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Posted on Mar 31, 2021 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

Launch of First Playwrights Immersive and Short Plays Reading Festival

HONOLULU – Celebrating both the creative and business side of Theatre, Creative Lab Hawai‘i (CLH) announces new panels, programs, and a live streamed festival for April 2021. Developed by the Hawai‘i State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s (DBEDT) Creative Industries Division to accelerate the growth of Hawai‘i’s creative workforce, CLH will present its dynamic Theatre lineup in partnership with Hawai‘i State Theatre Council, Dramatists Guild Foundation (DGF), and the Dramatists Guild.

On April 24 at 2 p.m. HST, the public is invited to attend a free play reading festival online. Discussions on writing for the theatre and theatre in the digital age featuring acclaimed mentors from across the industry will also be offered in April.

Known for its core programs of Screenwriting, Producing, Web-Series, Music, and Animation, CLH announces the finalists in its first cohort of the Playwrights Immersive, building on CLH’s tradition of providing intensive learning programs and mentorship across various creative disciplines. Three local creatives have been selected, following a competitive application process, to develop their craft and respective projects in the April CLH Playwrights Immersive: Lee Cataluna, Sean-Joseph Choo from O‘ahu, and Sean Dunnington from Hawai‘i Island.

“Our local theatre community is rich with talent. We felt it was important to uplift our playwrights through access to theatre professionals in the industry through our CLH Immersive structure,” says Georja Skinner, division chief of Creative Industries, DBEDT. “Performers and the venues they call home have faced challenges caused by the pandemic, with their houses dark, and live audiences put on pause. This month of activities is not only a celebration of the innovation and resiliency found in our local creatives, but provides insights into navigating the evolving world of theatre and ways to skillfully pivot to interim digital streaming until the curtain rises again for live performances.”

“Storytelling is such a beautiful part of Hawaii’s deep cultural history,” said DGF Executive Director, Rachel Routh. “As an organization that works to support storytellers throughout the United States, DGF is thrilled to partner with Creative Lab Hawai‘i to provide more opportunities for emerging writing talent to flourish on the page, stage, and beyond.”

Several of the esteemed coaches and speakers selected to mentor the CLH’s Playwrights Immersive and Weekend Ideation programs will also lend their talents to CLH’s public events. The following virtual events, all offered free of charge and open to the community, are in the wings for April:

DIGITAL THEATRE: A NEW STAGE – Webinar on Saturday, April 3 at 1 p.m. HST

Link to register:

Join industry experts as they discuss the how and why of digital theatre as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists include:

  • Amy C. Ashton is in her first season as Producing Associate at La Jolla Playhouse, with a specialty in producing site-specific and immersive theatre. During the pandemic, her focus has been producing 14 original performance pieces as a part of the Playhouse’s Digital WOW offerings. Prior, she served as Managing Director of Colt Coeur Theatre Company for over a decade, developing and producing 11 productions—most recently the New York Times‘ Critic’s Pick, Eureka Day, by Jonathan Spector.
  • Donna Blanchard is Managing Director of Kumu Kahua Theatre, President of the Hawai‘i State Theatre Council, Executive Team Member of ‘Ohina Labs and Films, and a Community Advisory Board Member of Hawai‘i Public Radio.
  • Sarah Gancher’s writing has been seen on stages worldwide including London’s National Theatre, Budapest’s Quarter6Quarter7 Festival, New York Theater Workshop, Steppenwolf, and more. Recently, the online production of her play Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy was included in the New York Times’ Top 10 Theater of 2020 list.
  • KR Riiber is a visual artist, writer, and performer, and current Artistic Director of The Neo-Futurist Theater. As an Ensemble Member, she created Tangles & Plaques (2017), appeared in Saturn Returns (2016), and has been writing and performing two-minute plays in The Infinite Wrench since 2012.
  • Jonathan Silverstein is the Artistic Director of Off Broadway’s award-winning Keen Company, where he has directed Ordinary Days (Drama League nomination), Lonely Planet, Tick, Tick…Boom! (Drama Desk nomination), Travels With My Aunt, John & Jen, Middle of the Night, and Marry Me a Little (Drama League Nomination).
  • Susan Soon He Stanton hails from Aiea, and is a celebrated screenwriter, playwright, producer, and television writer in the entertainment industry. She is renowned for her writing on the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning HBO series, “Succession.”

SHORT PLAYS READING FESTIVAL – Streamed Live on Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m. HST

Link to register:

Experience six short-play readings written by CLH fellows in the Theatre Weekend Ideation Program from across ka pae ‘āina o Hawai‘i. The must-see streamed event runs two hours, featuring CLH Ideation fellows Jessie Ren Marshall, Lin McEwan, and Ryan Okinaka, as well as the new Playwrights Immersive cohort:

  • Lee Cataluna’s most recent commissions are for La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and San Francisco Playhouse. In 2020, she won the Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award from Native Voices at the Autry. Her work locally has been seen at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Kumu Kahua Theatre and UH Mānoa. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
  • Sean-Joseph Choo is an actor, composer, and writer based in Honolulu. He is invested in imagining how religion, queerness, and culture intersect and conflict. Sean loves and is dedicated to the stories and people of Hawai‘i. He is employed at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists, and is on the Playwright Development Committee at Kumu Kahua Theatre.
  • Sean Dunnington is from Hawaiʻi Island and received his experimental B.A. in Applied Playwriting from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. He loves to write about queer belonging. Sean recently completed a Literary Apprenticeship at the Magic Theatre for their 2019-2020 season, now works as a Community Specialist with various theatres in San Francisco and Hawaiʻi and serves as the Program Director for the Kahilu Performing Arts Workshop. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

PLAYWRIGHTS ON PLAYWRITING Webinar on Wednesday, April 28 at 1:00 p.m. HST

Link to register:

Join us as we discuss the creative and business elements of writing for the theatre. Moderated by Donna Blanchard, panelists include:

  • Lloyd Suh is the author of The Chinese Lady, Charles Francis Chan Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery, American Hwangap, The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!, Jesus in India, and others. His works have been produced with Ma-Yi, Magic, EST, NAATCO, Children’s Theatre Co, Milwaukee Rep, and more, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines and PCPA in Seoul, Korea. He has received the Helen Merrill Award, Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, and Horton Foote Prize, and is a current Guggenheim Fellow.
  • Kit Yan is a Yellow American NY-based artist, born in Enping, China, and raised in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Kit is the 2021 Kleban Prize winner, a 2019 Vivace award winner, and former fellow at the Dramatists Guild Foundation. Their forthcoming work includes physical and digital productions with Playwrights Horizons, Keen Company, OSF, and East West Players. Their work has previously been supported by 5th Avenue Theater, The Smithsonian, Village Theater, Diversionary Theater, and many more. Kit is currently under contract to write their first movie musical for television.
  • Chay Yew has directed at the Public, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Berkeley Rep, amongst others. His plays were produced at the Public, Manhattan Theatre Club, La Jolla Playhouse, Studio Theatre, Royal Court (London), TheatreWorks (Singapore), Four Arts (Kuala Lumpur), and La Mama (Melbourne), amongst others. He received the OBIE Award for Direction, London Fringe Award for Best Play, and GLAAD Media Award.

The Playwrights Immersive is a yearlong program for playwrights working on a two-act theatrical narrative play or musical. It includes a five-day, boot camp-style clinic, followed by a one-year coaching program that supports fellows in executing their material as individuals, and as a group. To be considered for the selective program, playwrights must have written a minimum of three two-act plays and/or musicals and have participated in the Weekend Ideation.

Additional world-renowned coaches and speakers that will be supporting the new Playwrights Immersive will include:

  • Shirley Fishman has worked with numerous playwrights and directors during twenty seasons at La Jolla Playhouse as Associate Artistic Director, Director of New Play Development, and Dramaturg, developing new plays and musicals for LJP stages (including Tony Award-winning Come from Away and Indecent).
  • Michael Jackowitz is a Tony Award-winning producer, with his extensive Broadway experience including past productions such as Tuck Everlasting, the highly-anticipated Diana, slated for 2021, and his newest production Estella Scrooge, which debuted virtually in December 2020.
  • Ralph Sevush, with the Dramatists Guild since 1997, is their Executive Director of Business Affairs & General Counsel. He was Director of Business Affairs for Broadway productions of BIG-The Musical, Fool Moon, and God Said, “HA”. He was also a film executive with New Line, and is a published author and produced playwright.
  • Seema Sueko is a proud alumna of University Laboratory School in Honolulu, where they produced big musicals in the tiny “Matchbox Theater.” Seema’s arts leadership positions have included Deputy Artistic Director at Arena Stage, Associate Artistic Director at Pasadena Playhouse, and Co-Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego.

To learn more about Creative Lab Hawai‘i programs and panels, please  visit:

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