The Playwright’s the Thing
- Paul W. Gillespie 2017
- Paul W. Gillespie 2017
Rosie Alger ’18, a double major in theater and anthropology, interned this summer at the 2018 PlayPenn New Play Development Conference in Philadelphia.
Every summer six playwrights, six interns, and a team of directors, actors, and dramaturgs come together for three weeks of workshops, rehearsals, and readings as they celebrate the creation of new plays. This summer, thanks to her Washington College connections, Rosie Alger ’18 was among the select few interns handpicked to be a part of PlayPenn, a nationally recognized artists’ retreat with a strong track record for developing some of the best new plays.
Since 2005, PlayPenn has helped to develop more than 120 new plays. Nearly 60 percent of these plays have gone on to more than 320 professional productions at esteemed institutions across the globe, including London’s National Theatre, National Theatre of Israel, English Theatre Berlin, Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, Atlantic Theater, Second Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, LaJolla Playhouse, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, South Coast Repertory, and a host of theaters in the Philadelphia region. In 2017, PlayPenn celebrated the first of its developed plays to hit a Broadway stage – and win the Tony Award for Best Play – J.T. Rogers’ Oslo.
Alger’s internship was funded by Washington College’s Mary Martin Program in the Performing Arts.
“It was really, really intense,” Alger says, “and a great opportunity for interns to meet professionals from all over the country who come to PlayPenn to work on their art.”
PlayPenn, where Washington College professor Michele Volansky serves as associate artistic director and dramaturg, attracts about 800 playwright applicants a year. Only six make the cut for the opportunity to do a deep dive into revising and rewriting their work. Alger, who graduated in May with a double major in theater and anthropology, was paired with playwright J. Julian Christopher, who applied with his work, Bruise & Thorn.
“I feel really lucky to have gotten to work on that play,” Alger says. “It’s about these two queer Puerto Rican people living in Queens, New York. It was such a unique opportunity to work in a room full of artists who were LGBTQ and work on a play that talks about LGBTQ issues. The play itself is surreal rather than naturalistic, so it was fun to work on a piece that was so bold and creative.”
Along with her fellow interns, Alger had the opportunity to write a ten-minute play of her own, which was directed by casting director Dan O’Neil. She also caught up with Val Dunn ’15, a playwright and director whose work, The Misandrist Mitch McConnell Torture Porn Play, will be performed as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in September and whose play Down in the Holler was also workshopped as part of the 2018 Conference. This spring, Dunn graduated from the Foundry, a playwright’s lab that is part of PlayPenn.
“There was a moment during the conference where I was standing with Val and Rosie and realized the important connections Washington College has made for all of us,” Volansky recalls. “Having Rosie there, putting her classroom education to practice in a ‘real world’ scenario—and doing it so well—what I as a faculty member hope for.”
The large community of Washington College alumni working in Philadelphia theatre is just another reason for Alger to consider moving to that city.
“I’m definitely interested in working in theater. I’d like to be doing theatre outreach, doing theatre that is aimed at underprivileged communities.,” she says. “I’m also interested in pursuing professional acting, as well as an MFA in playwriting. I’m just beginning the process of learn more about what that could do for me.”