Literary Programs

Writers at Work

Producing and developing new plays and musicals is part of our mission at Geva Theatre Center. It’s the “R&D” branch of what we do – scouting for exciting new writers and innovative storytelling that speaks to who we are today. The history of Geva’s play development program includes readings, workshops and premieres of over 380 new plays. New plays are housed in the Literary Department, where we nurture the artists who create those plays through a spectrum of programming from commissions to new play readings, characterized by strong dramaturgical support. 

When you join us for a play reading, you are participating in an intimate, bare-bones theatre experience. We give playwrights valuable resources to work on their scripts – actors, an audience, and rehearsal time – at a point when they’re still able to make sweeping changes and radical shifts in the script.

Actors will perform the play with scripts in-hand; because they are not memorizing lines, the writer is free to experiment and revise the script throughout the short rehearsal period. Actors may be seated at music stands or they may incorporate some simple staging, depending on the playwright’s goals and requests for the rehearsal process. New play projects can receive between 2 and 20 hours of rehearsal time; many of our new play readings include just 5 hours of rehearsal and then perform that same evening! For this reason, fans of acting virtuosity enjoy play readings as much as fans of the writing process – it’s a great venue to appreciate the work of fearless and creative artists. Readings also invite you to stage your own minds-eye production, as you imagine for yourself how you think the play should look with full scenery and costumes.

The final element of a work-in-progress? It’s you – the audience! Playwrights learn a great deal from hearing their work performed, but they also learn from the audience’s response. By participating in the storytelling – as you fall silent, lean in, or laugh out loud – you show writers what they have created and how it strikes you. Geva’s new play readings are always followed by a conversation with the writer; it’s a great chance for you to get to know the writer and for the writer to hear about your experience of the play.

Support for Geva’s New Play Development Programs is provided in part by Jack and Barbara Kraushaar,  The Mary S. Mulligan Charitable Trust, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.




Festival of New Theatre

The Festival of New Theatre is a celebration of the theatrical imagination, an exciting glimpse into the creative process, and YOUR opportunity to contribute to the future of theatre in Rochester and around the world. During the Festival, Geva’s audiences are invited to take a glimpse into the writers’ studios as they work on new ideas, tell new stories and explore new forms. Everything you see onstage – all of your favorite plays, musicals, comedy routines, monologues, etc. – was a new work once. It’s Geva’s job, as a company of theatre makers, to help support new plays so that they become the classics of the future. There’s a process to theatre making, and it starts with the idea, the story, in the mind of the writer. Then, collaborators – directors, dramaturgs, actors and designers – are added into the mix, and the story goes through a process of development. The audience is our final collaborator in the development of a new play – writers need to hear the responses of an audience to fully understand how their plays work. And because the readings of new plays are presented concert-style – with actors at music stands, facing the audience – the budget for the set, costumes and other effects is limited only by your imagination!

Geva’s Festival of New Theatre includes concert readings of plays and musicals by national and regional writers, a presentation of work by the winners of our Young Writers Showcase, and other events which let audiences into the earliest stages of the creative process. In addition to readings of full-length plays, the Festival often includes The Author’s Voice (an event which gives audiences a more intimate introduction to a playwright), The Bake-Off (writers are given three days to create a monologue or scene inspired by something from Rochester), or excerpts from writers’ works in progress.

Playwrights: Interested in submitting your work for consideration for the Festival of New Theatre? Find out more.



Plays in Progress

Here’s your chance to check out what might just be Geva’s next big hit…. Plays are chosen from a national pool sent by agents, directors and writers, given rehearsal time with professional actors and directors and presented in an informal script-in-hand concert reading. Each reading is followed by a conversation with the playwright. These play readings may be an opportunity for us to establish a new relationship with a playwright, or to support the work of writers we know and respect. Check here for upcoming readings.

Submit your play!



Regional Writers Showcase

Plays by Rochester-area writers, selected in cooperation with Writers & Books, are presented in a reading format on two Monday nights each spring. Each play is followed by a discussion with the playwright. One work from the spring Showcase will be selected to receive further rehearsal and development in the fall Festival of New Theatre. Since the launching of this program 15 years ago, other area theatres have followed our lead and created their own Rochester writers workshops and showcases.

Playwrights nurtured through this program have included Bill Capossere, Jessie Atkin, David Andreatta, Karl Obine, Andrew Passafiume, Grisell Buides, Byron Wilmot, Mark R. Jabaut, Peter Tonery, Nancy Preston Stark, Carolyn E. Kourofsky, Peg Kortz DeBaise, Paul Root, James Graves, Craig DeLancey, Gabriel Michaloski, Emily Cornish, Truc Doan, Lucas Syed, Aaron Fenster and Spencer Sisson. Check here for upcoming readings.

Submit your play or learn more!



Young Writers Showcase

Selected from an open submission pool of Rochester area students, the Young Writers Showcase features short plays by writers aged 13-18. This event provides a rare opportunity for young writers to have their works performed by professional actors and offers them a glimpse into the process of moving a play from page to stage. Plays from the spring Showcase receive further rehearsal and development in the fall Festival of New Theatre. Check here for upcoming readings.

Submit your play or learn more!