terraNOVA Names Seven Playwrights to Groundbreakers Group



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terraNOVA Collective
Groundbreakers Playwrights Group
Fall 2009 Session

terraNOVA Collective is thrilled to announce the new members of its Groundbreakers Playwrights Group. Groundbreakers is a six month long program in which playwrights work on a specific project with the intent to create a completed draft. Over the six months, the playwrights each bring in their scripts for three table readings with professional actors, receiving feedback from other Groundbreakers members and special guests, along with the artistic staff of terraNOVA Collective. Snehal Desai, Susan Ferrara, Lucy Gillespie, Mario Quesada, Andrea Thome, Karen Smith Vastola, and Heather J. Violanti are the seven talented playwrights making up the first group assembled to work within this new construct.

“This is a fundamental shift from how Groundbreakers operated for the last five years,” said artistic director, Jennifer Conley Darling. “We used to focus on plays, bringing them in over a long period of time with playwrights coming and going. Our new aim is to focus on playwrights, create a group dynamic and nurture not only the writers’ plays but their careers too.”

A recipient of funding from The Dramatist Guild, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and The New York State Council on the Arts, Groundbreakers began with a few writers meeting regularly to discuss their plays and quickly grew into the life blood of terraNOVA Collective’s main stage productions, including Baby Steps by James Carter, Buck Fever by Juan C. Sanchez, Masquerade: calypso and home by Roger Bonair-Agard and last season’s Blue Before Morning by Kate McGovern, which recently received seven 2009 Innovative Theatre Award nominations, including Outstanding Full-Length Script.

Jessi D. Hill, terraNOVA’s new Literary Manager said, “I am excited to join terraNOVA Collective to help put the new Groundbreakers play development program in motion. We have assembled a talented group this year and look forward to the work they’ll produce in the coming months.”

Groundbreakers is a year round program assisting in the development of between twelve and fourteen plays annually. Through its three-tired process of table reads, staged readings and main stage productions, terraNOVA Collective cultivates the best new playwrights in the greater New York area.

Snehal Desai toured his first solo show, Finding Ways to Prove You’re Not an Al-Qaeda Terrorist When You’re Brown (and other stories of the gIndian), to sold out audiences across the United States from Philadelphia to San Francisco and recently had his third run in New York City at the HERE Arts Center. He recently presented his new play, Sita/Sati Part I: Apu A-Sleep with Desipina Theater Company in New York. A graduate of the MFA Directing Program at the Yale School of Drama and the founder of The Yale Southasian Theater Collective, Snehal’s Directorial works include: Bertolt Brecht’s Baal, an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, the world premiere of FOB: Fresh off the Boeing, Booty Fire, Cabaret, and Jose Rivera’s Marisol. He has worked at theaters across the United States including: Yale Rep, Theater Emory, the Alliance Theater, Theater Rhinoceros, and Dad’s Garage and is a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab.

Susan Ferrara is an actor and playwright whose plays include The Machine (a 2009 O’Neill semi-finalist and part of the Berwyn Trilogies which also includes Suicide on Pennsylvania Avenue and DNR). She has written and performed her own solo show Peasant at The Zipper Theatre, Theatre Row and Chashama all in Manhattan, Darger (co-created with Jeremy Williams), Buzz (inspired by the search for famed director MaryAnn “Buzz” Goodbody), Beat ‘n Dobin (co-created with Teresa Harrison), and Hit Mom. Susan participated in the Flea Theatre’s pataphysics workshop with Mac Wellman. As an actor, Susan was most recently on The Onion News Network and has performed at The Public Theatre in Suzan-Lori Park’s 365 Plays. Other theatre credits includes The Cherry Orchard (Beckett Theatre), The Commission (Connelly Theatre), Candles to the Sun (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Charles L. Mee’s Mail Order Bride, Henry VI, Parts I, II and III, Lie of the Mind and Orlando (with and adapted by Sarah Ruhl) and Clubbed Thumb Theatre’s festival SummerWorks, among many. Susan studied acting in London, Chicago and New York and is a member of Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, the Dramatists Guild and Resonance Ensemble.

Lucy Gillespie is an Anglo-American writer and performer who is mostly interested in bad people, and the people who suffer them. Writing and collaborating credits include Driving Lesson (Strawberry One-Act Festival), Keeping the Light: Stories of Lighthouse Keepers (Mystic Seaport, CT), Shadow Dracula (Northwestern), and Adrift (Theatermakers Ensemble, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center). As an actor, Lucy has performed with Full Stop Collective in NYC, Remy Bumppo Theater Company and the Oak Park Festival Theater in Chicago, the Mystic Seaport, and at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Summer Playwright’s Conference. She is also the author of The Pith and the Peel, a novella about a woman who kills and eats her husband. Her first full-length play, Hangman/School for Girls, will premiere this Fall in New York City, produced by Vagabond Theater Ensemble and Full Stop Collective. Lucy holds a BA from Northwestern University in Theater and Fiction Writing.

Mario Quesada is an actor/writer based in NYC. His work includes character roles in: Three Sisters (dir. Pavol Liska, Classic Stage Co./Nature Theater of Oklahoma); The Cherry Orchard (dir. Juan Souki, Classic Stage Co.); Zastrozzi (dir. Felix Ivanov); The Three Penny Opera (dir. Henning Hegland, Columbia Stages). He wrote/performed his first solo piece, Ya Get the Picture?, for the HOWL! Arts Fest/Connelly Center. The piece was based on his time working with a street ministry/homeless group. Mario holds a BA in English/Drama from Catholic University in DC. He trained and performed for four years with a Russian/Georgian theatre in DC. He studied at The Actors Center in NYC (1 year); T. Schreiber Studio (1 year) and under master teacher/fight choreographer Felix Ivanov (4 years).

Andrea Thome is a Chilean-Costa Rican, Wisconsin-born mutt who grew up navigating the multiple landscapes and languages that now inhabit her plays. Her dramas, absurd comedies, play translations and video satires have been presented at theaters, galleries and universities around the U.S. and Latin America. She became a playwright by necessity in San Francisco, where her tiny Red Rocket Theater Company avoided eviction by writing and producing a new play every 6 weeks. Andrea currently co-directs Fulana, a New York-based satire collective (and 2009 Ford Foundation grantee) that creates cutting political/cultural parodies (www.fulana.org). Andrea has received fellowships from NYFA, the City of Oakland, Lark Playwrights Workshop, INTAR, New York University (MFA Fellow), and the Women’s Project. Past collaborators include Culture Clash, Latina Theatre Lab, Campo Santo and Guillermo G√≥mez-Pe√±a. Andrea has taught at various universities, schools and cultural centers nationwide, and directs the Lark Play Development Center’s U.S.-México Playwrights Exchange. She is a member of New Dramatists.

Karen Smith Vastola’s commissioned play Joseph & the Pinenut was produced at Andy’s Summer Playhouse in 2007, N.H. Useless Inc. was commissioned and produced at Andy’s in 2006 and directed by Johanna Gruenhut. The Appointment was part of Rattlestick’s 2004 Exposure Festival and a finalist for the Kitchen Dog Theatre New Works Festival. Her play Eggs & Apples was recipient of a 2004 John Golden Playwrighting Award and read at DR2 Theater, New York. A section of Eggs & Apples was produced at Columbia University’s One-Act Summer Play Festival and directed by Gisela Cardenas. Under the Bed was a finalist in the Drury University One-Act Play Competition 2004. Monologues and Scenes from her plays have been published in the Best Women’s and Men’s Anthologies by Smith & Krauss, as well as Best Stage Monologues and Scenes from the 90’s, Meriwether Publishing. She has been a Yaddo fellow. Ms. Smith Vastola graduated from Columbia University’s MFA Playwriting Program. Karen is a member of the Dramatist Guild. This year her play-in-progress Big Girls, Little Girls was read at the Stark Theater and directed by Stacie Dugan Vourakis.

Heather J. Violanti is a dramaturg and playwright. Her first full-length play, Aphra, Where Have You Been?, won the Connecticut State Division of the Clauder Competition in 2001. She wrote the books for two original musicals, Rainbow Journey and Victory, produced at MusicalFare in Buffalo, New York. Additionally, Heather has worked as a new play development dramaturge for the Arts Council of England and as a script-reader for Playscripts, Soho Theatre and Writers Centre, the King’s Cross Competition, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Currently, she works as a dramaturg for the Mint Theater and contributes reviews to NYtheatre.com. She has an M.F.A. in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale School of Drama

terraNOVA Collective is a vibrant playground for artists devoted to innovative new and original theatrical works. Its multi-layered development process, solo arts festivals, and productions serve to nurture and liberate our community.