May 23, 2024

New plays and new faces herald Ashland New Plays Festival’s season

Director Vanessa Stalling (white top) rehearses a scene Monday from "Side Effects May Include..." with actors, from left, David Kelly, Erica Sullivan and Amy Pietz. It is the first featured play of the Ashland New Plays Festival spring season. Greg Eliason photo
March 22, 2023

New Lisa Loomer play readings set for Saturday and Sunday

By Jim Flint for

ANPF Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca gives a curtain speech prior to a play reading during the 2022 Ashland New Plays Festival. The 2023 season kicks off March 25-26 with a new play by Lisa Loomer. Kara G. Lewis photo

Ashland New Plays Festival will launch its 31st season with spring workshops of two new plays Saturday and Sunday, March 25-26 and April 29-30, at Southern Oregon University’s Main Stage Theatre, 491 S. Mountain Ave. in Ashland.

The season will wrap up with the annual flagship ANPF Fall Festival Oct. 18-22, tentatively scheduled at the same venue. The festival’s readings formerly were held at Ashland’s Unitarian Universalist Church.

“Side Effects May Include…” by Lisa Loomer will kick off the spring season with public readings at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 26.

The acclaimed playwright and screenwriter also has worked as an actress and stand-up comic. Loomer is best known for her play “The Waiting Room” and the award-winning “Roe,” which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She also wrote the screenplay for the film “Girl Interrupted.”

Amy Pietz

“I met Lisa Loomer last year,” said Jackie Apodaca, ANPF artistic director. “She was speaking to some of our New Voices playwrights who were asked to share what they were working on. They asked Lisa to share as well. She hesitated, but then launched into the premise for ‘Side Effects May Include…’ which I found very compelling.

“She offered to send it to me, and wow, on my first readthrough I was just gut punched. I committed immediately to supporting the play and offered a development workshop at ANPF. Lucky for us, she took me up on that.”

David Kelly

“Side Effects,” directed by Vanessa Stalling, is about the pills people take while chasing the American dream. “It’s both harrowing and heart-breaking,” Apodaca said. “It’s about pharma, motherhood, medicine, nature, and — at its core — the nature of consent.”

Actors for the March performances are ANPF returnees David Kelly and Erica Sullivan, both with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) experience; and ANPF first-timers Amy Pietz, Ellen D. Williams and Ethan Grabowski. Pietz and Williams will be familiar faces to many play-goers because of their extensive work in television. Grabowski is a recent graduate of Southern Oregon University (SOU).

April readings
Ethan Grabowski

Next month, public readings of New Voices playwright Carlos-Zenen Trujillo’s “Our Utopia” will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 29 and 1:30 p.m. April 30.

Trujillo is an SOU alumnus whose play “Christmas Contigo” premiered in 2021 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland. The workshop of “Our Utopia” will be co-produced with Bag&Baggage Theatre Group of Hillsboro, Oregon, and will have its world premiere there this fall.

“I’ve been working with Trujillo for many years,” said Apodaca, who also is a professor of theater and head of performance at SOU.

Apodaca and Trujillo collaborated on several shows at the university. She was asked by Trujillo to collaborate on the new play.

Erica Sullivan

“When I was asked to work on this project, described as a ‘weird, cult play,’ I was flattered,” she said. “They know I love weird.”

The fall festival

The spring projects are part of ANPF’s expansion in support of its mission of supporting playwrights, and give the festival an opportunity to bring in new work still in development.

The ANPF centerpiece is the fall festival, set this year for Oct. 18-22, when it will present readings of the four winners chosen from 160 submissions.

Ellen Williams

Volunteer readers are still narrowing the list of 2023 semi-finalists. The winners will be selected from the 10 finalists.

“Our readers are the heart and soul of the organization,” Apodaca said. “This community of theater lovers reads 40-50 plays from December to June and chooses the festival finalists.”

Those interested in participating as readers are invited to fill out the reader application form on the ANPF website. Go to, click on “Work With Us” and scroll down to “Readers.” Or contact one of the reader co-chairs: Eric Poppick at or Carole Florian at

Amy Pietz and David Kelly rehearse a scene from Lisa Loomer’s “Side Effects May Include….” Readings of the play will be performed March 25-26 at SOU’s Main Stage Theatre as part of the Ashland New Plays Festival spring offerings. Greg Eliason photo
In a rehearsal Monday, Amy Pietz, left, and Erica Sullivan run lines from Lisa Loomer’s “Side Effects May Include…,” the first work to be performed in the Ashland New Plays Festival spring program. Greg Eliason photo

“It’s a great deal of fun,” Apodaca said, noting that 80-90% of the readers return year after year.

“Never done this before? Not to worry,” she said. “ANPF offers customized training sessions designed to bring prospective readers up to speed on the process.”

Those who volunteer join with about eight other readers in groups who meet several times in person or over Zoom to discuss the plays they’re reading and grading.

Ashland New Plays Festival has been part of the fabric of the Rogue Valley theater community for more than three decades. A small nonprofit theater company with a national reputation, ANPF has served as an incubator for new plays since its inception in the spring of 1992.

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to

Reach writer Jim Flint at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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