History of New Plays
In our 42-year history, over a third of our productions have been World or Regional Premieres. Recent World Premieres include Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, Project Dawn by Karen Hartman, The Harassment of Iris Malloy by Zak Berkman, Barcelona by Bess Wohl, Fallow by Kenneth Lin, Stargirl by Y York, Mister Hart and Mister Brown by Bruce Graham, as well as two original musical pantos, Aladdin and Arthur & the Tale of the Red Dragon. Recent Regional Premieres include Row After Row by Jessica Dickey, Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl, Auctioning the Ainsleys by Laura Schellhardt, and Stella & Lou by Bruce Graham.
At People’s Light, we conceive, commission, develop, and premiere new works of theatre that represent and reflect many perspectives. We collaborate with ambitious, curious, and empathetic theatremakers from across the country who wish to engage with our distinctive five-county region to tell stories that speak to our neighbors and our nation.
Over the past five years we have significantly expanded our commissioning and development of new work. Through initiatives such as our New Play Frontiers Residency and Commission program and The People’s Light Harmony Labs we cultivate longstanding relationships with acclaimed local, national, and international artists to inspire and generate innovative works of theatre that resonate with our fast-growing and evolving region.
People’s Light opened our 2017-2018 season with the World Premiere of Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole. In 2015, we commissioned Domingo and McGregor to create this music and dance infused exploration of race, celebrity, and the cost of pursuing America’s fever dream. We developed the work through multiple retreats and workshops here in Malvern, as well as in San Diego at The Old Globe Theatre and at Vassar College where New York Stage & Film’s produces its summer festival. The world premiere played to eight weeks of sold out houses and we hope will find a home at theatres across the country.
Many more new works are in our sights. New Play Frontiers will support six writers this season, which will include workshops of Mud Row by Dominique Morisseau, and The Mushroom Play by Eisa Davis. Morisseau and Davis were part of our first round of NPF writers, along with Colman Domingo, Kate Fodor, Kathryn Petersen, and Karen Hartman whose Project Dawn we premiered in June 2017.
The Harmony Labs currently incubate ten new collaborations of music driven theatre projects. Among the Lab projects is Such Things As Vampires: A Punk-Folk Dracula Inoculation, an innovative spin on the classic tale by Zak Berkman, Stuart Carden, Jessie Fisher, and Mary Tuomanen. This team of Philadelphia and Chicago based artists will develop this mash-up of concert and passion play throughout 2018 towards a world premiere in our 2018-2019 Season.
In addition, Kathryn Petersen and Michael Ogborn have begun work on a new musical panto, Little Red Robin Hood, that we plan to premiere in our 2019-2020 Season. Stay tuned!
"Producing new work is a scary prospect, both for the playwright and the theatre, since we never know what works until we put it on front of an audience. People's Light takes that leap not only by producing new work, but by providing a support system to develop the play to its full potential. I still judge other productions of Mr. Hart and Mr. Brown by the standards set by the People’s Light production."
- Author of Mr. Hart and Mr. Brown (World Premiere 2012), Stella & Lou (Regional Premiere 2015)
“Karen Hartman’s Project Dawn is one of the very best productions of the season. It’s a big moment as play and as theatrical entertainment. It’s also important for how it got written, and the worthy — in fact, crucial — social work it does.”
- Reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer