3rd Annual MTA Playwrights Lab

(Virtual Edition)

September 18, 2020 | 08:00 pm

$5 Suggested Donation
September 18, 2020 | 08:00 pm










Friday, September 18 - Saturday, October 3 @ 8:00pm

The MTA Playwrights Lab is a collaboration between MIT students and professional theatre artists. The Lab is a 3 weekend-long festival of virtual staged readings featuring the work of the writers in the Playwrights’ Workshop (21M.785) taught by Senior Lecturer Ken Urban.

Attendees must secure a space for each evening's reading by RSVPing individually to the specific reading that you wish to attend. Please note: A donation of $5 is encouraged for all attendees. Your financial support will go directly to future MTA Playwrights Labs and other dramatic writing initiatives that bring students and industry professionals together.




All readings at 8pm



F 9/18            

IN ABSENTIA by Anisha Agarwal '21
Directed by Ashley Tata
with Cheech Manohar and Shoba Narayan
Stage Managed by Saima Huq

Ash and his little sister Raina struggle to cope with the new normal after their mother’s mental health deteriorates due to the death of their father. Although their family might be flawed, they know they have each other – until events begin to pull them apart. 


Sa 9/19          

A FOREGONE CONCLUSION by Margaret Kosten '20
Directed by Steve Cosson
with Mary Testa, Adrianne Krstansky, Liz Wisan, and Zoe Winters
Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick

Bri receives the results of a genetic test informing her that she is likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. But Bri has a plan, and wants no input from her children. But can her friend Quinn do the unimaginable? Inspired by the author’s own family history of Alzheimer’s and the new direct to consumer genetic testing market, this play explores how old friends can provide more solutions than our genetic code.



Th 9/24           

A FUTILE SYSTEM by Jake Kinney '20
Directed by Jaclyn Biskup
with Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Jennifer Lim, Brian Miskell, Clifton Duncan, and Alex Mickiewicz
Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick

Life in the medieval kingdom of Mundar is usually pretty chill, and capable Lady Galloway is able to handle the wacky hijinks of the King and the rest of his court. But when an upstart lord leads a rebellion against the capital, will Lady Galloway be able to take on the challenge, or will bumbling King Maximus doom the realm?


F 9/25            

CRIMSON by Jackie Montante '20
Directed by Kareem Fahmy
with Danielle Skraastad, Jack DiFalco, and Dashiell Eaves
Stage Managed by Saima Huq

“Draw me like one of your French girls.” Petra is a frustrated artist who meets the mysterious Jet after suffering a great loss, only to find herself getting drawn into Jet’s dangerous world.


Sa 9/26          

Directed by Shira Milikowsky
with Jenelle Chu, John Clay III, Ann Sanders and Layan Elwazani
Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick

It’s 100 years in the future, and efforts to preserve human life have evolved to new heights; it is now normal to predict the probability of dying for every action, from mundane chores to experimenting with drugs. In this society obsessed with taking the uncertainty out of life, college student Viva tries to balance her fear of making mistakes with her desire to make a difference in the world.



Th 10/1          

MELTDOWN by Mary Dahl '20
Directed by Vanessa Stalling
with Sarah Shin, Haley Sakamoto, Avanthika Srinivasan, and Yurié Collins
Stage Managed by Saima Huq

Everything in Kara’s life is just shades away from being perfect: a skilled hockey team that’s been dropped to a boring division and an amazing girlfriend who seems to be getting more and more frustrated with her. Determined to get the life she's always wanted, Kara dives into fixing everything, but there’s just one small thing getting in the way: herself. 


F 10/2            

G@M3R GRIL by Jordan Tappa '21
Directed by Jose Zayas

with Nina Grollman, Noah Robbins, McKinley Belcher III, Christopher Livingston and Alex Breaux

Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick

Samantha is a professional gamer fighting for her place in a community that fails to accept her. But are her days playing online an escape from issues closer to home? This play is inspired by real stories of misogyny in online gaming communities.


Sa 10/3          

RESET by Elijah Miller '20
Directed by Kate Bergstrom
with Aaron Roman Weiner, Tony Torn, Danielle Skraastad, and Carmen Zilles
Stage Managed by Saima Huq

Waking up in an unfamiliar apartment, Ed learns he has lost several years of his memories. He must grapple with the man he remembers and the man he has become, in hopes of regaining what may be lost to time.



Producer for LAB: Ken Urban

Casting Associate for LAB: Peter Van Dam

Video Coordinator for LAB: Brian Truglio

Graphic Designer for the LAB: Dan Pecci

Production Coordinator for LAB: Miguel Flores

MTA Events Office Liaison for LAB: Tom Amos

Publicist for LAB: Stephanie Janes


Playwright Bios


Anisha Agarwal is a senior studying computer science and literature at MIT. She grew up in the suburbs of Boston. She's been a certified scuba diver since she was 13, but her biggest fears are sharks and being stranded in the open ocean. Confused? Don't worry, so is she.


Mary Dahl hails from the far off land of central New Jersey and graduated MIT in 2020 with a major in aerospace engineering and a minor in writing. She has foolishly come back to MIT for a master’s degree and is currently residing here in Boston. Her single goal in life is to figure out how to accurately transcribe the sound of the bisexual double finger guns. 


Jake Kinney graduated from MIT in 2020 with a degree in physics and linguistics. Hailing from Rochester, NY, he enjoys strategy board games, exotic flavors of juice, writing and performing music, and bucking the trend of lists having exactly three items.


Margaret Kosten graduated from MIT in 2020 with a dual degree in Theater Arts and Mechanical Engineering. She hails from Indianapolis, Indiana although in the last few months she has spent time living in five different states.​


Elijah Miller graduated from MIT in Spring 2020 with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and Finance. While at MIT, he competed as part of the rifle team all four years. Originally from northeastern Pennsylvania, he now works as an engineer for General Motors in metro Detroit.


Jackie Montante, part of the graduating class of 2020 and a half, studies aerospace engineering. From upstate New York. Likes: laughing and being alive.


Anupama Phatak is a rising senior at MIT, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Econ. Over quarantine, you can find her at home with her parents and sister in Maryland, lamenting the fact that she lives in the boring suburbs. In her free time, she loves procrastabaking with friends, playing music, and binge-watching ridiculously wholesome shows on Netflix.


Jordan Tappa is a senior at MIT studying Mechanical Engineering with minors in Design and Theater Arts. Originally from Milwaukee Wisconsin, Jordan has spent his MIT career constructing puppets, starting an Esports club, raising pet snails and developing his own board game.


Directors Bios


Kate Bergstrom is a bi-coastal director and intermedia artist now residing in NYC whose work has been seen regionally at Trinity Rep (A CHRISTMAS CAROL), Marin Theatre Company (NOURA by Heather Raffo), Cleveland Play House (Workshop GALILEE 34 by Eleanor Burgess), LATC X We The Women (FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL by Steph Del Rosso), Opera San Diego (OSB), Music Academy of the West (THE SHAKESPEARE SALON), REDCAT (WHOLED), LACMA and more. In NYC, she has directed work at Ars Nova (HOTBOX), The Bushwick Starr (Workshop: ON THE Y-AXIS), Rattlestick Theater (Workshop: RED BIKE), New Dramatists (Workshop: ORANGE BALLOON by Erin Courtney), JACK( h0t club FISHXSEAFOOD), Dixon Place (ANNE FRANK LIVE AT THE PLAZA by Evan Horwitz) + Access Theatre (Workshop: THESE WALLS). She is a proud member of SDC + AGMA, New Georges Affiliated Artist and member of the intermedia performance group, h0t club. She has developed work everywhere from Curious Theatre Company (Denver) to Ojai Playwrights Conference.


Jaclyn Biskup is a director and producer working in theatre, television, and film. She received an Emmy nomination and was a Peabody Finalist for her work on the digital series THE SECRET LIFE OF MUSLIMS and currently works as an associate producer at New Ohio Theatre. She was the assistant director to Tony Award-winning director Anna D. Shapiro on the Broadway production of THE MINUTES (Tracy Letts) and STRAIGHT WHITE MEN (Young Jean Lee) for Second Stage. Her work in the theatre spans nearly two decades. As the founding artistic director of The Mill, she has directed and produced over 20 productions including the Chicago premiere of VENUS (Suzan-Lori Parks) and THE PRIVATE OF LIVES OF ESKIMOS (OR 16 WORDS FOR SNOW) (Ken Urban). In NYC, work directed includes WORSE THAN TIGERS (Mark Chrisler), NICHOLAS, MAEVE, MARIANNE (Matthew Stephen Smith) -- one of Indie Theatre Now's 20 Best of NYC Fringe, HOT STEAMS (Zach Wegner), IT’S JUST WEIRD NOW (Halley Feiffer) and DAYS OF RAGE (Hyeyoung Kim and Shoshana Greenberg.) Her work has been seen at New Ohio Theatre, MCC Playlabs, New Dramatists, Rattlestick, Dixon Place, Town Stages, and the NYC International Fringe Festival. She has assisted on productions at Steppenwolf, The Public, and The American Musical Theatre Workshop. Her digital projects include work for PBS NOVA, Vox, Delta Air Lines, Caltech, Harvard, and others. She holds a BA in Theater from Northern Illinois University and an MFA in Directing and Theatrical Production from Northwestern University.


STEVE COSSON is a director, writer and Artistic Director of The Civilians. He’s developed original shows for TBS and ITV Entertainment, creator and host of the documentary musical podcast Let Me Ascertain You, and with The Civilians was the first theater company to be Artist-in-Residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Select theater credits include the New York premiere of Whisper House (Duncan Sheik/Kyle Jarrow) (postponed due to COVID); world premiere of Paul Swan is Dead and Gone by Claire Kiechel; the Encores! Off-Center revival of Gone Missing (bookwriter); Jill Sobule’s musical Times Square, bookwriter and director of The Abominables at Children’s Theater Company, writer/director of The Undertaking at BAM Next Wave, US tour, Theatre de la Ville, Paris; director of José Rivera’s Another Word for Beauty, (Goodman Theatre); writer/director, Rimbaud in New York (BAM); director of Michael Friedman and Bess Wohl’s musical Pretty Filthy; and the Off Broadway revival of The Belle of Amherst starring Joely Richardson. Other world premieres include The Great Immensity (writer/director) at The Public Theater and Kansas City Rep; Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play at Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth; writer/director of In the Footprint; This Beautiful City at Vineyard, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Humana Festival; (I am) Nobody’s Lunch in multiple venues, London; Gone Missing with several US and UK productions and a one-year run Off Broadway at Barrow Street; and Paris Commune at multiple venues. Other directing: Anne Washburn’s A Devil at Noon (Humana Festival); Ethel’s Documerica (BAM Next Wave); Dael Orlandersmith’s Stoop Stories; Spring Awakening (Olney Theatre); Bus Stop (Kansas City Rep); and the US premiere of Attempts on Her Life (Soho Rep) among many others. www.stevecosson.com


Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born director and playwright of Egyptian descent and is 2020 TCG Rising Leader of Color. His plays, which include A Distinct Society, The Triumphant, Pareidolia, The In-Between, and an adaptation of the acclaimed Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building, have been presented at Atlantic Theater Company, New York Stage & Film, Target Margin Theater, The Lark, Fault Line Theater, Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, and Noor Theater. As a director, he has worked at theaters around the country, including MCC, The New Group, Atlantic Theatre Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Dramatists, The Civilians, Geva Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Pioneer Theatre Company, Silk Road Rising, and Berkeley Rep. He has been a fellow or resident artist at the Sundance Theatre Lab, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Phil Killian Directing Fellow), Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center (National Directors Fellow), Second Stage (Van Lier Directing Fellow), Soho Rep (Writer/Director Lab), Lincoln Center (Directors Lab), The New Museum (Artist-in-Residence), and New York Theater Workshop (Emerging Artist Fellow & Usual Suspect). Kareem is the co-founder of the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab at The Lark and a co-founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with stories from the Middle East and beyond. MFA: Columbia University. www.KareemFahmy.com


Shira Milikowsky is a freelance theater director, specializing in new plays and radical re-imaginings of musicals and classic texts. She is also a co-founder of The Neon Coven, a new performance and production company. The Neon Coven's inaugural production, "OSCAR at The Crown", ran for ten months at Brooklyn's Three Dollar Bill. OSCAR was slated to return this summer at the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe Festival but ... well ... you know. Other recent directing projects include "Distant Star", an adaptation of the novel by Roberto Bolaño written by Javierantonio González (Caborca/Abrons Arts Center) and a site-specific production of Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders" produced in an abandoned restaurant.  In her six years as the Artistic Associate at the American Repertory Theater, Shira directed THE LILY'S REVENGE by Taylor Mac (named by The Boston Globe as one of the top ten theater everts of the year), BRIDE*WIDOW*HAG by Kim Rosenstock, and countless other productions, workshops, and special projects. A Drama League Fellow, Shira holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia and a BA in Theater Studies from Yale. Associate Lecturer in Theater, Dance & Media, Harvard University.


Vanessa Stalling is the Area Head of Directing and Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at UCSD. She is also a freelance director and the director and adaptor of the Jeff Award winning play United Flight 232. She was the Associate Artistic Director of Redmoon Theater in Chicago, the 2016 Michael Maggio Fellow at The Goodman Theatre, on the Players 2018 and 2019 list of The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago, and a 2019 honored finalist of the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition Collaboration Award. Recent productions include Photograph 51 at The Court Theatre, for which she won a Best Direction Jeff Award, Roe and The Wolves, at The Goodman Theatre, for which she was nominated for a Best Direction Jeff, and The Great Leap, written by Lauren Yee, at AsoloRep. 


Ashley Tata makes multi-media works of theater, contemporary opera, performance, cyberformance, live music and immersive experiences. These have been presented in venues and festivals throughout the US and internationally including Theatre for a New Audience, LA Opera, Austin Opera, The Miller Theater, National Sawdust, EMPAC, BPAC, The Crossing the Line Festival, the Holland Festival, The Prelude Festival, The National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and the Fisher Center at Bard. Her work has been called “fervently inventive,” by Ben Brantley in the New York Times, “extraordinarily powerful” by the LA Times and a notable production of the decade by Alex Ross of the New Yorker. Since the pandemic-induced theatrical shut down, she has directed a live cyberformance of Caryl Churchill’s Mad Forest which transferred from Bard College’s Fisher Center, Off-Broadway to TFANA, a Zoom-accessed Virtual Nightclub and dance party called The Boot with Beth Morrison Projects, a music video for rock band Sylvan Esso which aired on Colbert’s YouTube Covid channel and a physically-distanced adherent, landscape-integrating adaptation of John Luther Adams’s Ten Thousand Birds with ensemble Alarm Will Sound at PS21 in Chatham, NY. She also works in the realm of immersive entertainment, escape rooms and advertising and was the Creative Director of Immersive Escape Productions where she devised environmental, multi-platform, immersive escape rooms, created an experience for musician St. Vincent tailored for the drop of her album, Masseduction and led the team that was awarded a gold medal in Medical, Marketing & Media awards in 2018 for an immersive escape experience tailored for the release of a cholesterol-reducing drug for Amgen. She earned her MFA in directing at Columbia University and has taught, guest taught or been a guest artist at Mannes School of Music, Harvard University, MIT, Marymount Manhattan College, Colgate College, Bard College and LIU Post. She is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors’ Lab, the recipient of the Lotos Foundation's Emerging Artist Award in Arts and Sciences and a winner of the 2017 Robert L. B. Tobin Director/Designer grant. Her Associate work has been with directors Robert Woodruff, Jay Scheib, Daniel Fish, Richard Jones among others in such venues as St. Ann’s Warehouse (on the critically acclaimed production of Oklahoma!), Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Lincoln Center Theater Festival, The Park Avenue Armory, Spoleto Festival, USA, Fort Worth Opera and LAOpera at REDCAT. 


José Zayas is an award-winning director. He has directed over 100 productions in New York, regionally, and internationally. Credits include: The Queen of Basel (Studio Theatre, DC), Exquisita Agonía (Repertorio Espanol), The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (BAM, MASS MoCA, US & European Tours), A Nonesuch Celebration (BAM), Washed Up on the Potomac (San Francisco Playhouse, The Flea Theater), Undocumented (Joe's Pub), Pinkolandia and El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom (Two River Theater), The House of the Spirits (Teatro Espressivo, Gala Theatre, Denver Center, ACE, HOLA, and Ovation Awards for Best Production and Direction), Your Name Will Follow You Home, La Nena Se Casa, Love in the Time of Cholera, In the Time of the Butterflies, In The Name of Salome, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Burundanga (Repertorio Español, ACE and HOLA Awards for Best Production and Direction for the latter two), Corazon Eterno, (Mixed Blood), Southern Promises and Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist (PS 122, The Brick), Useless (IRT), Father of Lies and Vengeance Can Wait (PS 122); P.S. Jones and the Frozen City, Feeder: A Love Story (TerraNOVA Collective); Privilege, Okay, Mrs. Jones and the Man From Dixieland (EST), The Idea of Me (Cherry Lane Theatre), The Queen Bees (Queens Theatre in the Park), Manuel Vs. The Statue of Liberty and Children of Salt (NYMF), Cancun, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gala Theatre, DC), Wedding Dress, The Island of Lonely Men (Teatro Espressivo, Costa Rica). José has premiered works by Stephin Merritt, Hilary Bettis, Nilo Cruz, Caridad Svich, Robert Askins, Thomas Bradshaw, Duncan Sheik, Steven Sater, Taylor Mac, Marco Antonio Rodriguez, Lynn Rosen, Saviana Stanescu, Carlos Murillo, Rob Urbinati, Kristina Poe, Catherine Filloux, James Carter, Gerardo Cardenas, Matt Barbot, Susan Kim, and Jordi Galceran. Notable fellowships and affiliations include: a Drama League Fellowship, Lincoln Center Theater's Directors Lab, SoHo Rep's Writer/Director Lab, and the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors. He is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre and he was the Resident Director at Repertorio Español from 2008-2018. José was born in Puerto Rico. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.



We wish to express our gratitude to the Performers’ Unions:





through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear on this program.


The MTA Playwrights Lab is generously funded by Richard Price Rudy (1968) and Robert Paul Rudy (1937) Memorial Fund, the Jane and Neil Pappalardo Fund for Music and Theater Arts, and Music and Theater Arts at MIT.



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