Essential Theatre Welcomes Your Support

Essential Theatre is very proud of its reputation for presenting high quality productions of new works including a world premiere by a Georgia Playwright. We employ a diverse group of participants and cater to a diverse audience.

To help us further promote our mission and grow our company, Essential Theatre is actively seeking four to six new board members. Although not required, Essential Theatre hopes to find persons who fall into one or more of the following categories: An entrepreneur who has successfully started and run a small business. A person with management experience in a large corporation that may be interested in charitable giving and/or corporate sponsorship. A person well seated in the community who has contacts with community philanthropists with a history of or an interest in supporting the arts. A person with a strong experience in marketing, preferably in marketing for a non profit organization. A person with skills in Event Planning or Fundraising.

Board Members should have a passion for new plays, and are asked to attend a majority of quarterly board meetings, attend company productions, support the company with a financial contribution and help the company with fund raising activities. As always, Essential is an equal opportunity organization and seeks Board Members without regard to sex, race, creed or sexual orientation. Anyone interested in becoming one of the newest Board Members of Essential Theatre should forward their resume to Artistic Director, Peter Hardy at If you know of any qualified person who may be interested in serving in this capacity, please forward this notice to them.


2009 Playwriting Award Winner Announced

The Essential Theatre is pleased to announce that Vynnie Meli’s play JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS has been chosen as the winner of the 2009 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition. Vynnie will receive a cash prize of $600.00 and her play will be produced as part of the Essential Theatre’s 2009 Power Plays Festival, to be presented in July of 2009 at the Actor’s Express performance space.

The story of JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS centers on the members of an all-female jazz band, touring through the Deep Sou th during World War Two. The musicians are all African-American except for one Jewish woman, who has to disguise herself to fit in with the rest of the group, at a time when “mixed-race” bands weren’t tolerated anywhere in the United States. (This was also a time when women weren’t commonly accepted into the all-male world of jazz music.)

With the most submissions we’ve ever received, it was exceptionally difficult to make our final decision this year. The Essential Theatre would like to thank all the playwrights who sent us their work, and we’ll be doing our best to contact each of them individually.

Peter Hardy
Artistic Director
Essential Theatre


Dramatist Guild Report from Atlanta

Dramatists Guild of America
Regional Report from Atlanta
Pamela Turner
July 2, 2008
New Play Festivals can be a playwright’s best friend or they can be the crassest means for a theatre to benefit on the backs of the eternally hopeful. In the first case, the playwright can get exposure and a chance to learn more about her work. In the latter, the play is just fodder for someone else’s money cow: be it a grant, a newly oriented mission statement, or some coins toward last season’s deficit. Fortunately, there are Forces of Good positioned throughout the country to face off the forces of evil (those guys will get no capital letters from me). Examples of these Golden Kingdoms in the SE Region are the small, as in the Essential Theatre in Atlanta, and the large, as in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Southern Writer’s Project in Montgomery. Though a budgetary Mutt and Jeff, these two theatres have a few very important things in common. Each is committed to producing new work, each includes a development component to the process, each encourages participation by the playwright, each has a regional emphasis, and each holds a high opinion of playwrights even before they’re20famous. Imagine that, Mama!
The Essential Theatre Power Plays Festival is only a stone-throw away—just navigate through impossible in-town-Atlanta traffic till you get to Little Five Points, a true counter-culture melting pot where a bong is still available in a shop next to the place with the $200 Nikes, park by the huge 22 x 145-foot Singing in the Dark mural painted by David Fichter in 1992, and stroll past the 7 Stages Theatre box office on the way to their 65-seat Back Stage Theatre. There the ten-year old Essential Theatre, under the helm of Founding Artistic Director Peter Hardy, produces its month-long Festival each summer, featuring a repertory of three new plays running in rotation. Although some of the plays have been produced elsewhere and may be by “known” writers, they are all at least regional premieres and one of the pieces is always by a Georgia Playwright. To emphasize their commitment to local writers and in order to encourage “the creation of new dramatic literature”, Essential inaugurated the annual Essential Theatre Playwriting Award in 2001, dedicated exclusively to Georgia playwrights. The winning play, chosen from open submissions, is a world premiere that provides local performance teams “the chance to work on exciting new plays” and also allows an interested audience to participate in the development starting with open workshops and staged readings, and right through to the full productions. The winning playwright receives a cash award of $500 in lieu of royalties for the approximately 12 performances. As an added benefit, Hardy submits the festival plays into consideration for The Metropolitan Atlanta Theater Awards, established in 2004 to recognize local playwrights as well as actors, directors, tech staff, and choreographers. The Metropolitan folks have limited some of the categories for the “best of the best” awards, but they (brilliantly) allow for unlimited submissions of original work productions. Just ready to open, the 2008 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award winner is West of Eden by Letitia Sweitzer, a “clever, insightful comedy about the world’s first dysfunctional family.” The Power Plays productions are minimalist and well-regarded, with an emphasis on showcasing the script. One of the reasons the Essential Theatre is so playwright friendly is that Hardy is one himself, as well as an actor and director. He reports that “by the late 1990s, I’d already won a few contests [including a stint at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in 1993 with his play Mysterious Connections], gone through some development programs, and seen my work produced.” He decided he wanted to workshop plays as part of the Festival because he hoped to “provide writers with the kind of support and helpful experiences I’d like to receive with my own plays. From what I’ve seen, a bad (or wrong-headed) production or workshop can do a writer more harm than good.” He says that although “Production wo rk is our primary goal…we’re hoping to be able to give more time and resources to development work as well.” Starting with the first Essential Theatre Playwriting Award winner, a 19-year old Lauren Gunderson, Hardy has been shrewd in his selections and devoted in his support of other playwrights. As I waited to see the first of this year’s Power Plays, he mentioned that although he could do it, it wouldn’t “seem right” to spend all these resources producing plays all written by Peter Hardy.

Playreading: “Own Personal Hero” by Pamela Turner

October 19th 8:00pm
Me Own Personal Hero by Pamela Turner
As part of Georgia Open Arts Month,Go ARTS    the Essential Theatre in conjunction with Working Title Playwrights will be hosting a FREE playreading of Pamela Turner’s ME OWN PERSONAL HERO, a script we’ve been workshopping.  It will be held at Horizon Theatre 8:00 p.m., Oct. 19, .  A discussion lead by playwright Pamela Turner, director Peter Hardy and James Beck will follow the reading.
Musician — Patricia McLaughlin
Seamus Monaghan – Alex Van
Padraic McCarry – Peter Hardy
Paddy Kearney – Kate Graham
Seamey Monaghan – Nick Arapoglou
Stage Directions – Kelly Young
Georgia Open Arts Month is your October-long chance to GO see theater, music, dance, exhibits, festivals & more goin’s on in greater Atlanta & all of Georgia.  Thousands of Discount & Free admissions for over 100 arts & entertainment events! change.

2009 Power Plays Festival Update  Essential Theatre is proud to announce that the 11th Annual Power Plays Festival will be held July 2009 at Actor’s Express. This space can accomodate our growing audiences and offers free parking. More details will be shared as they become available. More information about the Playwriting Award Winner and other fesitval plays will be released soon. 


Working Title Playwrights Invitaton

I know the Power Plays Festival is underway, and I have told all my WTPers that I intend to see all three plays after Tuesday (once I have the first of my two readings accomplished), but I’m hoping to entice you to one of the two of Daphne Mintz’s play, In Lieu of Flowers. It’s the first of our two Summer Reading Series selections will be read at Actor’s Express this coming Monday and Tuesday, 7:30pm.

Daphne Mintz’s romantic drama, In Lieu of Flowers, asks many questions about love and commitment and the possible moral ambiguities inherent in both.

“A touching story immersed in a small community. Obviously a writer who understands that loving her characters without judgment is important.” — Celise Kalke.

“I really like the mix of humor and heartache, and the earthiness of the characters — I appreciate their frankness at times…” — Caleb Boyd.

“In Lieu of Flowers is a beautiful meditation on love and our attempts to find it, keep it, and cope when it is gone. Daphne’s funny and touching play allows us to see that family and relationships are like flowers — diverse, colorful, and filled with hidden meanings.” — (director) Betty Hart

I truly love this script and think Daphne is a talent on the rise. I also think that, while it’s still got some room to grow, it’s one of the best scripts WTP has ever produced and I am quite proud of that.

WTP is a changed and changing organism. We now have 52 members – unbelievable! – and most of those new members are younger, about half of them African-American, and a little more than half female. What’s most exciting to me about this growth is that these younger, culturally diverse writers are writing and with a purpose.

I hope to see you at either reading — the cast includes LaParee Young, Lorilyn Harper, Will Cobbs, Eugene Russell with narration by Emmy-award nominated writer / spoken word poet Jon Goode.
Jill Patrick


Essential Theatre garners 15 MAT Award nominations

The 2008 Metropolitan Atlanta Theater Awards is proud to nominate the following people/theaters:

Leading Actor, Play:
Spencer G. Stephens – “Man” – Fix Me So I Can Stand – The Essential Theatre

Leading Actress, Play:
Johanna Linden – “Mrs. Bob Cratchit” – Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge – The Essential Theatre

Major Supporting Actor, Play:
Bobby Labartino – “Fezziwig, etc” – Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge – The Essential Theatre

Major Supporting Actress, Play:
Sarah Falkenburg – “Little Nell, etc” – Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge – The Essential Theatre

Costume Design, Play:
Jane Kroesig – Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge – The Essential Theatre

Lighting Design, Play:
Greg Hanthorn – Fix Me So I Can Stand – The Essential Theatre
Greg Hanthorn – Night Travels – The Essential Theatre

Sound Design, Play:
Spencer G. Stephens – Night Travels – The Essential Theatre

Original Work:
“Fix Me So I Can Stand” by Jean Sterrett – The Essential Theatre
“Night Travels” by Ellen McQueen, Karen Wurl, & Charlotte Fleck Travels – The Essential Theatre

Moira Thornett Director’s Award, Play:
Peter Hardy – Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge – The Essential Theatre
Dina Shadwell – Fix Me So I Can Stand – The Essential Theatre
Ellen McQueen – Night Travels – The Essential Theatre

Overall Performance of a Play:
“Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” – The Essential Theatre
“Fix Me So I Can Stand” – The Essential Theatre

You can also see the nominees or find out about the Award Ceremony by going to for more information.


Valhalla: your comments

One of the most enjoyable, thought provoking plays I’ve seen in a long time. Times past and present merge so artfully that every time I thought I knew where this play was going it moved in an unexpected direction, as life, past and present, does. The acting, staging, direction of “Valhalla” have put this script on my “must read” list. Congratulations, Peter, for a grand kickoff for Essential Theatre’s 2008 Festival!
Valetta Anderson

I’ve just come home from opening night of “Valhalla,” the first play in the Essential Theatre Power Plays Festival. Script, direction, cast and crew — all were great. I loved every moment and encourage all to catch it! For a sneak peak of the production, as wells as show dates and times, go to
Jo Howarth


Essential Theatre Playwriting Workshops

The support, encouragement and development of new plays by Georgia writers have always been an important part of the Essential Theatre’s mission. Ten years ago we committed to producing an annual festival that would always present at least one World Premiere by a resident Georgia playwright – after a couple of years, the selection process evolved into an actual contest, the Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition. The first winner of the award was 18-year-old Lauren Gunderson of Decatur, whose play PARTS THEY CALL DEEP went on to win national prizes and was produced Off-Broadway.

In the past ten years we’ve also produced new plays by Georgia writers such as Karen Wurl, Karla Jennngs, Bill Gibson, Karen Page, Valetta Anderson, Ellen McQueen and Jean Sterrett. Since we premiered it in the Essential Theatre’s 2006 Power Plays Festival, Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee’s CHARM SCHOOL has gone on to a successful production at Atlanta’s Horizon Theatre, and will next be seen at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia.

When we started producing these annual festivals in 1999, it seemed to us that the best way for us to help Georgia writers was to give their plays a full production, rather than the staged readings which were pretty commonplace back then. I’m a playwright myself, and I’ve had productions and workshops and staged readings of my plays done all over the country – and there’s no question in my mind that you can learn more about a play from a full-out production than from even the best-intentioned reading. The set, the lights, the costumes, the (rehearsed!) actors, the audience – they’re all vital to the theatre experience, and to the fulfillment of the playwright’s vision.

But you can’t produce every play of promise that comes your way – at least, we can’t, not right now. So, when interesting plays were submitted to the contest but failed to win the prize, we’ve tried to offer some development help to the writers – not as often as we’d have liked to, but we’re hoping to increase our efforts in that area.

For a few years we’d present staged readings on dark nights of the Essential Festival. More recently we’ve taken a new approach – getting the playwright together with a group of actors, in a private setting, to read and discuss the play. A great deal of care goes into the selection of the actors for these readings – I think that the wrong group of actors can do a playwright more harm than good , leading them to think something’s wrong with the play, when it’s really the actors who are the problem. But when the right actors — not just talented, but well-cast — are reading a script, the playwright can get a much better idea what’s working and what isn’t. When the readers are bringing your work to life, making your words sound like everything you wanted and more – and then they come to a passage they just can’t make work, chances are you’ve got some rewriting to do.

After these sessions, we encourage the playwright to do whatever revisions they want to – and then, after a while, we get them together with another group of actors to read the play again. (Sometimes the same actors, sometimes not.) And if that seems to go well, we’ll probably try to put together a staged public reading, to bring an audience into the equation.

That’s the process we went through with APRIL 10, 1535, a play by Cheryldee Huddleston of Athens, culminating in a public reading at the Stage Door Players space in Dunwoody, in the winter of 2006. We also went through that two-reading process with WEST OF EDEN by Atlanta’s Letitia Sweitzer – but by the time of the second reading, the play (through some very simple and minor changes) had been improved so greatly that it was chosen for the 2008 Playwriting Award.

We’ll be presenting its World Premiere in our 2008 Power Plays Festival, running in the Backstage Theatre at 7 Stages from June 27-July 27 this summer. Other shows in the Festival will be the Regional Premieres of Paul Rudnick’s historical comedy, VALHALLA, and Gina Gionfriddo’s drama AFTER ASHLEY. It’s always our policy to present our World Premieres by Georgia playwrights alongside the work of more nationally established authors, on an equal footing.

Just recently we had our first development workshop meeting with Atlanta’s Pamela Turner, reading her play ME OWN PERSONAL HERO. This Ireland-set drama had already gone through some productive workshopping at Marietta’s Theatre in the Square and other places, but the playwright seemed to find our session with her both helpful and encouraging, and she’s planning to rewrite. We look forward to meeting with her again and seeing what she’s done.

Coming up soon we’ll be having our second read-and-discuss with Glen Slattery on his play THE LEAST-LOVED NAZI, a dark fantasy-comedy set in the aftermath of the collapse of the Third Reich. We had our first reading of the play this past November, which was the last time I saw our dear friend Johanna Linden, who played the title role in the Essential’s 2007 production of Christopher Durang’s MRS. BOB CRATCHIT’S WILD CHRISTMAS BINGE. Johanna passed away a couple of months ago, and the 2008 Power Plays Festival will be dedicated to her memory. I’m pretty sure she was the one who encouraged Glen to bring his play to us in the first place.

The submission deadline for the 2009 Playwriting Award competition was April 23 of this year. (Shakespeare’s Birthday, and that’s going to be our entry deadline every year.) Over 40 scripts were submitted – the most we’ve ever received! It’s going to be a busy year –

Peter Hardy
Artistic Director
Essential Theatre