Brynn Lewallen, Rijah Newell, and Liz Freeman in the 2022 Maine Playwrights Festival.(Photo credit: Bree Candland)
Brynn Lewallen, Rijah Newell, and Liz Freeman in the 2022 Maine Playwrights Festival.(Photo credit: Bree Candland)
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An annual event of local playwrights will premiere five new plays over the course of 10 days next month.

Now in its twenty-first year, the Maine Playwrights Festival will run from April 6-16. Five new plays to be featured in the festival were chosen from an applicant pool of more than 50 scripts, according to a release from the festival. Those plays were written by Todd Brian Backus, Kerri Elissa Becker, Joe O’Donnell, Hollie Pryor and a duo of Nolan Ellsworth and Shannon Wade. 

The plays were selected by a committee of local theater professionals. The writers are developing and rehearsing the plays with playwright-in-residence Jule Selbo, and are working with Maine-based directors and actors.

Daniel Burson, the festival’s artistic director, said this year’s selection represents a wide range of material.

“In one evening of theater, audiences will go from a surprise party to a hospital room to an abandoned warehouse; plays set in the future, the present, and the past; and all of them created by terrific writers who call Maine their home,” Burson said in the release.

Burson, now in his ninth season running the festival, told the Phoenix this will be the second live version of the festival following the Covid-19 pandemic. After skipping 2020 entirely, and doing an online version in 2021, they returned to in-person last year.

“I would say our audience numbers were down from the pre-pandemic levels,” Burson explained. “Not radically, but noticeably.”

This year, he’s hoping for a return to something closer to pre-pandemic levels. When it first launched, Burson said there weren’t many opportunities for local writers to have their plays performed and seen, which is the impetus for the festival.

“It’s all about trying to give opportunities for Maine writers to get their work out there and get in front of audiences in their home state.”

The festival will also feature the reading of five semi-finalist scripts from the selection process, which will happen on April 2 at 7 p.m. They will also hold a reading of Selbo’s newest script on April 11 at 7 p.m.

The final event of the festival will be a high school playwriting showcase that will occur later in May. This programming is now in its fourth season, and was something Burson pointed to as one way the festival has grown since its smaller beginnings. 

The 21st annual Maine Playwrights Festival will take place at the Studio Theater at Portland Stage on 25 Forest Ave. Festival tickets are available at


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