ESPA Drills Writers: Where Are They Now?

ESPA Drills is Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts annual play development reading series, providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at ESPA. Each June, these plays are selected from dozens of submissions for their ambition, voice, imagination, and energy. Let’s see what some of our Drills Alumni have been up to since.

Headshot - Cassidy, Nat

NAT CASSIDY, ‘14: ANY DAY NOW A couple months after Drills, I went into pre-production for the world premiere of a newer script of mine called The Temple, or, Lebensraum. It’s a super intense, scary, crazy story set inside a sunken U-Boat in the middle of World War Two, and we actually managed to recreate a submarine’s control room inside a black box theater. The show had a sold-out run in February at The Brick with really lovely reviews and was a big ol’ good (insane, violent, claustrophobic, fascistic, cannibalistic, oxygen-deprived) time. I also premiered several new one-acts that got some lovely press, and concluded a narrative experiment I’d been working on all of last year: a serialized song cycle telling one long story via several 4-minute long folk songs.

Rachael JenisonRACHAEL JENISON, ‘14: MEXICO I wrote another play. I didn’t anticipate that. I wrote it pretty fast. That was cool. And acting. Oh, and taking classes at ESPA! Mexico was a semi-finalist for the 2015 National Playwrights Conference at the O’Neill and is going to be a part of The Claque Reads later this year.

Kat Ramsburg

KAT RAMSBERG, ‘14: THE AMELIA EPISODES Drills was a nice kick in the pants about how much work one can accomplish in 6 weeks. I’ve tried to maintain that schedule of writing/rewriting as often as possible. Since Drills I’ve rewritten The Amelia Episodes three times, written a first draft of a new play, the outline of a musical and the first five chapters of a Young Adult novel! The Amelia Episodes went on to have a reading at The Road Theatre Company in Los Angeles in November of 2014. In January, I had the opportunity to develop the play with The Bechdel Group. It is currently a semi-finalist for the O’Neill Theatre Conference and was accepted to the Great Plains Theatre Conference in May.

David Hilder

DAVID HILDER, ‘13: DROWN Drills was my last project before entering grad school at Hunter College! It was a perfect send-off. I will graduate in May. Drown was a Mainstage presentation in the 2014 Great Plains Theatre Conference, a Finalist for the 2014 Princess Grace Award, and is getting its developmental premiere in September at Acadiana Repertory Theatre in Lafayette, LA.

Alyssa Colman

ALYSSA COLMAN, ‘13: UNKNOWING GRACE Since Drills I’ve moved to Los Angeles and am taking classes in fiction writing at UCLA.  I’ve had a short play Dreams for Sale produced by Put Together Productions in NYC, and another short, The Monopoly on Good was a finalist at The Source – DC Festival and Ten by Ten in the Triangle Festival in North Carolina. Unknowing Grace was a 2014 Semi-Finalist for the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwright’s conference and a Finalist for the 2014  Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte nuVoices Festival.

Melisa AnnisMELISA ANNIS, ‘13: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Drills opened up a whole world of opportunities for me, in fact I would go as far as to say that it was the catalyst for a big change in my life.  I had taken classes at ESPA for quite a while,  dabbling in acting, directing all while continuing with my writing.  I really wasn’t sure how to focus myself.  Being a part of Drills forced me to focus – and it opened my eyes to what I really wanted to do… Exactly that!  Write plays, and write plays all the time. Following my Drills experience I applied for the Fordham/Primary Stages MFA program, and was accepted as one of two students. Keep Calm and Carry On has had a life with a number of readings outside of New York, and will be receiving a reading at the National Arts Club this Spring, directed by GT Upchurch.

Jan RosenburgJAN ROSENBERG, ‘13: DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED I’ve been developing several new full length plays. I’ve been fortunate to get to work on some new pieces with Vertigo Theater Company, Tangent Theater Company, Wide Eyed Productions and New York Madness. I recently finished a full length play called What’s Wrong With You, which I began writing in an ESPA class taught by the fabulous Cusi Cram. I also am part of an incredible writer’s group that includes former Drillers Melisa Annis, Kat Ramsburg and Rachael Jenison. One of the gifts of Drills is the people you meet throughout the experience. I now have a HUGE support network. After Drills I had a few more public readings of Do Not Leave Unattended. I took a break from the play for a while, recently picked it back up…and wrote a completely new version of the play. Same premise and characters, but I feel like it’s a version of play that takes place in an alternative world. A brilliant director I’ve been working with named Isaac Klein and I have been workshopping it.

STEPHEN BROWN, ‘12: WELCOME HOME Since Drills, I have been languishing in the misery that is being a playwright. I wrote 2 super bad plays. I got really depressed for like a year. I watched the movie Moneyball like 38 times during that time period as some sort of comfort mechanism (it was weird). Um? What else. Everything is mostly better now. I’m writing 5 different plays at the same time. All of which I like. One of which I’m very excited about. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully not terrible. Welcome Home  had a reading at Primary Stages immediately afterwards. The play got me into the Page 73 playwrights group for a year (which was fantastic and lovely), where they did a reading of the play with Stephen Brackett directing. An excerpt of the play was read at the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund Writers Retreat. It was a 2014 winner of the Global Age Project at the Aurora Theater in San Francisco where they did a reading/workshop of it. And then MCC did an in-house reading of it for their artistic directors back in October.

MARIN GAZZANIGA, ‘10: IN WAYS BOTH FRIVOLOUS AND DEEP Since Drills, I was hired as a scriptwriter and promoted to co-head writer for One Life to Live on Hulu. My original TV pilot  “Yank” was named a semi-finalist in PAGE Awards for TV Drama 2014. I am currently working on a play commission to write an adaptation of the book Caught in the Pulpit – based on interviews with non-believing clergy. In Ways Both Frivolous and Deep was published on IndieTheaterNow — leading to the publication of another one of my plays.  That play was also a semi-finalist for the O’Neill. Want to submit to ESPA Drills 2015? Learn more here.


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