Theatre as a Catalyst for Social Change

New Play Frontiers is a long-term initiative to develop and produce new plays that explore our American identity inspired by stories and concerns in our region. We invite nationally recognized playwrights to immerse themselves in neighboring communities in collaboration with community partners. As we shepherd the plays from page to stage, we attract new audiences and create an environment that supports dialogue and greater civic engagement.

Ten writers have participated in NPF residencies and received commissions to create new theatre pieces that would not exist without this initiative. The opportunity to explore and discover our surrounding neighborhoods and engage with a wide range of community partners provide these writers with a distinctive experience unlike any other new play program in the country. Our NPF playwrights are Eisa Davis, Sanjit De Silva, Colman Domingo, James Ijames, Kate Fodor, Karen Hartman, Dominique Morisseau, Kathryn Petersen, Deepa Purohit, and Laura Schellhardt.  

To learn more about the origins and discoveries of New Play Frontiers, read Producing Director Zak Berkman’s Being Regional For A Reason blog series on Howlround.

Project Dawn

First NPF World Premiere

A member of the first round of New Play Frontiers playwrights, celebrated writer Karen Hartman wrote Project Dawn, about a real-life revolutionary Philadelphia court that transforms the lives of women convicted for prostitution.  The play is groundbreaking, funny and stirring.  Seven female actors each play a member of the court staff AND a client of the court, illuminating the thin line between those who serve and those being served.

To learn about Karen Hartman's in-depth exploration of the issue of human sex trafficking in the Philadelphia region and how it inspired Project Dawn, read her article for Howlround: Courtroom Drama: The Politics and Poetics of One Community Immersion Experience.

The World Premiere of Project Dawn at People's Light kicked off a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere with two fellow NNPN Theatres: Horizon Theatre Company in Atlanta and Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City.

Project Dawn by the Numbers




$15,000 raised through a crowdfunding campaign enabled 475 people representing 48 organizations who work with vulnerable populations to attend through fully and partially subsidized tickets. Dozens of nurses, parole officers, lawyers, faith leaders, and law enforcement officers attended the production alongside our subscribers and returning patrons, and participated in play-related professional workshops and trainings.



“As someone who has visited safe houses, listened to survivor stories and witnessed the despair on the Avenue, I was not expecting Project Dawn to grab me by the throat with its emotional intensity and aching reality. Project Dawn also proved to be a powerhouse in providing the audience with the facts about prostitution vs. prostituted women.”

— Susan Ingram-Weidemann
Founder, Walk Her Home


“People’s Light’s New Frontiers program is emblematic of the arts in action, producing plays that engage our local communities, promote important issues, and inspire the audience members to consider new viewpoints regarding identity, heritage, and personal experience.”

— State Senator Andy Dinniman

Looking Forward

New plays in development through New Play Frontiers

Mud Row by Dominique Morisseau
“Through my residency time in the city of West Chester, PA I spoke to residents in the area of the Melton community center to see their responses to the neighborhood becoming integrated by efforts to invest more people into the center. There seemed to be opposing ideas between elder and young about what the future of the neighborhood ought to be, and this content has served as much background food for my play, Mud Row.”

Mushroom by Eisa Davis
“This play centers on the lives, loves, families and working conditions of Mexican mushroom pickers in Kennett Square, examining the recent strains placed on this cultural community by an oppressive governmental regime. It uses a series of experiments in form and non-linear storytelling to explore the characters' dreams and fears.”