Writers Theatre is a professional, Actors’ Equity, producing and educational theatre focused on the development of new work. That means that the actors you’ll see on our stage are professional actors, directed by professional directors, and performing plays written by professional playwrights. (Except in the case of performances of student work from some of our educational programs, like the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival.) We’re proud to develop and present work by some of the finest playwrights in the country, much of which goes on to further productions and success after development here.
Shows and Development Events for the Community
We do a lot! Much of our work is done behind the scenes, in rehearsal rooms and classrooms all over the state. But the work needs to be tested, and this is where our community – you, our audience – comes in.
Writers have told us the WTNJ audience is one of the most sensitive and sophisticated they have ever encountered. New work needs a critical, but empathetic, eye. We look to find and nurture audiences willing to take the developmental journey with us and take an active role in the creative process.
The questions, comments, and insights you share with the playwrights help to further refine and mold the work; some of our Writers Theatre audience members have gone to see New York productions of showed developed here and found that the playwrights had made changes to the script to address points they’d brought up. This is an opportunity for you to be an important part of the art!
This is the one-stop location for all our public presentations. Notice that we have listed both our New Work Development and Education Programs. We encourage you to attend events in both.
All presentations focus on development and the creative process. We involve professional actors and directors in everything we do. The actors you see in one of our Mainstage Shows, you will likely see on stage in the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival.
The New Work Development Program offers staged readings, workshop productions, and full mainstage productions. We also host special programs, like our New Jersey Women Playwrights Program and New Plays New Jersey. Development efforts span genres, our New Jersey Literary Artists Fellowship Showcase features works of poetry, prose and playwriting. Jersey Shorts is a development program that focuses on prose writers.
Our Educational Programs have numerous public performances where professional actors are performing readings of works from our education projects. Some of our most thrilling work is being done here.
New Work Development– On Stage Events
Our Mainstage Productions bring two to three new plays per season to life in professional productions right here in New Jersey. Professional directors, actors, designers, and stage managers come together to present the plays of some of the country’s best playwrights in your own backyard. In three-play seasons the plays will be from: 1. From a commissioned New Jersey Writer, a New Jersey Women Playwrights Writers, or The New Jersey Play Development Project; 2. a play that has been through our standard development process and 3. a rolling world premiere from the NNPN or a coproduction with another theatre. Two play seasons will have varying configurations depending on the needs of, and/or availabilities to, WTNJ. To see our mainstage season and buy tickets, click here.
These readings permits Writers Theatre to connect with its community of patrons and artists to gain audience insight into the play, and to continue the exposure of the audience to the creative process and development, as well as to provide an experience with multiple narrative forms.
Playwrights Theatre will present between 10-12 of these readings per year. Plays presented are a mix of new submissions and continued relationships with writers whose work has been developed at WTNJ in the past.
NPNJ consists of a series of five concert readings of new works by New Jersey writers presented by the New Jersey Theatres who support them. These readings will be presented on an annual basis, during the NJ Theatre Alliance Stages Festival with WTNJ producing the event.
The New Jersey Literary Artist Fellowship Showcase presents public renderings of the works of the NJ State Council on the Arts Fellowship recipients in Poetry, Prose, and Playwriting. Each genre is presented differently, poets perform readings of their own works, prose writers have an option of performing their own story, or having it performed by a professional actor. Playwrights receive rehearsed concert readings of their plays.
The showcase is presented every three years. WTNJ attempts to find partners who can assist with promotion and awareness on the project and for whom an association with the NJLAF can raise the awareness of their own efforts. WTNJ currently has a partnership with the MFA Creative Writing Program at William Paterson University to present the program as part of their Spring Writers Conference in 2017, as well as poetry reading programs at Warren County College and Stockton State University. WTNJ is also working with the Dramatists Guild New Jersey Representative to present a conference on New Jersey writers as part of the presentation of the works of the playwrights in 2017.
The project is currently in its pilot phase as a partnership with the MFA writing program at William Paterson University. Graduating writers receive a reading as part of their final product.
Plans are to extend the project to include New Jersey-based prose writers in the near future.
For the second year, WTNJ has partnered with NJPAC on the NJPAC Stage Exchange, where cutting-edge new play development meets insightful community dialogue. In 2015-16, WTNJ produced five readings of new works with NJPAC.
In 2016-17, WTNJ (with additional partner, the New Jersey Theatre Alliance) is one of three professional New Jersey theaters commissioned to produce new plays by a talented trio of Garden State playwrights. Following readings at the Stage Exchange, each work receives a world premiere production at its sponsoring theater. Proceeds from each reading will also benefit an Essex County nonprofit organization, chosen for its mission’s connection to the play’s theme and issues.
Writers, theaters and beneficiaries include:
- April 29: David Lee White and Passage Theatre Company (Trenton), a reading of Sanism to benefit the Mental Health Association of Essex County
- May 20: Nikkole Salter and Luna Stage (West Orange), a reading of IndianHead to benefit the Newark Museum
- June 24: Chisa Hutchinson and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey (Madison), a reading of Surely Goodness and Mercy to benefit New Jersey SEEDSClick here for more information and ticket reservations (at NJPAC)
The Drew Capstone Project is a partnership with the Drew University Theatre Department, which commissions a professional playwright to work with theatre students to create a play that will be performed as part of the Senior Capstone Project. The writer schedules a number of workshops with the students to determine the subject matter of the plays, and workshops subsequent drafts of the play with the students until it is put into production two months prior to the final performance. WTNJ retains an option to further develop the play as part of its professional new play development program.
Education Programs– On Stage Events
The third oldest Young Playwrights Program in the country, at 33 years and counting, The New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival presents 10-12 representative plays at is annual two-day festival. Over 350 plays from young writers grades 4-12 are submitted every year. Selected playwrights receive an intensive one-on-one mentoring with a professional dramaturg, and professional actors and directors present readings during a two-evening public event. A discussion with the authors and directors follows the readings. A number of winners have gone on to successful careers as professional dramatists and writers.
The NJYPF also includes a category called Living With Disabilities for plays with themes dealing with disability. Plays are submitted to the VSA Playwright Discovery Award Contest sponsored by VSA Washington. In the past three years, writers from New Jersey have won the contest in the Junior Division.
Participating schools send students to one of six regional contests, and two representatives from each region compete in the state finals. The winner of the final contest competes in the national Poetry Out Loud Contest, held in Washington, DC.
State regional and final contests are open to the public.
In addition, the contest will annually request poems written around a specific theme. Twenty to twenty-five poems will be selected in this category to be published in an online anthology.
The winning poets will receive their awards and perform their work at an annual public ceremony.
In association with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, WTNJ presents the annual Newark Writers Festival, an evening of representative works from the Newark Program. Professional actors, musicians, and directors, many from Newark, collaborate to present a celebration of the many voices in one of New Jersey’s most diverse cities.
Performances are presented at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in their black box theatre.
Every year, Writers Theatre, in partnership with the Madison Recreation Department, presents two summer plays, one for area residents in Junior HS and one for area residents in High School and beyond. These plays are rehearsed in the evenings and are presented at Madison High School the end of July.
Starting in the summer of 2016, WTNJ will commission works from previous winners of the NJ Young Playwrights Contest as well as professional writers that will be developed and presented as full productions.
Click here for dates and times of upcoming shows.
WTNJ’s Creative Acts Academy classes for kids create “devised theatre pieces” as part of their final project on the last day of class. The class picks the theme and collaboratively creates a play presented to parents, friends, and the public.