Ashland New Plays Festival announces winning playwrights

Ashland New Plays Festival will present four playwrights’ new works at its 27th annual festival from Oct. 17–21 at the Unitarian Center, 87 Fourth St., in Ashland.

The winners are:

• Ian August for “The Excavation of Mary Anning.”

Synopsis: In 19th century England, fossil hunter Mary Anning combs the earth for glimpses of the ancient past while also fighting to claim her legacy in a society that refuses to acknowledge her worth.

Ian August is a New Jersey-based playwright and librettist. His works have been performed across the U.S., as well as in Canada, Australia, the UK, South Korea and Bermuda. He is a founding member of the Princeton-based Witherspoon Circle and a graduate of the Philadelphia playwriting workshop The Foundry.

• Nate Eppler for “Primary User.”

Synopsis: A cutting-edge chatbot unintentionally becomes a digital monument when one of its creators dies unexpectedly, leaving his loved ones to argue over ownership of the digital remains — and their own grief.

Nate Eppler is a playwright and new play advocate currently serving as playwright-in-residence for Nashville Repertory Theatre. In addition to his work as a playwright, Eppler serves as director of the Ingram New Works Project, a nationally recognized and locally valued program designed to connect artists and audiences across extraordinary new plays. He is represented by The Gersh Agency.

• Victor Lesniewski for “Cold Spring.”

Synopsis: After a teenager accuses his baseball coach of sexual assault, four parents attempt to deal with the response of their close-knit community while the ramifications resound through their own relationships. Victor Lesniewski’s plays have received world premieres at TBG Theatre and The Wild Project in New York City. He was the only American to be shortlisted for the inaugural Theatre503 Playwriting Award and was a 2015-16 uncharted artist in residence at Ars Nova. He is currently an artistic patriot at Merrimack Rep and a member of The Playwrights Union.

• Stephanie Alison Walker for “The Abuelas.”

Synopsis: A visit from two strangers exposes a 37-year-old secret about the ongoing and devastating repercussions of the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and ‘80s. “The Abuelas” explores the heart’s capacity for resilience and forgiveness even in the face of the most incomprehensible betrayal.

Stephanie Alison Walker is a returning ANPF Fall Festival winner, previously winning in 2016 for “The Madres,” which is receiving four consecutive productions, in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego and Austin, as part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere this year. “The Abuelas” is a companion piece. Walker is a NNPN affiliate artist and a member of the Playwrights Union and Antaeus Playwrights Lab. She lives in Los Angeles.

The winning plays were selected from 400 submissions that were read and scored in blind readings by a dedicated team of local volunteers, who reduced the finalists to 15. From there, Artistic Director Kyle Haden chose the four plays for the annual Fall Festival. About the winning plays, Haden says:

“As usual, the readers gave me a fascinating group of finalists, and after doing some close reading, I couldn’t be more excited about our four winners. We have a wide array of stories where there’s something for everyone here. I’m really looking forward to introducing these playwrights and their work to Ashland audiences this October.”

The winning playwrights will travel to Ashland for a week of receptions, rehearsals, a playwriting workshop, and other festivities that will culminate with dramatic readings of their plays in matinee and evening performances. The readings are performed by outstanding actors, many from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University’s Theatre Department. Talkbacks with audiences will follow each performance.

Ticket sales for ANPF 2018 open to the public in September. ANPF members have an advanced selection period and receive Festival Passes. Visit the ANPF website at to learn more about ANPF 2018 and ANPF membership benefits.

ANPF also congratulated the other 11 finalists: “Omen Road to Starrville” by Erik Champney; “Chaos is Come Again” by Quinton Cockrell; “Butterflies and Margarine” by Oded Gross; “Teach” by Donna Hoke; “Nancy F@&*ing Reagan” by Daniel Hurewitz; “Eight Nights” by Jennifer Maisel; “Age of Consent” by Ruth McKee; “Otis” by Shanti Reinhardt; “The Harder Courag” by Leslie Slape; “Late in the Game” by Barbara Snow; and “Random Access” by Mary Carol Stunkel.

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