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The Kiln
A New Works Lab at People's Light
The Kiln is back this March!

The Kiln is an artist-centered incubator for the development of new theatrical works. For the second year, a diverse group of playwrights, multi-hyphenate artists, directors, dramaturgs and performers from around the country will gather here in Malvern, PA to strengthen creative relationships, forge deep ties to local communities, and cultivate important new work for the American theatre.

The Kiln 2024 features projects led by a remarkable group of artists: Abbey Adams and the New Voices Alumni, Suli Holum, Kathryn Grody and Timothy Near, Lisa Ramirez, and Harrison David Rivers. Their works are all in very different stages of development, ranging from the early steps of writing and exploration to almost production-ready. Three of the projects stem from our signature residency and commission programs: New Play Frontiers and Queerways, PA.


  • At the culmination of their time at People's Light, these artists will share their work and an inside look into their process through readings and panel discussions with their Kiln colleagues, community partners, and People’s Light audiences and staff. See the schedule of public sharings below and reserve your seat at one of these intimate events for free!

March 22–24 — The Unexpected 3rd

Three sharings, Friday–Sunday

Written and performed by Kathryn Grody
Directed by Timothy Near

Kathryn Grody’s new work is a radical rumination on the optimism of staying alive. Deep into her third and final act of being a person, Grody investigates an eclectic, devastating, and hilarious potpourri of shocking discoveries as she finds herself at 75 becoming… not quite old, but elder.

“Old Starts at 100” she declares, “I’m just completing my late youth!” Another Boomer that didn’t think the aging process would apply to them, Grody enters elderhood with equal parts empowerment and utter bewilderment. Marching onward through crumbling democracy, a boiling planet, and an increasingly dead roster of friends and colleagues, she is buoyed as she discovers part of herself she didn’t know were in hiding. Perhaps these parts were waiting for this period to bloom. Mother, Artist, Wife, Grandmother, Friend, and Accidental Influencer, Kathryn Grody is astonished with her life, your life, and the stunning, deeply funny, heart breaking impermanence of it all.




Thursday, March 14 at 2pm — Lead Artists' Panel

Featuring Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Webster Duke, Suli Holum, Lisa Ramirez, and Kathryn Grody, moderated by Deepa Purohit

Hear from some of this year's lead artists about their creative process and their works-in-development.


Saturday, March 16 at 7pm — Our Voices

Created by Members of the Original New Voices Ensemble
Directed and Curated by Abigail Adams
Assistant Directed and Curated by Elizabeth Webster Duke
Videography by Leo Switucha

Featuring: John Abercrombie, Nadira Beard, Aeryanah Bryant, Michelle Haskins, Tamika Hayward, Valia Johnson, Amanda Levine,  Jocelyn Manigo, Lamarr Todd, Markus Vick, Jamil Whitaker

In 1989, artists from People’s Light began work with students in four Middle Schools in Chester, PA. Inspired by those initial residencies, what became known at the New Voices Ensemble was born. Seventeen students, primarily from the city of Chester, worked year-round with People’s Light (taking classes, assisting teachers, creating original plays, acting in mainstage productions) until they graduated from high school. In January of 2023, Abigail Adams, who started the program, gathered eleven of the original ensemble members—all of whom are now in their mid-forties—to develop a new theatre project.

For the past year the group has met regularly at Abbey’s home in Swarthmore, at the Theatre, and on Zoom to tell stories about their current lives—the challenges, triumphs, fears and hopes of their middle-aged lives. This March, during the Kiln, the group will create a presentation/ performance piece that interweaves the stories of their current lives alongside memories of their work together with People’s Light when they were teenagers. This will be the next iteration of a future performance piece and possibly a film. As the Theatre prepares for its 50th Anniversary, the New Voices Ensemble also celebrates its 35th Anniversary, the longest running program at People’s Light.


Meet the Artists
Abigail Adams

New Voices Project Director & Curator

(She/her) Company Member since 1976. People’s Light: Senior Director of Special Projects & Executive Artistic Director Emerita. During her 48-year association with the Theatre, Abbey has directed more than sixty plays, including Lettie, The Vinegar Tree, The Children, Our Town, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, Morning’s at Seven, Project Dawn, The Matchmaker, Auctioning the Ainsleys, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, The Cherry Orchard, The Rainmaker, The Trip to Bountiful, Dividing the Estate, Nathan the Wise, and In the Blood. Theatre Includes: Directed readings and workshops of new plays for Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Circle Rep, New York Stage and Film, and the Public Theatre. Teaching: Swarthmore College, New York University, Bryn Mawr College, Carnegie Mellon University, and The Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College.

Elizabeth Webster Duke

New Voices Project Assistant Director & Curator

(She/her) Liz first worked with Abbey and The New Voices Ensemble in a Playwright’s Lab at Swarthmore College in 1994. Thirty years later, she is honored and tickled to be creating stories with the ensemble again. Liz is a longtime company member at People’s Light, having acted in nearly 50 productions. Liz has also performed with The Walnut Street Theatre, The Wilma Theatre, InterAct Theatre Company, The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, The Bay Theatre, Fords Theatre, Taffety Punk, The Eureka Theatre Company and at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre. Liz has taught at Swarthmore College, George Washington University and Temple University.

Kathryn Grody

The Unexpected 3rd Playwright and Performer

(She/her) Kathryn Grody was born in Los Angeles, which was a cosmic error she corrected 50 years ago. She found a home at The Public Theatre, and mentors for life in Joe Papp and his wife, Gail Merrifield Papp, who produced her 3 character solo show, A Mom’s Life, where she played herself and her 3 and 7 year old sons. She has performed on and off-Broadway, and in film and television. She is a Drama Desk nominee, winner of two Obie Awards and in 2022 she starred in a pilot shot for Showtime called Seasoned where she plays a character named…. Kathryn Grody!  Most recently she completed a workshop of her latest solo piece The Unexpected 3rd at Berkeley Rep followed by a sold out run of workshop performances at The Rosendale Theater in Rosendale NY. Since the pandemic she’s garnered 3 million followers across social media platforms and 240 million views from making videos solo and with her husband actor/singer Mandy Patinkin. Since becoming a popular TikToker (though she still doesn’t know how to sign on to the app) she’s been written up in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and several other major publications. Her writing work has been published in Oprah, Harpers Bazaar, The Mountain Record, and ivillage, and her book A Mom’s Life was published by Avon.

Timothy Near

The Unexpected 3rd Director

(She/her) Timothy Near is an award-winning freelance director, three-time artistic director and Obie Award-winning actress. She has directed over 80 plays and musicals at theatres across the U.S. including La Jolla Playhouse, New York Public Theatre, The Guthrie, Berkeley Rep, Center REP, and the Mark Taper Forum. She was the first woman to direct at the Alliance Theatre and at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. In her 21 year tenure as artistic director of San Jose Rep, she produced over 120 plays and 20 world premieres. Twice as artistic director, she contributed to the campaign, design and completion of two mid-sized theatres. In addition to an Obie Award for her performance in Still Life at the American Place Theatre in New York, she was a regular guest on Sesame Street. Timothy directed the World Premiere of Kathryn Grody’s play, A Mom’s Life. She is so happy to be working with her again. Website:

Suli Holum

The Woman Question Playwright

(She/her) Suli Holum co-founded Pig Iron Theatre Company, co-creating 15 original theater works, and began her playwriting career with Barrymore Award Winning Gentlemen Volunteers, published in Pig Iron: 3 Plays (53rd Street Press). Holum later partnered with playwright Deborah Stein to form Stein | Holum Projects (SHP), where she collaborated as a devising performer and co-director.  SHP’s Chimera, developed through the HERE Artists Residency Program and supported by a TCG/Fox Resident Actor Fellowship, premiered as part of The Under the Radar Festival.  It earned Holum a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, and toured internationally. SHP's The Wholehearted was a recipient of a NEFA National Theatre Project grant, premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, and toured nationally. Holum’s work as a writer of new performance includes the sprawling site-specific Wandering Alice with Nichole Canuso Dance Company and Oedipus at FDR with Emmanuelle Delpech — an original adaptation set in the battered skate park under I-95 — Fighting for Democracy and Fourteen commissioned by the National Constitution Center, One Beach Road with RedCape Theatre, UK, and A Fierce Kind of Love with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.  She also works as a director and performer across Philadelphia stages, and is a member of the HotHouse resident acting company at The Wilma Theatre. Holum recently received an MFA in Playwriting from Goddard College, and is thrilled to be working as both playwright and performer on The Woman Question with People’s Light.

The Woman Question is a new play that examines gendered healthcare disparities and bodily autonomy through both historical and contemporary lenses. The creative team, which includes playwright Suli Holum and Melanye Finister, sources historical records from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, held in the Drexel University Legacy Archive. The stories of women who led the charge for women’s health and reproductive freedom 150 years ago are interwoven with the experiences of 21st-century women who are medical students, doctors, nurses, and patients.

The Woman Question has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Lisa Ramirez

New Play Frontiers Commissioned Playwright

(She/her) Lisa Ramirez is a mixed-race Latina writer and actor, whose work has been widely produced in the United States. Her play TO THE BONE had successful sold-out runs at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York and the Oakland Theater Project. The play has garnered many awards (including the Helen Merrill Award) and is being taught in many Universities across the nation. Lisa’s work has appeared at prestigious institutions such as the Cherry Lane Theatre, Oakland Theater Project, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Playmakers Rep, Center Theatre Group, Working Theater and others. Plays include EXIT CUCKOO (nanny in motherland); Art of Memory; Pas de Deux (lost my shoe); TO THE BONE; In the Mountains; DOWN HERE BELOW; sAiNt jOaN (burn/burn/burn); Book of Sand (a fairytale) and ALL FALL DOWN. Lisa is currently working on several theater commissions and developing various projects for Television and film.

Lisa is currently researching Neurocognitive Disorder/Dementia in several local senior group homes. She will be exploring the themes of memory, caregiving and group dynamics merging traditional play structure with sonic dance theater. 


Harrison David Rivers

Queerways, PA Commissioned Playwright

(He/him) Harrison David Rivers is an award-winning playwright, librettist and television writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota. His works include we are continuous (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Geva Theatre Center, New Conservatory Theatre Center), the bandaged place (NYSF, Roundabout), This Bitter Earth (NCTC, Penumbra, About Face, Theater Alliance, Richmond Triangle Players, The Road, InterAct, TheatreWorks Hartford, Seattle Public, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre), among others, and the musicals We Shall Someday with Ted Shen and I Put a Spell on You with Nubya Garcia. His television credits include One of Us Is Lying (Peacock), The Nevers (HBO) and Wytches (Amazon). Harrison is a recipient of McKnight, Jerome and Van Lier Fellowships; residencies with the Siena Art Institute, New York Theatre Workshop, Williamstown, Geva and Duke University; and commissions from Roundabout, Transport Group, Geva, La Jolla Playhouse and Minnesota Opera. He sits on the Board of Directors of The Movement Theatre Company and Playwrights’ Center. M.F.A., Columbia University. Website:

The play that Harrison is developing with his Queerways commission is inspired by the Ku Klux Klan March that occurred in downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania on January 12, 1991.

Lead Kiln Producer
Deepa Purohit

People's Light Director of New Works and Lead Kiln Producer

(She/her) Deepa Purohit has worked as a theater artist, educator, and communications coach for over 30 years. With Sanjit De Silva, she co-wrote Crushed Earth (produced by People’s Light as an immersive audio play in 2023) as part of the New Play Frontiers commissioning program. Deepa is the 2024 recipient of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize. She made her Off-Broadway debut at The Atlantic Theater Company with the World Premiere of her play Elyria in winter 2023 (2023 Drama League Award Nominee for Outstanding Production of a Play). She’s a recipient of the 2023 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for Excellence in Playwriting for Elyria, a 2022-23 Edgerton Foundation Award for Elyria & a 2023 New York State Council on the Arts commission with The Atlantic Theater Company. She’s a 2023-30 New Dramatists Playwriting Resident, a Board member of SPACE on Ryder Farm, and a Ma-Yi Writers Lab “Legacy Labbie”. Deepa co-founded and ran Rising Circle Theater Collective (2000-2012). She holds an MFA, Playwriting: Brooklyn College (2020), a BA in History & African Studies: Northwestern University and an MPH from Columbia University. She’s currently adapting her play Elyria into a TV series.