Arts & Leisure
Brooklyn’s Next Wave of Playwrights
New York is the theater capital of the world and some of its best and brightest players call Brooklyn home. In recent years, these four Brooklyn playwrights have made a name for themselves in the New York theater world and beyond with spunky, fresh new plays and musicals.
Melissa Annis, Crown Heights
This Wales-born writer has lived in Brooklyn since 2006. She began writing at the age of nine and debuted her first play at the age of fourteen for a school competition. While the other plays were about boys, romance and little girl dreams, Melissa fondly recalls hers being about prostitutes and heroin. Needless to say, she won. Then life got in between Melissa and her writing until two years ago, when she picked up the pen and got down to business. She credits ESPA (Einhorn School of Performing Arts), a program within Primary Stages, for her return to writing. Now in its sixth year, ESPA has honed the talents of actors, writers and directors. While at ESPA, she began writing "Pit." Melissa believes that the acting training she got in college helped in capturing and exploring the relationships that were made and broken during a miners' strike in South Wales circa 1984. By knowing how much to give and what to leave out for the actors' sake, "Pit" powerfully embodied the turbulent time that left a scar on the Welsh valleys for generations to come. "Pit" premiered February 2013 at the Theater for the New City and ran for a little over three weeks. Melissa Annis has two upcoming projects: "Postage Not Included" (a working title) about a family whose son is MIA in Iraq and their struggle accepting he is truly gone, and a still untitled musical.
Casey Wimpee, Bushwick
Originally from Texas, Casey moved from San Francisco to Brooklyn seven years ago, taking a three day train ride to soak in the American landscape. Although he planned to write novels and short stories, two weeks after the move his brother Cole Wimpee asked Casey to write for his theater company, Working Man’s Clothes. Casey's play "Bloody Elephants" was about two Irish brothers drinking and talking after a night on the town. When Working Man’s Clothes came to an end, Aztec Economy came into being and, in January 2008, they put on their first show, "More Songs from the Neo Fascist Nursery Players Troupe." which they performed at Roberta’s Pizza. The company brought in a keg or two and educated the audience about fascism through music. A typewriter enthusiast, Casey’s writing process starts – after mad jots on bar napkins – on either his 1916 Remington Standard or possibly his 1972 baby blue Smith-Corona Coronet, and he doesn't move onto a computer until he starts the editing process. When Casey isn’t writing from bed, he can be found at Alaska or Brooklyn Fireproof, both in Williamsburg, typing away for six or seven hours.
Stephen Brown, Crown Heights
Another Texan, Stephen Brown has lived in Brooklyn for almost two years. He started acting at age six but after taking a role in a comedy during college, Stephen thought he could write something funnier. He took a playwriting course and began writing weird and humorous sketches to the delight of his classmates. After moving to New York, he began working on ten minute plays, the first, "Plague of Idiots," about three roommates and the crazy/destructive antics going on in their apartment. Stephen circulated his play and it was picked up and produced in California. Recently, he's graduated to full length plays and, since January, has been working on a story about reconciliation between brothers. Stephen says it takes an average of ten months to pull a play together - ninety pages into the first draft he still can’t be certain the story won’t morph into something else entirely. Stephen is a part of ESPA with fellow writer Melissa Annis as well as the P73 Writer’s group. While Stephen admits his best thoughts come while exercising – and send him running to his notebook to jot down the idea on paper before he can finish his workout – he can often be found at Brooklyn Coffee House in Crown Heights. The white noise helps get his creative juices flowing.
Winter Miller, Ditmas Park
Born in a small town in Western Massachusetts called Montague, Winter Miller has lived in Brooklyn since 2005. Early in her career, Winter wanted to be an actor, but after constantly being cast as a young boy, she realized she might prefer creating to performing. A friend from her acting camp inspired Winter to apply to NYU for acting and Columbia for playwriting. Her acceptance at Columbia sent her down the playwriting track. Winter was a founding member of a group called 13 Playwrights, which produced her first play "The Penetration Play" in November 2004. It's about two best friends navigating their sexuality and establishing whether it's biologically determined. Winter Miller’s favorite play was "In Darfur." This account of three interwoven lives at a camp for displaced persons premiered at The Public Theater. It was again produced at their 1,800 seat Central Park venue to a standing room only crowd, a first for a female playwright. When Winter isn’t home drinking tea, writing and loving her cat, she teachers writing to students of all ages.