Colorado New Play Summit image of two women laughing and acting out lines while reading

New Play Festivals Across the U.S.

Every year, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Colorado New Play Summit, featuring new play readings and attracting theatre industry leaders and artists. Launch Weekend showcases stripped-down readings of plays in development, so the playwright, director, and audience can focus entirely on the story. After receiving audience feedback, the productions spend the next week fine-tuning. The following Festival Weekend showcases the reworked new plays as well as world premieres; this year’s festival includes 2019 Summit standouts Rattlesnake Kate and In the Upper Room. 

The Colorado New Play Summit is an unforgettable experience, but what if you could witness new plays coming to life all over the country? Well, you can! From California to Indiana to Florida, there are playwriting conferences and new play festivals everywhere. Here are just a few of these events: 

actors read from scripts onstage at National Playwrights Conference

National Playwrights Conference

Witness the magic of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Established in 1964, the National Playwrights Conference is a long-standing institution for new play development. Selected plays are workshopped for a week before holding staged readings. Since its founding, the National Playwrights Conference has developed over 700 plays and musicals. 

Also one of the oldest playwriting conferences in the United States, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival was established in 1976. Similar to the Colorado New Play Summit format, over the course of two weeks, selected playwrights present two readings. Before each reading, the production spends one week in rehearsal, with the second reading taking place in front of theatre professionals. Playwrights featured at this conference have gone on to receive awards and recognition, including Pulitzer Prizes. 

a row of actors reading scripts on a dark stage

PlayPenn’s Annual Conference

PlayPenn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania takes pride in presenting values from multiple perspectives such as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+ people, and parent artists. Their annual conference includes workshops and public readings of new plays in development, forums for artists, and a symposium on current events. Since 2005, PlayPenn has helped develop over 140 plays. 

The Great Plains Theatre Commons (GPTC) hosts the GPTC New Play Conference each year in Omaha, Nebraska. Local and national playwrights participate in a week of workshops, readings, and performances. Nationally recognized playwrights are invited to mentor and provide feedback for emerging playwrights throughout the conference. DCPA’s world premiere production, In the Upper Room, was originally developed through GPTC’s PlayLab in 2017. 

Seven Devils New Play Foundry, formerly id Theatre Inc., launched the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in 2001 and has developed more than 250 new plays since. Based in McCall, Idaho, playwrights and directors spend two weeks in rehearsals to workshop new plays before public readings. The conference also includes plays written by local high school students and an internship program for college students.  

The Ashland New Plays Festival (ANPF), located in Ashland, Oregon, has adopted a unique selection process for its annual Fall Festival. Hundreds of anonymous submissions are read by a team of volunteers who then select the finalists. From this selection, ANPF’s artistic director leads the process of choosing the winning playwrights. Each winning play receives two theatrical readings after a week of workshops and a talkback session.  

actors sit in a circle on folding chairs reading from scripts

The New Harmony Project

Each year, the New Harmony Project based in Indianapolis, IN gathers together writers, actors, directors, dramaturgs, and students to spend two weeks developing new scripts. Some playwrights are selected for “full development,” which includes collaboration from a creative team and actors before a public reading. Other playwrights are selected for a residency, a peaceful oasis for playwrights to work on anything they like. Lastly, there is the production residency, which culminates in world premiere productions.  

Last but certainly not least, in Louisville, Kentucky, the Actors Theatre of Louisville hosted the first Humana Festival of New American Plays in 1977, which has now become an established celebration of new play world premieres. Over the 400 plays (short pieces, ten-minute plays, one-acts, and full-lengths) the festival has produced since 1977, many have gone on to win several awards including Pulitzer Prizes, Obie awards, and more.  

The arts are thriving and continually growing across the country with the aid of new play conferences and workshops. Support emerging playwrights by attending the Colorado New Play Summit and the world premiere productions Rattlesnake Kate and In the Upper Room 


Colorado New Play Summit 

Launch Weekend • FEB 26-27, 2022 

Festival Weekend • MAR 4-5, 2022