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Plays to Progress

Photo by A. Vincent Scarano

A new monthly community engagement series: Plays to Progress. Hear from playwrights, local community leaders, and national activists as they explore social issues through art. Each evening will feature a brief performance followed by a conversation about the resonance of a work launched at the O’Neill within our local communities.

watch previous conversations

Leftovers by Josh Wilder

August 12, 2020

Jalil and Kwamaine just want their family to be “Cosby Show happy,” but that kind of life doesn’t seem to be in the cards—until an enormous dandelion sprouts in front of their South Philly home and wishes start falling from the sky. Seizing the possibility of no longer feeling like the city's leftovers, the brothers begin to dream their way out of the cycle of poverty that has governed their lives, and find themselves on an adventure they never could have imagined. Purchase the play

Lockdown by Cori Thomas

September 9, 2020

A writer and an incarcerated man embark on an unexpected journey to the realities of long term incarceration and grief, as they work together to craft a statement for his upcoming parole hearing. Lockdown was commissioned by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through the Toulmin Foundation, and inspired by Cori Thomas’ experiences getting to know and working alongside a number of men currently serving life sentences at San Quentin State Prison.

How We Got On by Idris Goodwin

October 14, 2020

Hank, Julian, and Luann are three talented, determined suburban teens coming of age in the 1980s. Dreaming of fame and fortune in the new Hip-Hop music scene, they must overcome cultural isolation, familial dysfunction, and ruthless rivalries to make the music that defines their lives. A sultry DJ spins their stories with her own meta-theatrical perspective in this contemporary ode to the roots of rap. Purchase the play

Nomad Motel by Carla Ching

November 11, 2020

Alix lives in a tiny motel room with her mother and two brothers, scrabbling to make weekly rent. Mason lives comfortably in a grand, empty house while his father runs jobs for the Hong Kong Triad. Until the day his father disappears and Mason has to figure out how to come up with grocery money and dodge Child Services and the INS. Mason and Alix develop the most tentative of friendships, struggling to survive, and trying to outrun the mistakes of their parents. Will they make it out or fall through the cracks? A play about Motel Kids and Parachute Kids raising themselves and living at the poverty line in a land of plenty. Read the play on New Play Exchange.

The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin by Kirsten Childs

December 9, 2020

What’s a black girl from sunny Southern California to do? White people are blowing up black girls in Birmingham churches. Black people are shouting “Black is beautiful” while straightening their hair and coveting light skin. Viveca Stanton’s answer: Slap on a bubbly smile and be as white as you can be! In a humorous and pointed coming-of-age story spanning the sixties through the nineties, Viveca blithely sails through the confusing worlds of racism, sexism and Broadway showbiz until she’s forced to face the devastating effect self-denial has had on her life.