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.

Join us for our next Plays To Progress on October 14 at 6pm EST as we discuss How We Got On by Idris Goodwin, developed at the 2011 National Playwrights Conference.

meet the playwright

IDRIS GOODWIN is a multidisciplinary arts leader and creative community builder. Across two decades he’s forged a multi-faceted career as an award-winning script writer for stage and screen, Break Beat poet, director, educator, and organizer. He is the new Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. The author of Free Plays: open source scripts for an antiracist tomorrow, Goodwin is committed to using the arts to spark meaningful conversation.

His critically acclaimed plays like And In This Corner Cassius Clay, How We Got On, and Hype Man: A Break Beat Play are widely produced across the country at professional theatres, college campuses, and non-traditional spaces alike. He's been honored to receive developmental support from institutions like The Kennedy Center, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, and The Playwrights’ Center. In addition to the recently released poetry collection Can I Kick It?, he’s had several publications from Haymarket Books including Inauguration co written with nico wilkinson, Human Highlight: Ode To Dominique Wilkins, and the play This Is Modern Art co-written with Kevin Coval. The two also co host The Same Old New School Podcast on Vocalo Radio. He’s appeared on HBO Def Poetry, Sesame Street, NPR, BBC Radio, and The Discovery Channel.

For six years, Idris taught in the department of Theatre and Dance at Colorado College and was voted Teacher of the Year in 2015. Most recently, Idris served two seasons as Producing Artistic Director at StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Goodwin actively serves on both the advisory boards of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and Children's Theatre Foundation Association, as well as New Mexico’s 516Arts. A catalyst for culture, Goodwin uses his full creative powers to galvanize people to the community square. He is a creative voice for change, impassioned by art for social good.

ABOUT THE PLAY: 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

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

We kick-off this new series exploring LEFTOVERS by Josh Wilder. LEFTOVERS was developed at the O’Neill in 2015 as part of the National Playwrights Conference.  The event features a performance from actors Patrese McClain, Keshawn Mellon, and Jamal Colvin. Kolton Harris, Executive Director of Writer's Block InK Incorporated joins as our community panelist, with national panelists Joel Wilson, President and Chairman of the Executive Board of 100 Black Men of Philadelphia, and Geoff Pope, Founder of The LCR. Moderated by our Literary Manager Lexy Leuszler.

about the panelists

Josh Wilder is a playwright from Philadelphia. His work has been developed; commissioned; and produced at various regional theaters and festivals across the country including The Fire This Time Festival, Classical Theatre of Harlem, New York Theatre Workshop, True Colors Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2015 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, PlayPenn, Company One, InterAct Theatre Company, and Yale Rep. Past awards include the Holland New Voices Award, The Lorraine Hansberry Award, The Rosa Parks Award, and The ASCAP Cole Porter Prize. Josh is a former Jerome Fellow and the first national recipient of the Jerome Many Voices Fellowship at The Playwrights’ Center. He has been in residence at The Royal Court Theatre; Sundance at UCross; and served as Co-Artistic Director at The Yale Cabaret for its 50th season. Currently, he’s stationed in Los Angeles. MFA: Yale School of Drama. BFA: Carnegie Mellon. Kolton Harris is a director, actor, writer, musician, performer, artivist and is currently serving as the Executive Director of Writer’s Block InK in New London, CT. He is a proponent of the centrality of art to humanity, which fuels his passion for education reform and social justice. He graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in English Literature. Started in 2003, Writer's Block InK is an interdisciplinary arts non profit organization that focuses on empowering youth through interactive programming designed to ignite social change in the community. Young people devise works of art (theater, dance, visual art etc.) that speak to inequities, social issues and systemic oppression that hinders human flourishing and suppresses youth voices. Joel Wilson is the son of entrepreneurial parents with a mother who ran the family accounting firm and father a major health care organization. Joel has become a lifelong entrepreneur. His first business was a lawn cutting service with his first childhood friend. Later, in high school, performed flyer and custom label services on the original IBM DOS based computers. During college he started a lucrative t-shirt business, but then pivoted into computer consulting. Mr. Wilson has been serving as President & CEO of JCW COMPUTER CONSULTING, LLC ( a technology firm originally established as a sole proprietorship in 1992 but re-launched as an LLC in 2002. JCWCC offers a full spectrum of high quality services and top branded computer products customized to meet the specific IT needs of K-12 Schools, Small-to-Medium Business (SMB) markets, Nonprofits, Corporate & Government Diversity Supplier needs, as well as everyday home users. The mission of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. is to improve the quality of life within our communities and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans. 100 Black Men of Philadelphia, Inc. brands a LOCAL MISSION: To Educate and Empower Our Youth, Their Families, And Our Community. 100 Black Men of America, Inc. is committed to the intellectual development of youth and the economic empowerment of the African American community based on the following precepts: respect for family, spirituality, justice, and integrity. 100 Black Men of America, Inc. seeks to serve as a beacon of leadership by utilizing our diverse talents to create environments where our children are motivated to achieve, and to empower our people to become self-sufficient shareholders in the economic and social fabric of the communities we serve. Geoff Pope is currently a Senior Vice President at a global risk management firm. He has nearly 10 years of experience in managing large property and casualty risk, including industry- leading expertise in the financial, life sciences, and healthcare industries. Before beginning his career in risk management, Geoff played 4 seasons in the National Football League, which was highlighted by winning a Super Bowl Championship as a rookie with the New York Giants in 2007. Geoff has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University. Upon graduating from Columbia in 2017, Geoff launched The LCR (Left Center Right), which is a digital platform that shares unique perspectives on a number of issues. The LCR features voices and perspectives that are often unheard from people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds and professions. Geoff currently resides in Philadelphia, PA with his family and is the father of two boys, Gaige and Garrison Pope, who are 9 and 7 years old, respectively. The Left, Center, and Right (The LCR) is a digital publication that shares unique perspectives on social and political issues. Our contributors are an interesting and very diverse group of people from the US and abroad. Unlike mega news sites and traditional social media platforms, which are predicated on ratings and headlines, our platform enables everyday people to control their narratives by sharing genuine, short and concise, perspectives in a respectful manner. Simply, we seek to strengthen and improve communities, create valuable and highly functioning organization, and encourage dialogue regarding tough issues that impact everyone, regardless of race, gender, political, socioeconomic, or professional lines.

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.

about the panelists

Cori Thomas’ plays include: Lockdown; When January Feels Like Summer; LIBERIAN LEGACY TRILOGY: Pa’s Hat, Flight 109, In The Beginning; Citizens Market; The Ballad of Ella May; My Secret Language of Wishes; The Princess, The Breast, and The Lizard; The Unusual Love Life of Bedbugs and Other Creatures; The Hair Play; Waking Up; His Daddy; our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Developed and produced: Sundance Institute, City Theatre Company (Pittsburgh), Goodman Theater, Page 73 Productions, Playwrights Horizons, Lark Play Development Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, GTTR, Pillsbury House Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Mosaic Theatre Co, Central Square Theatre, Penumbra Theatre, Passage Theatre, Working Theater, Playwrights Realm, New Federal Theatre, New Georges, New Black Fest. Commissions: Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre, South Coast Rep, Sloan Foundation, Pillsbury House Theatre, Central Square Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Black Fest, The Slavery Project, The Working Theater. New Dramatists Resident, Fellow at Sundance, MacDowell, Bogliasco Foundation, and Baryshnikov Center Fellow. Playwrigh-in-Residence at Yale through Page 73 Productions. Awards and Honors: Inaugural Italian American Playwrights Project pick (When January feels Like Summer) will be translated into Italian and published. American Theater Critics Association 2011 Osborn Award—When January Feels Like Summer; Edgerton Foundation New Play Award; 2016 Horton Foote Playwriting Prize Finalist; 2 time Theodore Ward Prize Winner. When January Feels Like Summer—Dramatic Publishing Company. Upcoming: World Premiere 2019 Lockdown at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Co; Writer - Audible Original Content Series “The Walls”; “untitled” feature Film for HBO Films. Cori is a founder of the non-profit organization which does work with former male child soldiers in Liberia, West Africa. She is represented by Leah Hamos at The Gersh Agency Robert Pollock is PEN America’s Prison Writing Program Manager. For over a decade, he has worked with the justice system and its intersection with the arts. He is an ongoing participant in Rehabilitation Through the Arts, Musicambia, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, and Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections Advisory Committee. He has collaborated with the Fortune Society, Osborne Association, and several NYC grassroots organizations. He has participated in workshops and panels at Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Yale, and other universities to advocate for the power of the arts in prison education and restorative justice practices. As a visual artist, he illustrated the picture book for children of incarcerated parents, Sing Sing Midnight, which is used in therapeutic settings around the country. As a singer-songwriter, his compositions have been heard at the Obama White House, the RFK Human Rights Foundation, Create Justice forums, the Vera Institute of Justice Gala, the New York Ethical Society, and Carnegie Hall. Robert is a Fall 2019 New York Community Trust Leadership Fellow. PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights. For more than four decades, PEN America’s Prison Writing Program has amplified the writing of thousands of imprisoned writers by providing free resources, skilled mentors, and audiences for their writing. The Writing for Justice Fellowship has launched two years of fellows' work into major publications. In response to the pandemic, we’ve launched Temperature Check: Covid-19 Behind Bars, a new rapid response series featuring original creative reportage by incarcerated writers, accompanied by podcast interviews with criminal justice reform experts on the pandemic’s impact in United States’ prisons. Eric “Maserati-E” Abercrombie is a Musical artist, film maker, and justice reform activist. Eric was released from San Quentin State Prison in August of 2019 after serving 9 years in prison. While incarcerated Eric was a part of the original development team of a restorative justice pilot program which is currently being implemented in San Joaquin County. He was also featured several times on the infamous podcast Ear Hustle. Also he worked as a film maker for a media project in San Quentin State Prison called Firstwatch founded by Adnan Khan, where he and team of incarcerated men Created films from pre-production to post-production geared towards humanizing incarcerated people, utilizing the power of the narrative giving the currently incarcerated a platform for there truths of what it is like to be incarcerated to be seen and heard. He also was a lead facilitator of a youth mentor group called “PowerSource” while contributing to bettering the San Quentin Community being involved in several other programs. Since released Eric has spoken at the State Capitol, worked with the Restorative justice organization Re:Store Justice, and is now currently on tour with Antwan “Banks” Williams the co-creator/sound designer of the podcast Ear Hustle performing music and telling his story at schools to corrode the school to prison pipeline as well as educate and empower the young people. He plans to change the world by changing the way people view the world.


Eugene O'Neill Theater Center

305 Great Neck Road

Waterford, CT 06385

Administrative Offices: (860) 443-5378



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