(L to R) Anthony Irons as Lincoln and Daniel Bryant as Booth in Season 24's production of Topdog/Underdog.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.

new play development programs

The development of new American plays and musicals is essential to American Theater Company's mission of asking the question: "What does it mean to be an American?"

ATC's Literary Circle, a group of professional directors, dramaturges, and educators, meet bimonthly to discuss new work that explores the American identity in an innovative and visceral way.

ATC does not accept unsolicited scripts. ATC's Artistic Staff, Literary Circle and Ensemble periodically request scripts from literary agents, new play development festivals, and professional playwrighting programs.

Partnerships with National and Local Playwrights

ATC has premiered over 50 world premieres or second productions from some of country's most innovative writers including Kristoffer Diaz, Lisa Dillman, David Henry Hwang, Jordan Harrison, Stephen Karam, Greg Kotis & Mark Hollmann, Naomi Iizuka, Neil LaBute, Craig Lucas, David Mamet, Itamar Moses, Brett Neveu, Regina Taylor, and members of the Tectonic Theatre Project.

ATC offers opportunities to local and national playwrights to develop work in collaboration with some of Chicago’s leading artists. Here are some of the projects that have been developed at ATC:

-Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Craig Lucas’s play, Love & Irony.
-2010 NY Times Outstanding Playwright Dan LeFranc’s play, The Big Meal.
-Lookingglass Ensemble member Laura Eason's play, Sex with Strangers.
-Sons of Anarchy writer Marco Ramirez's play Broadsword.
-Richard Oberacker, head conductor of Cirque du Soleil and Rob Taylor, concertmaster of Disney Theatricals, American musical adaptation of the Chinese tale Journey to the West.
-Tarell Alvin McCraney, Catherine Filloux and Joe Sutton's play, The Breach.
-Ensemble member Jaime Castañeda's and 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz's modern adaptation of Lorca's Blood Wedding.

10 x 10 Festival

ATC invites 10 Chicago playwrights to explore America’s most immediate topics in 10 short plays.

Ferguson: 10 plays exploring America's response to the crisis in Ferguson
Jeff Augustin, Kristiana Rae Colón, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Jacqueline E. Lawton, Bonnie Metzgar, Dominique Morisseau, Lucas Neff, A. Rey Pamatmat, Akin Salawu, Aurin Squire

The Border: 10 plays investigating America’s immigration policies
Usman Ally, Mando Alvarado, Jaime Castañeda, Christopher Chen, Ezzat Ghoushegir, Kenneth Lin, Sadieh Rafai, Charise Castro Smith, Tatiana Suarez-Pico, Candido Tirado

Election: 10 plays centered around the 2012 Presidential Election
Rachel Bond, Bekah Brunstetter, Lonnie Carter, Rick Cleveland, Fernanda Coppel, Matthew-Lee Earlbach, Rogelio Martinez, Gabe McKinley, Christopher Oscar Peña, Mat Smart

Cultural Identity: 10 plays inspired by America’s diverse cultural heritage
Jackie Sibblies Drury, Erik Gernand, Idris Goodwin, Ike Holter, Kevin King, Aaron Wigdor Levy, A. Rey Pamatmat, Emily Schwartz, Lauren Yee, Martín Zimmerman

Family: 10 plays inspired by a photo of an American family
Scott T. Barsotti, Sarah Gubbins, Jamil Khoury, Mia McCullough, Coya Paz, Sadieh Rifai, Elaine Romero, Michael Rychlewski, Rob Smith, A. Zell Williams
The 2011 10 x 10 Festival was sponsored by the Catherine Soodak Foundation.

The Silver Project: ATC’s 25th Anniversary Festival
33 plays exploring America from 1985 to 2010
Usman Ally, Stephen Belber, Kristiana Rae Colon, Kristoffer Diaz, Zayd Dohrn, Laura Eason, Maria Irene Fornes, Yussef el Guindi, Steve Harper, Andrew Hinderaker, David Henry Hwang, Naomi Iizuka, Laura Jacqmin, Kyle Jarrow, Rolin Jones, Joel Drake Johnson, Stephen Karam, Nambi E. Kelley, Greg Kotis, Joe Kraemer, Neil LaBute, Dan LeFranc, Craig Lucas, Laura Lynn MacDonald, Rohina Malik, Itamar Moses, Carlos Murillo, Justin D. M. Palerm, PJ Paparelli, Joshua Rollins, Tanya Saracho, Regina Taylor, Brian Tucker, Beau Willimon

America Now: 10 plays examining immediate American events
Kristiana Rae Colon, Laura Eason, Andrew Hinderaker, Laura Jacqmin, Nambi E. Kelley, Laura Lynn MacDonald, Justin D.M. Palmer, Douglas Post, Joshua Rollins, Tanya Saracho

Unplugged Rep

In partnership with Black Box Acting Studio, ATC offers playwrights a three-week intensive culminating in a rotating repertory of works-in-development. The inaugural year included Catherine Triechmann's play, Hot Georgia Sunday, Mary Hamilton's play, We Three, and Michael Tisdale's documentary play, Goldstar, Ohio.

Big Shoulders Festival

The BIG SHOULDERS FESTIVAL celebrates the spirit of our great city of Chicago. This festival gives Chicago artists an opportunity to tell original stories about the best city in the world, my kind of town, sweet home Chicago! The evening of short pieces features the hardest working theater community- all pieces are written, directed, and acted by Chicago artists.

ATC invites Chicago playwrights to submit short plays exploring Chicago. Our Artistic Staff and Literary Circle select a group of plays to premiere in a short festival celebrating Chicago. Invitations for submissions are announced on the Chicago League of Theaters’ website.

Chicago Chronicle

ATC partners professional playwrights with teenagers from Logan Square, one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhood, to develop a documentary-style play through interviews with the community. (For more information, see ATC's Education/Outreach section of the website.)


the silver project

ATC celebrated 25 amazing years of theater with The Silver Project, Five nights of 33 new works from some of America's most celebrated playwrights, each exploring what it means to be an American during one year in the past twenty-five. Running June 16 through June 20 audiences were able to see all 33 new works in chronological order.

To celebrate the company's 25th Anniversary, Artistic Director PJ Paparelli asked over 30 playwrights across the country to choose a year between 1985 and 2010 and write a short play that explores the company's mission: "What does it mean to be an American?" Directed and performed by over 50 Chicago artists, the plays were presented as a complete cycle during the annual Theatre Communications Group Conference June 16-20, 2010 here in Chicago.

"We are celebrating our anniversary by creating an historic event that brings together some of the country's leading playwrights with Chicago's most innovative artists to explore 25 years of American life," said Paparelli. "Both The Silver Project and our new ensemble members exemplify our company's future. We see ourselves as a theatrical crossroads for extraordinary artists that give voice to America today."


JUNE 16: 1985-1989
For Roy by Nambi Kelley, Directed by Hallie Gordon
Mission Burrito by Rolin Jones, directed by Anthony Moseley
The Science of Happiness by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Lisa Portes
The Third Date by Justin D.M. Palmer, directed by Megan Shuchman
Kazuo's Dick by David Henry Hwang, directed by David Charles Goyette
Cause I Know You Got Soul by Zayd Dohrn, directed by Jaime Castenada

JUNE 17: 1990-1995
Pop Tart by Tanya Saracho, directed by KeiraFromm
There Are Lessons To Be Learned by Joel Drake Johnson, directed by Laura Hooper
Shaquille O'Neal and Christian Laettner Discuss... by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Eddie Torres
Ashes of Another Man by Andrew Hinderaker, directed by Jen Shook
Lithium or How to Face the Possibility of Fiery Demise by Kyle Jarrow, directed by Dav Yendler
Camden Yards by Joe Kraemer, directed by Matt Miller
Gorgeous by Greg Kotis, directed by Phil Ridarelli

JUNE 18: 1996-1999
Cow by Laura Jacqmin, directed by Ed Cisneros
Holyfield's Ear by Carlos Murillo, directed by Damon Kiely
An American Heart by Beau Willimon, directed by Nic Dimond
A Bad Feeling by Dan LeFranc, directed by Matt Hawkins
George Lucas Raped My Eyeballs by Josh Rollins, directed by John Gawlik

JUNE 19: 1999-2003
Y2K by Craig Lucas, directed by Steve Scott
Quality of Life by Stephen Belber, directed by Jason Gerace
Windows on the World by Neil LaBute, directed by Darrell W. Cox
There Was So Much We Were Going To Do by Itamar Moses, directed by Jeremy Wechsler
Love War Death Life by Steve Harper, directed by Jeffry Stanton
USA -- 001A by Laura Eason, directed by Marti Lyons
So Unlike Me by Yussef El Guindi, directed by Eric Ziegenhagen

JUNE 20: 2004-2010
Pee School by Stephen Karam, directed by Jesse Young
Famous Blue Raincoat by Brian Tucker, directed by Derrick Sanders
The Dotted Line by LauraLynn MacDonald, directed by Jack Tamburri
A Message From Earth by Kristiana Rae Colon, directed by Julieanne Ehre
Historic Election by Rohina Malik, directed by Rachel Edwards Harvith
The Abyss by Usman Ally, directed by Nick Sandys
Déjà Vu by Regina Taylor, directed by Ron OJ Parsons


Usman Ally (Public Enemy and American Ethnic)

Stephen Belber (Emmy-nominated writer of The Laramie Project and Tape)

Kristiana Rae Colon (Chicago Def Poet; writer of The Darkest Pit)

Kristoffer Diaz (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Welcome to Arroyo's)

Zayd Dohrn (Sick, Magic Forest Farm, Long Way Go Down)

Laura Eason (Sex with Strangers, Around the World in 80 Days)

Maria Irene Fornes (Promenade, Mud, The Conduct of Life)

Yussef el Guindi (Back of the Throat, Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat)

Steve Harper (Urban Rabbit Chronicles, The Escape Artist's Children)

Andrew Hinderaker (Suicide, Incorporated)

David Henry Hwang (Tony Award-winning writer of M. Butterfly)

Naomi Iizuka (Award-winning writer of 36 Views, Language of Angels)

Laura Jacqmin (And When We Awoke There Was Light and Light, Ski Dubai)

Kyle Jarrow (Obie Award-winning writer of A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant)

Rolin Jones (The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow; Showtime's Weeds and NBC's Friday Night Lights)

Joel Drake Johnson (A Blue Moon, The Fall to Earth)

Stephen Karam (Speech & Debate, columbinus)

Nambi E. Kelley (Hope VI, How Kintu Became a Man)

Greg Kotis (Tony Award-winning writer of Urinetown, Yeast Nation, Pig Farm)

Joe Kraemer (The American Occupation; Literary Manager/Dramaturg of The Juilliard School's Drama Division)

Neil LaBute (Tony-nominated writer of reasons to be pretty; The Shape of Things)

Dan LeFranc (60 Miles to Silver Lake)

Craig Lucas (Pulitzer and Tony-nominated writer of Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza)

Laura Lynn MacDonald (Peer Gynt at Gorilla Rep, Mattress World with Blue Damen Pictures)

Rohina Malik (Unveiled)

Itamar Moses (Bach at Leipzig, Celebrity Row, The Four of Us)

Carlos Murillo (Dark Play or Stories for Boys, Diagram of a Paper Airplane)

Justin D. M. Palmer (As Fat as You Can, War with the Newts)

PJ Paparelli (columbinus, Raven Odyssey)

Joshua Rollins (American Rex)

Tanya Saracho (Our Lady of the Underpass, The House on Mango Street)

Regina Taylor (Award-winning writer of Crowns, Magnolia)

Brian Tucker (St. James Infirmary, Bathing Van Gogh)

Beau Willimon (Farragut North)


Summer 2010 - ATC and Black Box Acting Studio presented Unplugged, a summer repertory of three new plays. Sixteen acting students from Black Box’s Meisner 4.0 program performed workshop productions of three new plays in rotating repertory.

About the Plays

Goldstar, Ohio
Written by Michael Tisdale
Directed by PJ Paparelli
Ohio. 2005. When military casualty officers arrive with devastating news, the lives of four families are forever changed. Taken from over 75 hours of interviews with residents of Ohio, this groundbreaking documentary drama explores the domestic effects of the Iraq war on small town life in rural America.

Hot Georgia Sunday
Written by Catherine Trieschmann
Directed by Anne Adams
Georgia. 2010. A group of parishioners from the local Baptist church each tell their version of the events of one legendary weekend that rocked a small rural community. Assembling an unforgettable group of “locals”, this world premiere play takes city folk on a journey into the lives of the faithful in a rural American congregation.

We Three
Written by Mary Hamilton
Directed by Jason W. Gerace
A Small Town. Winter. This modern American folktale follows the intertwining of three lives around the mysterious disappearance of a local girl who has believed to have fallen through the ice of a local creek. This haunting and powerful tale explores the beliefs we create to fill absences and deep wounds of longing and loss.

About the Ensemble

The Black Box Acting Studio Meisner 4.0 Ensemble includes: Sam Buti, Chelly Brodsky, Marissa Chastain, Carolyn Coppedge, Amrita Dhaliwal, Eddie Diaz, John Luzar, Aida Padilla, Samson Sando, Olivia Scott, James Sladek, Ian Smith, Andrew Strenk, Shannon Sullivan, Jacob A. Ware, and Conor Woods.