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July 14, 2015

Chautauqua Theater Company Supports Emerging Voices of American Theater with The New Play Workshop

Jason Wells’s The Engine of Our Ruin launches 2015 Signature Staged Readings Series
(Chautauqua, NY) Chautauqua Theater Company (CTC), under the leadership of Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch and Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy, presents Jason Wells’s The Engine of Our Ruin for two Signature Staged Readings on July 17 and 18 on the Bratton Stage.

Directed by Resident Director Ethan McSweeny (numerous CTC credits, most recently A Raisin in the Sun; Broadway’s revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man), The Engine of Our Ruin’s ensemble cast features guest artists Demosthenes Chrysan (Broadway’s Golden Boy), Jamestown, New York recent transplant Ronald Orbach (Broadway’s Laughter On The 23rd Floor), Stephen Pelinski (CTC’s You Can’t Take It With You), and Rasha Zamamiri (CTC’s Transit, Daniel and Patrick Lazour’s new musical We Live in Cairo). CTC Conservatory actors Ricardo Davila (Yale School of Drama), Jessica Ko (Brown/Trinity Graduate Acting), Kevin Shewey (UC Irvine), Jack Berenholtz (NYU Graduate Acting), and Audrey Corsa (The Juilliard School) round out the cast.

The creative team is led by CTC’s Design Fellows, including Charlie Jicha (Set), Dominique Hill (Costumes), Megan Turnquist (Lighting), Brandon Reed (Sound), and James Palmer (Assistant Director). Jessica Kidwell serves as Stage Manager.

The Engine of Our Ruin: A Comedy of Misinformation and Misunderstanding

Jason Wells’s newest play, The Engine of Our Ruin, is a mischievously sharp-tongued comedy of misinformation and misunderstanding that unravels as a routine trade agreement nearly escalates into a declaration of war.

Wells’s first play, Men of Tortuga, had a critically-acclaimed debut at Steppenwolf Theatre's First Look Repertory of New Work, went on to a successful run at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, and returned to Chicago for a production at Profiles Theatre. Wells’s second play, Perfect Mendacity, was a commission from Manhattan Theatre Club and the Sloan Foundation. Like Men of Tortuga, it debuted at Steppenwolf and went on to its official world premiere at the Asolo. In 2010, it was a finalist for the American Theatre Critics Association’s Steinberg/New Play Award, and won the ATCA M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. The North Plan debuted at First Look in 2010, and had its official world premiere at Portland Center Stage in Portland, Oregon, followed by numerous productions around the country.

“To be able to work on a play in a workshop setting is a wonderful opportunity. My plays are written to be performed, not just read, so a staged reading is an important step toward a fully developed production. The workshop process lets you get in front of an audience and really see what’s working and what isn’t,” says Wells. 

The New Play Workshop and Signature Staged Readings

The New Play Workshop (NPW) illustrates CTC’s dedication to supporting important new American playwrights.

As part of the NPW, CTC produces a Signature Staged Readings series. Since its inception more than ten years ago, the series has gained incredible momentum and developed into something truly unique. As one writer describes it, the NPW readings are “not just another music stand stop for plays in development – they’re a genuine opportunity to see the play come to life with top actors, designers, and directors for an audience that truly welcomes new theatre.”

More than 175 plays were submitted to be part of Chautauqua Theater Company’s 2015 New Play Workshop Signature Staged Readings series. Of those submissions, CTC staff selected two new plays to benefit from one-week workshops and staged readings.

"We created the New Play Workshop to make new play development central to CTC's mission and the evolution of the Signature Staged Readings series has created its own hybrid of theater and workshop that allows a writer to see his or her work under near performance conditions,” explains CTC Resident Director Ethan McSweeny.

Past seasons have hosted new work by Nikole Beckwith, Zayd Dohrn, Kate Fodor, Rinne Groff, Molly Smith Metzler, Alex Lewin, Michael Mitnick, David Schulner, David Zellnik, and Anna Ziegler, among others. Our past NPWs have gone on to receive productions both Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theater Club, Primary Stages, Playwrights Horizons and at regional theaters across the country.

For the 2015 Signature Staged Readings, Jason Wells’s The Engine of Our Ruin is complemented by David West Read’s Afterlove, which will be presented August 5 - 7.

New play development at Chautauqua Theater Company is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Roe Green Foundation.

The Design Fellowship Program

CTC hosts four graduate-level Design Fellows each season. The Fellows design both of The New Play Workshop Signature Staged Readings, giving them the opportunity to work closely with professional directors and playwrights in intensive one-week collaborations.

As a way to commit to emerging designers in the same way that CTC has always been committed to emerging actors, CTC instituted the Design Fellowship program as part of the CTC Conservatory in 2006. The Design Fellows also serve as Assistant Designers on all Mainstage productions.


About Chautauqua Theater Company
Dedicated to the next generation of theater artists, the development of new work, first-rate productions of modern and contemporary classics, and fresh insight into Shakespeare’s canon, CTC produces the best of a year-round regional theater within an eight week summer season as the resident theater of the Chautauqua Institution. Chautauqua Theater Company is where the finest theater artists of tomorrow bridge the gap between their training and the professional world. For more information about Chautauqua Theater Company, please visit

The New Play Workshop at Chautauqua Theater Company
The New Play Workshop (NPW) is the component of Chautauqua Theater Company dedicated to fostering important new American playwrights and to providing a safe and stimulating playground for artists to develop new work for the theater.

About Chautauqua Institution
The pre-eminent expression of lifelong learning in the United States, Chautauqua Institution is a 140-year-old community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities.

Roya Kousari
Marketing Manager, Chautauqua Theater Company 
Office: 716.357.6437
Cell: 412.448.4712