2023 Essential Theatre Play Festival: A Look Back

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With a SOLD OUT closing weekend and rave reviews for the record 15 new plays by Georgia playwrights that audiences saw at the Festival this summer, thank you for a fantastic Festival experience that reminds us of all the reasons why we do what we do. Thanks to everyone — onstage, offstage, and in the audience — who turned out to make the 2023 Essential Festival one to remember. 

…Now to start planning for our 25th Anniversary Festival next summer!

The Manuscript, by Matthew Hoffman

Enthusiastic praise for The Manuscript:

“The play is just beautiful. I was truly so impressed and moved. Remarkable performances.”

“an intimate portrait of love from different angles & understanding” 

“Please make plans to see this play. The incredible performances of Hannah Morris and Laurie Beasley are so raw and vulnerable as they navigate some of the messiest of all human emotions: grief. I was deeply moved.”

“The play unfolds beautifully, and I love the way the second act has us second-guessing our first act partiality…Just a terrific night at the theatre that we need right now.” 

2023 Essential Playwriting Award Winner The Manuscript by Matthew Hoffman is a compelling psychological drama about what we owe to those we’ve lost.

CAST: Hannah Morris, Laurie Beasley, Luke Lew (U/S George Kotler-Wallace), Charis Sellick, Eleanor McClain

The Wishing Place, by Beverly Austin

Audiences loved The Wishing Place: 

”The play is just beautiful. I was truly so impressed and moved. Remarkable performances.”

“An excellent performance. Both plays this year are exceptional.”  

“It was wonderful!”

2020 Essential Playwriting Award Co-Winner The Wishing Place by Beverly Austin is a poetic drama about two families in 1960s rural Georgia, one black and one white, trying to find their path and keep their dreams alive. 

CAST: David Rucker III, Terry Kiser, Sheri Wilson, Caleb Wilkinson, Aliya Kraar, Nancy Powell, and George Kotler-Wallace

A moving experience with Walk With Me:

“Through her personal journey and touching storytelling, Carolyn shed light on the realities of dementia. Her performance was not only informative, but also filled with valuable resources for anyone affected by this condition. The after show discussion about positive caregiving with social worker Anne McSweeney, owner of CEU Creations was very helpful.”

“Such a beautiful piece, written & performed by an equally beautiful person!!”

“Amazing one woman show written and performed by Carolyn Cook. A special and loving tribute to mothers and caregivers.”

Yanni Stone and the Honeypot Trap by Anterior Leverett, presented in partnership with Hush Harbor Lab

SOLD OUT Hush Harbor Lab reading for the second year in a row

Director: Jade Lambert Smith
Dramaturg: Dalyla McGee
SM: Jasmine Waters

CAST: Charity Irby, Ebony Jerry, Azhane Kennedy, Carlette Jennings, Kaleb Mitchell, and David Wilkerson.

Four new plays by Georgia playwrights:

Water Boyz by Kwik Jones, directed by Damian Lockhart

The Rock and the Hard Place by Emily McClain, directed by Kyle Brumley

Pas de Deux by Sarah Swiderski, directed by Kati Grace Kirby

The Other Bones by Beverley Sylvester, directed by Julia Barton

“Stage readings are key for me because they help me hear and see the story. I can sit and listen and learn…My experience with this reading has been nothing but first class. The director Damion Lockhart has been nothing but spectacular. The actors…give this story so much life so much character. I’ve heard the play read before, but this is the first time I’ve heard the play. Bravo Gents.”

-Kwik Jones

10 Minute Play Bootcamp Showcase

Audience turned out on August 12 to see seven brand new 10-Minute Plays by Bootcamp playwrights Amanda Vick, Annaliese Grace, Erin Moore, Katherine Brokaw, Linda Green, Rosalyn Grimes, and Thom Stanley: