First Stage
Press Release

First Stage Announces Expanded Playwrights-In-Residence and Commitment to New Play Development

Three of the Playwrights-in-Residence plays will be included in First Stage’s upcoming 2019/20 season.

By - Jun 5th, 2019 01:36 pm

Milwaukee, WI – June 5, 2019 – In support of their continued commitment to new play development through their Foundry Stage Series, First Stage, one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families, is proud to announce their Playwrights-in-Residence: Alice Austen, James DeVita, John Maclay and Alvaro Saar Rios.

The Playwrights-In-Residence will assist First Stage by:

·      Offering advice on season selection

·      Providing feedback on other plays in development

·      Bringing forward potential new play projects that they are interested in exploring

·      Recommending directors and designers who might be good fits for First Stage

Artistic Director Jeff Frank added, “First Stage is committing to our Playwrights-in-Residence as writers that First Stage wants to work with on future projects to whom we will share potential projects as they develop, while also offering support for the development of any new work the playwrights are undertaking in any way we can as schedule and space allows – for readings, workshops and space usage for instance. “Residence” does not mean any of the playwrights will truly reside with us – but rather that we feel at home with them, and they feel at home with us.”

Three of the Playwrights-in-Residence plays will be included in First Stage’s upcoming 2019/20 season. The world premiere bilingual play ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA by Alvaro Saar Rios will kick off the main stage season at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. The play is adapted from the book Ghost Wingsby Barbara Joosse. The production is a collaboration with Latino Arts, Inc. and the United Community Center. THE LEGEND OF ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS comes to First Stage in March of 2020 and is a world premiere co-commission with Oregon Children’s Theatre and features Book and Lyrics by John Maclay and Music and Lyrics byEric Nordin. The main stage season concludes with the world premiere production of ALEX AND THE AMAZING LEMONADE STAND, based on the true story of Alexandra Flynn Scott and written by James DeVita. 

PLAYWRIGHT BIOGRAPHIES

Alice Austen is a nationally recognized playwright, screenwriter and producer. First Stage’s Young Company produced her world premiere GIRLS IN THE BOAT this past season. Recent credits include the critically acclaimed hit show ANIMAL FARM (co-adaptor/Steppenwolf Theatre) and her adaptation and translation of Duras’ LA MUSICA (Timeout Critic’s pick). Alice has received Residencies and Commissions from the Royal Court (London), the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf and Chicago Dramatists. Alice’s work has been honored as a Terrence McNally Award Premiere Five Finalist, Eugene O’Neill Semi-Finalist, Women at the Door Winner, Joseph Jefferson Award Nominee for Best New Work, Blue Ink Award Finalist and on Kilroy’s “The List.” Alice is a graduate of Harvard University, where she studied law and creative writing. www.givemelibertyproductions.com/alice

James DeVita is a native of Long Island, NY. Along with his novels, A Winsome MurderThe Silenced and Blue, he has also worked extensively as a playwright for young audiences. His work in the field has been acknowledged with the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance of Theater and Education; the Intellectual Freedom Award by the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English/Language Arts; the Shubert Fendrich Memorial Playwrighting Contest and the American Alliance of Theater and Education honored his body of work for Youth Theater with the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Award. His plays written and developed at First Stage include: A LITTLE HOUSE CHRISTMAS; A MIDNIGHT CRY; TREASURE ISLAND; LOOKING GLASS LAND; BAMBI, A LIFE IN THE WOODS (AATE Distinguished Play Award); THE CHRISTMAS PLAY; ARTHUR, THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING; SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON; THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL; TOM SAWYER; HUCKLEBERRY FINN; EXCAVATING MOM and THE THIEF LORD. Jim’s work as a writer has earned him the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Fiction; the 2007 Chorpenning Award (Body of work in Theater for Youth); the American Alliance of Theater and Education’s Distinguished Play Award and the Intellectual Freedom Award. His adult plays include: LEARNING TO STAY; CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON; GIFT OF THE MAGI (A MUSICAL ADAPTATION); IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE; THE DESERT QUEEN (THE LIFE OF GERTRUDE BELL); DICKENS IN AMERICA; WAITING FOR VERN; THE THREE MUSKETEERSand a new adaptation of CYRANO DE BERGERAC. His education began as a first mate on the charter boat JIB VII out of Captree Boat Basin, NY, where he worked for five seasons. He then studied theater at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, where he received an AS Degree, then the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he received a BFA. He also attended Madison Area Technical College where he was licensed as an Emergency Medical Technician. Jim is a member of The Dramatists Guild and Actors’ Equity Association.

John Maclay has had a long career at First Stage serving as the Academy Director and later founding the Young Company. He has written several world premieres for First Stage including: ANATOLE; JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL; NANCY DREW AND HER BIGGEST CASE EVER; ROBIN HOOD and this past season’s NATE THE GREAT. In addition to his work as a playwright and lyricist, John Maclay has served as teacher, actor, director, playwright, fight choreographer, dialect coach, Director of the Academy, Associate Artistic Director, Director of the Young Company and Director of Artistic Development at First Stage. As a playwright, John is an active adaptor of literature for the stage. His plays and musicals (in addition to last season’s NATE THE GREAT) include: ANATOLE (with Lee Becker and James Valcq); NANCY DREW AND HER BIGGEST CASE EVER (with Jeff Frank); GERONIMO STILTON: MOUSE IN SPACE and JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL (with Brett Ryback); ROBIN HOOD (with Joe Foust); GOOSEBUMPS THE MUSICAL: PHANTOM OF THE AUDITORIUM (with Danny Abosch) and three new works currently in development including THE LEGEND OF ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS (with Eric Nordin). John is a proud member of both Actors’ Equity Association and the Dramatist Guild.

Alvaro Saar Rios has been commissioned by First Stage several times – including MOLE HILL STORIES and LUCHADORA!. His newest play – ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA – will premiere at First Stage in October. He has had plays performed in New York City, Hawaii, Milwaukee and all over Texas. His play LUCHADORA! was selected for the 2014 Austin Latino New Play Festival and named one of the 15 best plays of 2014/15 in Milwaukee. Other plays include: SEGUIN: UNSUNG TEXICAN HERO; ONE HOT TEXICAN SUMMER (OR THE SUMMER I FOUND OUT I WAS MEXICAN); WELCOME TO MILWAUKEE/BIENVENIDOS A MILWAUKEE; THE CRAZY MEXICAN SHOW and THE MOLE HILL STORIES, a bilingual adaptation of Lois Ehlert’s children’s books. His one-act musicals JOURNEY TO THE RICH COAST and TRASH OR TUNESwere co-written with composer John Tanner for the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. Rios has received commissions from Houston Grand Opera, the Alley Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Express Children’s Theatre, Houston Community College, The Roberto Hernández Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Talento Bilingüe de Houston, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee as well as First Stage. Rios co-founded The Royal Mexican Players with his wife, Michelle Lopez-Rios. Since 2004, they have created original scripted and devised plays. They have also developed workshops for high schools, colleges and conferences, including Texas A&M University, Palo Alto College, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the Texas Thespian State Festival. Their work has been seen in London, Bogota, Washington, D.C., Houston and Denver. Rios holds an MFA in writing for the stage and screen from Northwestern University. Originally from Texas, Rios currently lives in Chicago, and he is an assistant professor of playwriting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as well as a resident playwright with Chicago Dramatists.

To learn more about First Stage’s 2019/20 season and how to buy season packages, please go to: www.firststage.org/1920

To learn more about upcoming play readings during the 2019/20 season, please go to: www.firststage.org/foundry

About First Stage

First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves nearly 2,000 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’sEureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF). www.firststage.org

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