Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit is an exciting program designed to support and develop new work by Chicago playwrights. Over the course of a season, a group of four commissioned writers meet bimonthly with members of the Goodman’s literary staff to develop and workshop their plays-in-progress. The experience culminates with readings of each of the new plays. Plays developed in the Unit have gone on to receive readings and workshop productions in the New Stages series, as well as full productions at the Goodman

Dates are set for in-person readings of seven new works produced by Playwrights Unit members from the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 cohorts. The reading of The Madness of Mary Todd is by Terry Guest and directed by Lili-Anne Brown (Saturday, October 9 at 7:30pm); La Fuente De Cascabeles is by Exal Iraheta and directed by Denise Yvette Serna (Thursday, October 14 at 7:30pm); Expatriate is by Steve Pickering and directed by Sandra Marquez (Friday, October 15 at 7:30pm); Rust is by Nancy García Loza and directed by Laura Alcalá Baker (Thursday, October 21 at 7:30pm); You Deserve To Be Here is by Alex Lubischer and directed by Jess McLeod (Saturday, October  23 at 7:30pm); Boxing Play is by Marisa Carr and directed by Steph Paul (Thursday, October 28 at 7:30pm); and Rack Up is by Eliza Bent and directed by Jessica Fisch (Thursday, November 4 at 7:30pm).

In addition, the Goodman names four new Chicago-based writers to its 2021/2022 Playwrights Unit cohort: Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom, who created the anthology and immersive audiobook series Fairy Tales for Sun-Kissed Women; Susan H. Pak, a 2020 and 2021 finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference; Andrew Rosendorf, a current core writer with the Playwrights’ Center; and Omer Abbas Salem, whose play The Secretaries was developed in part through the Goodman’s Future Labs program.

Press Releases

September 14, 2021: Playwrights Unit Readings Appear Oct. 9-Nov.4; Announcing the  2021/2022 Playwrights Unit


Playwrights Unit

  • Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom (2021/2022)
    Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom (2021/2022)

    Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom is a mixed-media artist, writer and intuitive healer. She creates Fairy Tales for Sun-Kissed Women, an anthology and series of immersive audiobooks. She was a finalist for the 2019 National Playwrights Conference at the ONeill and is the recipient of the Tutterow Fellowship through Chicago Dramatists. Her play A Laying on of Hands was featured in The Story Theatres New Play Festival. Her witchy fable, Once in a Bleu Moon, was showcased by Sideshow Theatre. The Bright Light of the Soul was commissioned and workshopped by The New Coordinates. She is also a contributing playwright to The Swell, Refracted Theatre Companys radio play podcast. Windy City Reviews hailed her as a craftsman of the English language” for her debut novel, Reasons for Being. She has guest lectured at the University of California-Davis and Illinois Humanities. Her artwork has been exhibited at The Freedom and Movement Gallery and The Breathing Room. | @FairyTalesForSunKissedWomen

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  • Susan H. Pak (2021/2022)
    Susan H. Pak (2021/2022)

    Susan H. Pak has taught playwriting, screenwriting, television writing and webseries writing at the university level for over a decade, as well as at Chicago Dramatists where she was a resident playwright. Pak received an MFA in writing for the screen and stage at Northwestern University, and received both a BA in English and a JD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her plays center on the myriad ways in which Asian Americans, and in particular Korean American women, resist the seduction of protection through assimilation. Productions and readings of her work include Miguk Saram at Local Lab 2021, Election at Goodman Theatre, The Fixer at the Steppenwolf Theatre, Marabar at Chicago Dramatists, Ghost Girl at the Workshop Theater, T.A.B. at New Yorks Downtown Urban Theater Festival and the Manhattan Repertory Theater Festival, Haters at New Yorks Midtown International Theater Festival, Baby Shower at New Yorks Network One Act Festival, Incredible Invisible at Chicagos Bailiwick Directors Fest and The Writers at Theater Unleashed in Los Angeles. Her plays Miguk Saram and The F*ck House were both finalists at the 2020 and 2021 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference.

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  • Andrew Rosendorf (2021/2022)
    Andrew Rosendorf (2021/2022)

    Andrew Rosendorf's work has been produced or developed at La Jolla, MCC, KC Rep, Signature Theatre, the National New Play Network, American Theater Company, Nashville Rep, City Theatre, Geva Theatre, Actors Express, Curious Theatre Company and Local Theater Company. He is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, a Venturous Theater Fund Grant and a MAP Fund Grant for Refuge, which he co-created with Satya Jnani Chávez. He is an alum of NNPNs Playwright-in-Residence program, the Ingram New Works program, terraNOVA Collectives Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and has been a fellow of SPACE on Ryder Farm, Tofte Lake Center, VCCA and MacDowell Colony. He was a previous McKnight and Jerome Fellow at the PlaywrightsCenter. He is a current Core Writer with the PlaywrightsCenter and an Associate Artist with Local Theater Company. He is currently in development for a television pilot with Amblin at Peacock.

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  • Omer Abbas Salem (2021/2022)
    Omer Abbas Salem (2021/2022)

    Omer Abbas Salem is a Chicago actor and playwright. As an actor, he's worked with Jackalope Theatre, Steep Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Griffin Theatre, The New Coordinates, The House, Bailiwick Chicago, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Atlantic Theater. His play Mosque4Mosque was developed through the National Queer Theater in 2020 and then chosen for further development through Steppenwolf Theatre's SCOUT Program in 2021. The Secretaries was workshopped through The New Coordinates, a semi-finalist in Definition Theatre's 2021 Amplify Commission and developed through Goodman Theatre's Future Labs. Pretty Shahid was commissioned as part of Jackalope Theatre's 2020/21 New Frontier Series and Love in the Time of Jonestown: A Radio Play was commissioned and recorded by The New Coordinates in 2021. He was an 2017/2018 apprentice of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and is an ensemble member with Steep Theatre and The New Coordinates. He was the recipient of the 2021 Cunningham Commission through DePaul University. He is represented by DDO Artist Agency and the Gersh Agency.

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  • Eliza Bent (2020/2021)
    Eliza Bent (2020/2021)

    Eliza Bent is a playwright and performer whose work includes Toilet Fire (Time Out New York Critics' Pick); Aloha, Aloha, or When I Was QueenIndeed, friend!The Hotel Colors (The L Magazine best of 2013); On a Clear Day I Can See to ElbaThe Beyonce, (Payne Award for Excellence); She of the VoiceReal Talk / Kip TalkBlue Wizard / Black Wizard(published by Sam French) and Bonnie’s Last Flight. As an actor, Bent has performed in pint-sized New York theaters, regionally and toured internationally with the Obie award-winning performance ensemble Half Straddle. Bent was a senior editor at American Theatre magazine from 2006-2015 and her writing has appeared in Time Out New YorkThe Village VoiceHEEBThe Brooklyn RailStagesEmergency INDEX and ELLE. Bent graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in philosophy from Boston College and has an MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College. 

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  • Marisa Carr (2020/2021)
    Marisa Carr (2020/2021)

    Marisa Carr is a Milwaukee native who recently transplanted to Chicago after a decade in the Twin Cities. Her work has been presented by theaters including the Guthrie, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Pillsbury House + Theater, the Playwrights’ Center, Intermedia Arts, University of Iowa MFA Program and Pangea World Theatre. Selected recent awards and honors include Scratchpad at the Playwrights' Realm (2019-2020), P73 finalist (2019-2020), American Blues Theater Blue Ink Award finalist (2020), Bay Area Playwrights’ Festival finalist (2019), McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting finalist (2019), Jerome Artist Fellowship finalist (2019) and Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship semi-finalist (2019). Marisa is the co-founder and former artistic director of the Turtle Theater Collective, a Twin Cities-based company committed to producing high-quality, contemporary work that explores Native experiences. She is Turtle Mountain Ojibwe from the Turtle clan. 

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  • Terry Guest (2020/2021)
    Terry Guest (2020/2021)

    Terry Guest is a Chicago-based playwright, actor and teaching artist. As an actor he has worked with theatre companies across the country including Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre and The Story Theatre (Chicago); Alliance Theatre, Actors Express, Aurora Theatre (Atlanta); and Arts Garage (West Palm Beach). His play At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen is the recipient of the 2018 Out Front Theatre Spectrum Series Grant and had its world premiere at The Story Theatre. Other plays include Michael Jackson and the Devil’s Book (Jackalope Theatre Commission); Ghost Town (Chicago Children’s Theatre); DEAD GIRLS (Random Acts Chicago) and Marie Antionette and the Magical Negroes (workshopped with The Story Theatre). 

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  • Exal Iraheta (2020/2021)
    Exal Iraheta (2020/2021)

    Exal Iraheta is a Salvi-American playwright and screenwriter from Houston, based in Chicago. His full-length play They Could Give No Name was part of Victory Gardens' 2019 Ignition Festival of New Plays, an honorable mention for the 2019 Relentless Award, a 2020 National Playwrights Conference finalist and a 2020 Judith Royer Excellence in Playwriting finalist. His short play Open Venas was produced in the 2019 Theater Masters’ Take Ten New York Short Play Festival and The Untold Collectiv’s 2019 Latinx Scratch festival in London, England. His full-length play Rules of a Closed Door was a semi-finalist for the 2019 Activate: Midwest New Play Fest. Recently, Exal was featured in the May/June 2020 issue of American Theatre magazine as part of its “People to Watch” list. Exal earned an MFA from Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Film & Video Production.

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  • Monty Cole (2019/2020)
    Monty Cole (2019/2020)

    Monty Cole is a Chicago-based director and playwright and has worked on productions, readings and workshops for Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Alley Theatre, Court Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, American Theatre Company, The Gift Theatre, House Theatre of Chicago, Cape Cod Theatre Project and others. He’s currently commissioned to adapt Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Cole is also working with collaborator and choreographer Breon Arzell on revitalizing In Dahomey for the CalArts Center for New Performance. In fall 2019, Cole will direct The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) and Black Odyssey by Marcus Gardley (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). He recently received his MFA Directing degree at the California Institute of the Arts.

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  • Nancy García Loza (2019/2020)
    Nancy García Loza (2019/2020)

    Nancy García Loza is a self-taught pocha playwright rooted in Chicago, Illinois and Jalisco, México.  She is currently an Artistic Associate and NNPN Producer-in-Residence at 16th Street Theater and an Artistic Associate with Teatro Vista. Her play Tocaya will receive a workshop production with UIUC’s Free Armory Theatre in fall 2019. Loza is currently under commission from Make-Believe Association, 16th Street Theater, Chicago Dramatists, Teatro Leyden and more. Her plays include BRAVA: a folktale con música (Make-Believe Association, 2019 and featured in New York Times); MACHA: a pocha sister story (recognized in Steppenwolf’s “The Mix” list); Tocaya (developed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Rasca Cielos (developed at Theater on the Lake (2019); 16th Street Theater (2018); and Chicago Theatre Marathon (2017). She has also worked with Something Marvelous, Broken Nose Theatre, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, Collaboraction, and more. Loza is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation alum of DePaul University, with a double concentration in Latin American Studies and Spanish. 

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  • Alex Lubischer (2019/2020)
    Alex Lubischer (2019/2020)

    Alex Lubischer is a Jeff Award-winning playwright originally from rural Nebraska. His plays include Bobbie Clearly (Roundabout Theatre Company, Steep Theatre), Pivot, Night Country, The Quonsets (Yale Cabaret, co-written with Majkin Holmquist), Blood Special, Pig.Gov and Survey No. 5. He has developed new work at Playwrights Horizons, Page 73, Atlantic Theater Company, The Orchard Project, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Victory Gardens Theater, Haven, First Floor Theater and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Lubischer was the 2017/18 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Roundabout Theatre Company. He has been a semifinalist for the P73 Playwriting Fellowship and a three-time finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. He is currently working on commissions from Roundabout and South Coast Repertory. Lubischer received his MFA at the Yale School of Drama. 

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  • Steve Pickering (2019/2020)
    Steve Pickering (2019/2020)

    Steve Pickering is a Chicago-based actor, director and playwright. He has appeared in over 30 productions at Goodman Theatre since 1987 and is currently a Goodman Theatre Creative Partner. He is the project manager and co-founder of Shanghai Low Theatricals (SLT), which adapts literary works for the stages. Recent SLT adaptations (often credited under the group’s pen name, Althos Low) include George Orwell’s Animal Farm for the Steppenwolf Young Adult Program (2014 commission), Alastair Reynolds’ Diamond Dogs for House Theatre of Chicago and a co-adaptation with director David Kersnar of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas for the Lookingglass Theatre Company (2018 commission - Jeff Award nominee for new work/adaptation). His new adaptation of three Edith Wharton gothics, Of Men and Ghosts, was chosen for Peninsula Players’ 2019 “The Play’s the Thing” winter reading series. As an actor, Pickering has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, at the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, in London’s West End, and with many major regionals both in Chicago, and across the country. He is a former Artistic Associate with the Organic Theater, Artistic Director of the Next Theatre in Evanston and a 2016 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow with the Ten Chimneys Foundation.

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