Roberts Rinehart Grant to complete a work in progress awarded to Ezili;  A reading of  Fragments at the WPA in NYC.   Safe Harbor produced by Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake, NY.  A long stretch of beyond full-time employment at ABC on the writing team of All My Children and a brief stint on As the World Turns for CBS followed, resulting in 5 Emmy Awards and 3 Writers’ Guild Awards.  A few plays were created during this time:  Faith, Florence and Carrie, and Coming Unglued among those that garnered interest and readings.  Her newest play, The Perfect Wife was  honored with The 2012 Stanley Drama Award and was a semi-finalist for the 2012 Eugene O’Neill Theatre’s National Playwrights Conference.  Member of The Writers’ Guild of America and The Dramatists’ Guild.

One 2nd by Sara Baines-Miller
Produced by Greensburg Civic Theatre

Two mothers struggle to find answers during an unthinkable tragedy.  Sara Baines-Miller is a freelance playwright, director, and designer from Pittsburgh, PA.  She has had two previous plays performed at the PNWF:  Red Brick Road and A Light Subject Matter.


Program D  September 20 – 29


Dinner Theatre of the Absurd by Mike Melczak
Produced by McKeesport Little Theatre

Three couples present for a dinner theatre production of absurd proportions, although they were told there would be no math.  Mike Melczak has written one-act plays before, but hasn’t written again until recently. Maybe he’ll do more if this goes better than expected.

Whistleblower by Carolyn Kras
Produced by The Heritage Players

Janet is a new law clerk at a wacky office that manifests itself as a gym.  Her coach-like boss encourages her to “push the boundaries” of legality, and her conscience (which voices itself through office machines) constantly nags her.  Janet betrays her cute co-worker, Ben, and kills her conscience in order to climb the corporate ladder.  Carolyn Kras is a playwright who holds an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.  She received the 2012 Visionary Playwright Award and Commission from Theater Masters, and the commissioned play will be showcased at a prominent theatre in 2013.  She was a finalist for the Heideman Award from Actors Theatre of Louisville and served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Ragdale Foundation and the Anderson Center.  Her plays have been produced or developed at The Looking Glass Theatre, Centenary Stage Company, Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, Theatre Seven of Chicago, the Great Plains Theatre Conference, the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, ATHE New Play Development Workshop, and Theater Masters National M.F.A. Playwrights Festival.  She is Co-artistic Director of The Artery Playwrights Project, a theatre company dedicated to producing new American plays.  Carolyn’s other honors include the Shubert Fellowship, Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, Women in Film Mentorship Program, Filmaka.com grant, “Best Playwright” Award in The Looking Glass Theatre’s Writer/Director Forum, two A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Awards, the Leota Diesel Ashton Playwriting Prize, and the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholarship.  For more information, please visit www.carolynkras.com.

Hotline by Cheryl Navo
Produced by Thoreau, NM

Operator 72 is training to be a Counselor for the SILT (Socially Inappropriate Language Therapy) Hotline.  SILT is a method of therapy invented by Dr. Fergus Guggenheim whose years of research led him to conclude that subjects in stressful situations were able to lower their stress levels and deal with their problems more effectively when they used socially inappropriate language to release negative energy. Operator 72?s last hurdle before accreditation as a SILT counselor is a monitored solo call. Caller Janine telephones with a unique problem that she is unable to “swear” away.  Cheryl Navo is a Department of Defense employee stationed in Germany.  She has been involved in community theatre since December 2009 when she played Sister Margaretta in the KMC Onstage production of Sound of Music.  Cheryl directed 101 Dalmatians for KMC Onstage which garnered seven awards, including ‘Best Debut Director,’ during the 2011 U.S. Army Europe Festival of One Act Plays. She costumed Seussical and Greater Tuna for the Baumholder Hilltop Theater and was charge artist for KMC Onstage’s Frozen, for which she won three U.S. Army IMCOM-Europe 2012 Tournament of Plays ‘Toppers.’  She wrote the one-act play, Parade of Queens, which garnered four awards during the 2013 U.S. Army Europe Festival of One Act Plays.  Cheryl is cast as Meredith in the upcoming production of Batboy: the Musical and is directing God of Carnage, both for the Baumholder Hilltop Theater.  Hotline is her second one-act play.