New Play Workshop Alums Reflect on Experience at Chautauqua Theater Company

Chautauqua Theater Carve


In its 11 years, the Chautauqua Theater Company New Play Workshop program has racked up an impressive list of alumni all across the country.

Take Molly Smith Metzler, for example. She’s had two plays selected and read as part of the New Play Workshop program. Her first show, Close Up Space, staged in 2010, would go on to an off-Broadway production starring David Hyde Pierce and Rosie Perez, while her second, 2011’s Carve, would get her into a fellowship program at The Juilliard School.

After her two workshop plays, Metzler was commissioned to write a mainstage production for CTC, 2014’s The May Queen. The show has since been performed in regional theaters across the country, and will be directed by Chautauqua Theater Company Co-Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch at the PlayMakers Repertory Company this fall.

“[Chautauqua] is a profoundly helpful place to work on a play,” Metzler said. “I wish I could develop every play I’ve ever written there.”

Metzler currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband Colin McKenna, whose play Dark Radio was also selected for the New Play Workshop program in 2013. McKenna is currently adapting a novel for the screen and recently completed a new play called Twistification. Metzler is a writer for Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and Hulu’s “Casual.”


“My favorite experiences as a playwright have been in Bratton Theater,” she said.

Anna Ziegler is another New Play Workshop post-grad making a living with her writing. In fact, she’s doing a little more than just making a living.

Ziegler also had two plays performed as part of the New Play Workshop program: 2010’s An Incident and 2008’s Variations on a Theme. An Incident went on to be performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco under the title Another Way Home.

“I think any program where you can get out of your life for a little bit and focus intensely on a single play with actors and a director and then see it in front of an audience is immensely helpful,” she said.

This year, Ziegler had five different plays produced, including a West End production of her play Photograph 51 starring Nicole Kidman and off-Broadway productions of  A Delicate Ship and Boy.

Both Ziegler and Metzler said the New Play Workshops at Chautauqua involve a much more complete production than most barebones staged readings do, something they appreciate.

“Vivienne Benesch has done an amazing job nurturing lots of wonderful writers and really sticking with people,” Ziegler said.

That nurturing atmosphere has led to philanthropic support, too. Since 2011, Chautauquan Roe Green has provided funding for the New Play Workshops through her Roe Green Foundation.

This summer, another alum is returning to Chautauqua: Zayd Dohrn.

Dohrn has had two shows, 2008’s Sick and 2012’s Muckrakers chosen for the New Play Workshop program. This season, he’s a commissioned artist.

His new play, The Profane, will open at 8 p.m. Friday in Bratton Theater as part of the CTC mainstage season.

“I would say the heart of is it’s a play about family,” Dohrn said. “It’s also about where we are in the world today as a global community and how we can possibly bridge the gap between different ways of seeing the world.”

Georgeanne Oliver

The author Georgeanne Oliver

Georgeanne Oliver is the theater reporter for The Chautauquan Daily. She attends Northeastern University as a member of the class of 2017 and is originally from Maine.