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New Play Initiative

Oscars. Emmys. Obies. Jeffs. Golden Globes. Our New Play Initiative playwrights have them. They also work with Carthage students to create new, original plays every year.

Carthage commissions acclaimed playwrights to create plays and to work with Carthage students. Students experience the joys and challenges that come with being a part of the creative process and making history. Many times, roles are created with a specific student in mind to fill that character’s shoes. The production is not just a new play for the season, but a brand new play for the world of theatre. Many of these productions have gone on to win accolades at the annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.  


New Play Initiative: ‘Patience and Fortitude'


Patience and Fortitude
by Arlene Hutton

Directed by Mary MacDonald Kerr

What if the internet goes down completely? In a post-pandemic world, a group of diverse upperclassmen finds out when they are trapped in a house in the woods during spring break. Strange happenings begin to take place, including an unexpected blizzard. With no knowledge of what is happening on the outside and no way to find out, social dynamics break down and secrets and lies begin to come to light. In “Patience and Fortitude,” anything can happen, and chaos is always just around the corner.


Romeo and Juliet Walk into a Bar Virtual


Romeo & Juliet Walk Into a Bar 
by John Maclay and Joe Foust

Directed by Martin McClendon

A small midwestern college decides to stage Shakespeare’s classic tale of young star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. But what happens when no guys show up to the audition? Add in a mysterious guest director with dubious credentials and a bizarre show concept, and anything might happen. Can the students rescue the bard from being hijacked? In “Romeo & Juliet Walk Into a Bar,” anything can happen and hilarity is bound to ensue.



‘The Handbook' poster


The Handbook by Laura Schellhardt

Directed by Neil Kristian Scharnick

Based on true events surrounding the controversy of former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis’s dismissal, “The Handbook” is an incisive account of the rampant discrimination in the world of professional cheerleading and the effects it has on the cheerleaders. The play follows members of the fictitious Flames NFL cheerleading team and begins with the controversy of veteran cheerleader Laney’s termination from the team, which is based on Ms. Davis’s account.


“Up and Away”


Up and Away by Eric Simonson

Directed by Herschel Kruger 

Set in rural Wisconsin, budding YouTube stars Madison and Clara strive mightily to escape their dead-end, impoverished lives. Instead, they get caught in a tangle of desire and opioid addiction. Told in a fractured and non-chronological fashion, this black comedy touches on current issues of immigration, social media stardom, drugs, and the timeless quest for the American Dream.

KCACTF Awards:

  • Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award
  • Distinguished Costume Design — Latora Lezotte

See more awards


The poster for “A Seat at the Table.”


A Seat at the Table by Regina Taylor

Directed by Martin McClendon

Ms. Taylor, an actress, director, and playwright, has segued between television and film. She also has been active on the stage, and she holds the honor of being the first black woman to play William Shakespeare’s Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway. She is an artistic associate with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the resident playwright for the Signature Company in New York. She earned the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award in 2010 and her critically acclaimed musical “Crowns” earned four Helen Hayes awards.

KCACTF Awards:

  • Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award
  • Distinguished Production of a New Work
  • Distinguished Performance by an Actress in a Play — Marie Tredway

See more awards


Publicity poster for Breath of Stars


The Breath of Stars by 
Caridad Svich

Directed by Neil Kristian Scharnick

Caridad Svich is a playwright, songwriter, essayist, editor, and translator. Her dramatic works include “12 Ophelias,” “Anywhere But Here,” “Spark,” “Magnificent Waste,” “Guapa,” and “The Way of Water.” Her adaptation of Isabel Allende’s “The House of Spirits” won the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association’s Primus Prize. She is also an acclaimed translator, notably of the plays of Federico Garcia Lorca. Svich was honored for her contributions to stage and page with the 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement.

KCACTF Awards:

  • Undergraduate Scholar Award, 2nd place: Colt Luedtke
  • National Stage Management Fellowship: Colt Luedtke
  • Innovative Teaching Award: Martin McClendon

See more awards



Up the Hill by Keith Huff

Directed by Martin McClendon

Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and playwright Keith Huff was a writer/co-producer for AMC’s award-winning television drama “Mad Men” and a writer/producer for the Netflix series “House of Cards.” His many play credits include “A Steady Rain,” which starred Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig on Broadway and continues to be performed across the United States and internationally.

KCACTF Awards:

  • David Mark Cohen Playwriting Award
  • Selected for the O’Neill Center’s National Playwriting Workshop

See more awards


Honest was performed at Carthage College.


No Name by Jeffrey Hatcher

Directed by Herschel Kruger

Jeffrey Hatcher is among the most produced playwrights in American theatre today. He adapted his celebrated play “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” into the screenplay “Stage Beauty” (2004, with Billy Crudup and Claire Danes) and also wrote the screenplays for “Casanova” (2005, with Heath Ledger) and “The Duchess” (2008, with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes). Among his many plays are “Mrs. Mannerly,” “To Fool the Eye,” and “The Falls.” He also co-authored the stage adaptation of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie.


A Clamour of Rooks was performed during the 2012-13 Theatre Season


A Clamour of Rooks by Martin Maguire

Directed by Neil Kristian Scharnick

Martin Maguire is an Irish playwright, TV writer, radio writer, actor, and director. Patrick Sutton, director of the Gaiety School of Acting, National Theatre School of Ireland, is likewise an acclaimed international director, actor, and writer. “A Clamour of Rooks” was developed as an original theatre project in cooperation with the Gaiety School and premiered at Dublin’s newly reopened Theatre Royal, Smock Alley-1662.

KCACTF Awards:

  • Regional Certificate of Merit for Stage Management — Mikaley Osley
  • Regional Certificate of Merit for Direction — Neil Scharnick


Poster for Ghost Bike


Ghost Bike by Laura Jacqmin

Directed by Herschel Kruger

Laura Jacqmin is a Chicago Dramatists Resident Playwright who also taught playwriting at Carthage. She is the winner of the 2008 Wasserstein Prize for emerging female playwrights. Her work has been produced and developed by Atlantic Theater Company, Old Vic New Voices, Roundabout Underground, Vineyard Theatre, Ars Nova, Cape Cod Theatre Project, and The 24 Hour Plays Off-Broadway, among many others.

KCACTF Awards:

  • National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design — Shannon Meyer
  • National Award for Distinguished Director of a New Play — Herschel Kruger
  • National Award for Distinguished Production of a New Work
  • National Award for Distinguished Achievement in Lighting Design— Martin McClendon
  • National Award for Distinguished Achievement in Sound Design — Simon Skluzacek
  • Regional Certificate of Merit for Scenic Design — Shannon Meyer
  • Regional Certificate of Merit for Costume Design — Kim Instenes


The Railsplitter was performed at Carthage College.


The Rail Splitter by Rick Cleveland

Directed by Martin McClendon

Rick Cleveland is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright. Screenwriting credits include the films “Jerry and Tom” and “Runaway Jury” as well as television shows “Nurse Jackie,” “Six Feet Under,” and “Mad Men.” He won an Emmy Award in 2000 as a writer for “The West Wing.” He is also a founding member of Chicago’s American Blues Theater. Cleveland’s 2006 one-man show “My Buddy Bill” won the Jury Award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and was developed into a Comedy Central special.

KCACTF Awards:
  • National Award for Distinguished Production of a New Work



One Day in the Season of Rain by Mohan Rakesh; new translation by Aparna Dharwadker and Vinay Dharwadker

Directed by Neil Kristian Scharnick

Mohan Rakesh is one of post-independence India’s most important playwrights, and his modernist take on the life of Kalidas, Ashad ka ek din (here translated One Day in the Season of Rain), is his most celebrated play. He won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Playwriting in 1968. Translator Aparna Dharwadker won the 2006 Joe A. Callaway Prize for her acclaimed book, “Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India since 1947.” Vinay Dharwadker is a poet and a translator of Hindi, Mararthi, Urdu, and Punjabi poetry.

KCACTF Awards:
  • Regional Award for Distinguished Achievement in Lighting Design — Colleen Geddes
  • Regional Award for Distinguished Achievement in Property Design — Slim Simonini
  • Regional Award for Distinguished Achievement in Scenic Design — Martin McClendon


Honest was performed at Carthage College.


Honest by Eric Simonson

Directed by Herschel Kruger 

Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member Eric Simonson is a celebrated playwright, filmmaker, and director.  He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical in 1993 (The Song of Jacob Zulu), and his film “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin” won the Academy Award for Short Subject Documentary. His plays “Lombardi” and “Magic/Bird” were recently on Broadway.

KCACTF Awards:
  • National Award for Distinguished Achievement for Playwriting 
  • National Award for Distinguished Achievement in Curriculum Enhancement
  • National Award for Distinguished Achievement for Performance – Andrew Lenox as “Martin”
  • National Award for Distinguished Achievement in Performance – Caitlin Robertson as “Casey”
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    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

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