There’s magic happening at WP Theater throughout the month of April—the Off-Broadway company is in the midst of presenting its second biennial Pipeline Festival, a month-long showcase of new works by its graduating Lab artists: playwrights, producers, and directors who have been in residence at the theatre developing plays (and a musical!) over the last two years.
The festival is a culmination of their efforts, and its mission, on behalf of WP, is to funnel these artists and their shows to the forefront of the theatre industry. It marks a chance for audiences and industry folk alike to get to know the next generation of theatremakers.
We also wanted to get to know them a little better, so Playbill asked them to answer a few questions for us. Broken down show-by-show, see what 16 Lab members have to say about these five new works, the state of theatre today, and what drives them. Plus find out which show matches your theatregoing sensibility!
Names: Zoe Sarnak (music & lyrics) and Emily Kaczmarek (book)
Our musical is: Set in the year 2100, and centers on three teenagers who escape a flooded New York City by stealing a sailboat. On a quest to reach a supposedly safe, peaceful inland haven, they encounter all sorts of dangers along the way, and become a tight-knit family in the process.
You'll love it if you're into... Dystopian/speculative fiction, YA lit, badass female protagonists, or um, democracy?
Some work of ours you may already know: Afterwards (Village Theatre’s Beta Series); recipients of a 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant.
We’re driven to make theatre that is... Smart, accessible, earnest, truthful, intersectional, and cathartic, with music that’s genre-melding and visceral.
Name: Ellie Heyman (director)
Some work of mine you may already know: Beardo by Jason Craig and Dave Malloy (Pipeline Theatre Company), and Erin Markey: Boner Killer (Under the Radar). Director in Residence at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theatre.
I'm driven to make theatre that is... As visceral as sports and explores our inner lives at the epic scale we experience them.
I'm excited about the future of theatre because... I believe in the power of ritual and feel a tremendous need for shared catharsis and strong community.
Name: Nidia Medina (producer)
Some work of mine you may already know: Line Producer at The Public Theater (Midsummer Night's Dream and Oedipus El Rey).
I'm driven to make theatre that is... re-defining the definition or existence of the term "mainstream," lifting voices that must be heard, considered, and taken very seriously, advancing/challenging/re-shaping the artform.
I'm excited about the future of theatre because... of the conversations happening every day right now to challenge old systems and break down oppressive structures within theatre that must disintegrate in order for it to evolve. The more we strive to do better and hold each other accountable, the better off our entire field will be, and that is very exciting.
A workshop production of the first act of Afloat runs April 12–14.
Name: Sylvia Khoury (playwright)
My play is about: A young Syrian woman who spends most of her day by a power strip in a Greek refugee camp.
You’ll love it if you’re into… Plays about women surviving in a world dominated by men.
Some work of mine you may already know: Selling Kabul, Against The Hillside (Ensemble Studio Theatre)
I’m driven to make theatre that is... About good people doing their best in difficult circumstances.
Name: Tyne Rafaeli (director)
Some work of mine you may already know: Michael Yates Crowley’s The Rape Of The Sabine Women By Grace B Matthias (Playwright’s Realm); In a Word by Lauren Yee (Lesser America), Actually by Anna Ziegler (Geffen Playhouse); and Ironbound by Martyna Majok (Geffen Playhouse).
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Alive, relevant, moving, and complicated.
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... New, necessary, and urgent voices are breaking into their own space, transforming and enriching the form as we know it.
Name: Laura Ramadei (producer)
Some work of mine you may already know: In a Word (Lesser America); Trevor by Nick Jones (Lesser America); and Wyoming by Brian Watkins (Lesser America.)
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Moving and meaningful.
I’m excited about the future of theatre because.. Theatre is crucial because it is a live event. There are so few opportunities to put down our devices and engage, and I think nothing will eclipse theatre’s ability to create a live, resonant, human, experience.
Power Strip runs April 19–April 21.
TWO MILE HOLLOW
Name: Leah Nanako Winkler (playwright)
My play is about: Plot-wise, Two Mile Hollow is about the hijinks that occur when the Donnellys, an affluent white family, gather to divide their belongings after the sale of their oceanfront mansion with the help Charlotte, their Asian-American personal assistant. At its core, it’s a satirical take-down of the “white people by the water” theater genre—a genre where rich white families go to their big houses by the water and argue about mundane problems over white wine. At its heart, it’s an earnest coming-of-age story about an ambitious Asian-American woman who just needs a push of courage to come into her own.
You’ll love it if you’re into… Comedy.
Some work of mine you may already know: Kentucky (Ensemble Studio Theatre/Page 73 and the Radio Drama Network); God Said This (Humana Festival and Primary Stages; winner of Yale Drama Series Prize). Recipient of the inaugural Mark O’Donnell Prize.
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Truthful, genuine in intent.
Name: Morgan Gould (director)
Some work of mine you may already know: Leah Nanako Winkler's Kentucky (Ensemble Studio Theatre/Page 73 and the Radio Drama Network) and God Said This (Humana Festival and Primary Stages); co-creator of Young Jean Lee's Untitled Feminist Show; playwright of I Wanna F*cking Tear You Apart, winner of the 2016 Beatrice Terry Award at Drama League; artistic director of Morgan Gould & Friends.
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Not boring and/or short. Also, I like when there are fat people in it. I'm fat. So I like to see fatties. But only pretty ones, please!
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... Playwrights get paid for writing television now, which is exciting because rent is really high.
Name: Sally Cade Holmes (producer)
Some work of mine you may already know: Anastasia on Broadway; Matt Cox’s Puffs, Nassim Soleimanpour's White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Ryan J. Haddad’s Hi Are You Single?, Dylan Frederick’s Boy Get’s Violent. Williamstown Theatre Festival and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Entertaining and challenging. I want to speak to as broad an audience as possible and to challenge them on a fundamental level, whether they know it immediately or not. Also, I want to make theatre that’s accessible—it’s outrageous that people with physical disabilities can’t get into many of our spaces or get onto our stages.
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... I am hopeful that industry gatekeepers look more and more like the WP Lab—women, people of color, gender non-binary, wonderful humans with incredibly different backgrounds. The work we produce will be better for it.
Two Mile Hollow will run April 26–28.
GALATEA OR WHATEVER YOU MAY BE
Name: MJ Kaufman (playwright)
My play is: A trans love story set against the backdrop of a climate crisis. Adapted from a play from the 1580s it takes place in a village on the edge of the sea in danger of drowning. To avoid disaster, the villagers must sacrifice the most beautiful girl in the village to Neptune, god of the sea. Two girls disguise themselves as boys and escape to the woods where they meet and fall in love.
You’ll love it if you’re into… Trans people, love stories, dance parties, dazzling costumes, and breathtaking entrances.
Some work of mine you may already know: Masculinity Max (Public Theater's Public Studio), Sagittarius Ponderosa (National Asian American Theater Company), How To Live On Earth (HERE Arts Center), Sensitive Guys (InterAct Theatre and PlayPenn).
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Vibrant, theatrical, fun, romantic, and burns with the spirit of our times.
Name: Mo Zhou (director)
Some work of mine you may already know: I mostly work as a staff director in opera houses. I'm endeavoring to transform my feminist opera/musical cabaret The House of Flying Boobies into a new opera initiative called Opera X, with a focus on producing works by historically neglected female composers and advocating emerging contemporary female composers.
I’m driven to make theatre that... Asks a specific question about an individual under a specific historical and social backdrop. I am insatiably curious about how individuals reach their decisions at a pivotal moment of history. There is something always painfully epic about that process. I love to look at conventionally negated communities, be it the LGBTQA community, or new immigrant stories, or a specific minority group. I feel strongly that it is our responsibility to unearth those hidden narratives and give people who never get a voice to utter their story.
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... I feel like the whole world is in such a schismatic moment, and theatre is as the forefront of social changes that will result in a burst of new narratives and ways of storytelling. I am excited to be a part of that movement.
Name: Yuvika Tolani (producer)
Some work of mine you may already know: Line Producer at The Public Theater (Sarah Burgess' Kings, Hamlet, Julius Caesar)
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Inclusive, socially-engaged, and transcendent: communal, theatrical experiences that could only really take place in shared time, shared space, and between people.
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... I see a steadily increasing demand for representation in what stories we see, and for equity in how they are told. The future is bright! But maybe that’s an optical illusion because we seem to be stumbling through an impossible darkness like 85 percent of the time.
Galatea or Whatever You May Be ran March 29–31.
THE REVIEW OR HOW TO EAT YOUR OPPOSITION
Name: Donnetta Lavinia Grays (playwright)
My play: Tracks a resurgent post-9/11 New York City through the body of Naomi, a prolific visual artist. It examines the cost of romanticizing our past and romanticizing our future in times of chaos. This idea comes into focus when a young Arts blogger named Dana questions Naomi’s artistic integrity as the artist makes a curious detour in her work on the heels of that national tragedy.
You’ll love it if you’re into... Art, football, deeply, deeply, deeply sexy dramas, women in exciting and layered roles, intellectual humor, and language-driven plays.
Some work of mine you may already know: If you know me at all, you probably know me as an actor (The Public’s Mobile Unit's Twelfth Night; Men on Boats at Clubbed Thumb/Playwrights Horizons; as well as on television in Law & Order SVU, Happy!, Blue Bloods, and The Blacklist, and in the films The Wrestler and The Book Of Henry.) But, you will know me as a writer soon.
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Both delicious for actors to perform and for audiences to consume; also equally as challenging to stage and design. My greater mission is to place queer women of color like me at the center of the largest of society's questions, if for no other reason than to affirm our rightful participation in their examination.
Name: Melissa Crespo (director)
Some work of mine you may already know: ¡Figaro! (90210) at The Duke on 42nd Street, and Tar Baby by Desiree Burch with Dan Kitrosser at DR2 Theater.
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Dangerous and messy—I feel this best reflects the current moment. And we all need as many opportunities as we can to make sense of the giant mess we are in.
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... The landscape keeps changing to reflect what our world truly looks like. The more we keep holding each other accountable and challenging each other to stop pleasing subscribers and play it safe, the more we can challenge our audiences—who I believe are smarter and savvier than we give them credit for.
Name: Roxanna Barrios (producer)
Some work of mine you may already know: Program Manager of the Mobile Unit at The Public Theater (currently on tour with Henry V, directed by Robert O’Hara.)
I’m driven to make theatre that is... Able to tell the stories of people of color in a mainstream way, by amplifying the voices that are already telling those stories. I’m interested in theatre that is accessible in every sense of the word, and that includes financially!
I’m excited about the future of theatre because... of the badass artists I’ve gotten to know over the past two years at WP. We are in good hands, ya’ll.
The Review or How to Eat Your Opposition ran April 5–7.
The Pipeline Festival runs through April 28 at WP Theater at 2162 Broadway.