Lift Every Voice

American Stage is committed to producing powerful stories, boldly told. Lift Every Voice (LEV) is a new play festival committed to providing exposure to emerging playwrights with a focus on women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ storytellers. Plays should align with American Stage’s 47 year history of productions that celebrate the most powerful stories of the moment, the most defining stories from our past, and our mission to reinforce the power of live theatre with high quality productions of compelling plays that excite and challenge a diverse audience.  

Our Lift Every Voice New Play Festival will now be produced every other year. The new alternate year schedule will allow American Stage to spend our off years developing the plays and playwrights whose work was explored during the festival.

Currently we are in the midst of World Premiering The Figs by Doug Robinson, LEV 2023, and developing Familia de Flamingos by Miguel Muñoz, another LEV 2023 playwright. We are excited to celebrate these writers!

Our next LEV festival will be in the Spring of 2026. Please check back Summer of 2025 for submission information.

Friday, March 1st
At the James Museum
6:00 pm: Opening Reception
6:30 pm: Keynote Address with Dr. Martha Bireda   
7:30 pm: The Dog by Lily Rushing and Glenburn 12 WP by Vicki Ramirez
The Dog/Glenburn 12 WP
Saturday, March 2nd
At the James Museum
11:00 am - Bats#!t by Steven J. Burge
1:00 pm - Aberdeen and Netarine by Syd Rushing
Aberdeen and Netarine
At American Stage
11:00 am - Flowers for Men* by Christian Mendonça
Flowers for men
1:00 pm - Goddess at the Lucky Lady Motel* by Namisha Ladva
3:30 pm - Playwrights Panel*
Sunday, March 3rd
At the James Museum
10:00 am - Write On!
  • Lakewood High School
    Chaotic Justice-
    By Nathaniel Cortez
  • Si Se Puede (Winner from Lakewood High School)
    The Fight- By Alexandre Imbillicieri
  • Boca Ciega High School
    The Recital-
    By Payton Bradley
  • Northeast High School
    Fresh Queens-By Mars Shuman, Bailey Cornett
  • Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School
    The Murder of Doughnut Man- By Maya Champet
12:00 pm Aberdeen and Netarine and Goddess at the Lucky Lady Motel
Aberdeen and NetarineGoddess at the Lucky Lady Motel
3:00 pm - Bats#!t and Flowers for Men
Bats#!tFlowers for men
5:30 pm - Closing Reception
buy tickets

*At American Stage
All other readings are at the James Museum

Pueblo Revolt

Written by Dillon Chitto

The year is 1680 in what we now know as New Mexico. The Indigenous population is living under Colonial Spanish rule, and the Pueblo Revolt will soon begin. Two brothers, one a budding revolutionary, and the other, a gay idealist, are bracing for a battle of survival, morality, and what it means to be human in this historical comedy.

Mestiza, or Mixed

Written by Melissa Leilani Larson

Lark Timon is no stranger to failure; it loomed large throughout her filmmaking career. Plagued by debt and professional disappointment, Lark chances upon a potentially career-changing opportunity only to be confronted by questions about her art, her relationships and her identity as a mixed race queer woman.

Decolonizing Your Mind with Walter Mercado

Written by Jayne Deely

Zee, a bartender struggling through her mid 20’s in New York is visited by the three ghosts of Christmas past. But instead of the Christmas Carol narrative, the three ghosts are her Puerto Rican ancestors, confronting her with a long-forgotten truth. Decolonizing Your Mind with Walter Mercado is a uniquely Puerto Rican, uniquely New York, and uniquely queer story.

The Figs

Written by Doug Robinson

How much would you sacrifice for love? The Figs is a fairytale-like play about what-ifs, desires, and obsession. Follow a mad king obsessed with figs, a star-crossed princess infatuated with an inn-keeper, a boy whose only friend is a swan, and a wiley storyteller. The Figs pushes for audiences to remember the wonder held inside a good story.


Written by Miguel Muñoz

Popular student John Flowers is “living the dream” at Americaland High School and hiding his Latin roots while pretending to be the all-American boy. Everyone is in love with him, he can do no wrong, that is until, a new student, Macho, with maracas in hand, blows his façade. What happens when the dream starts to crumble and who is John without his false reality?

After Orlando

Written by Madeline Sayet

Written in response to the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, After Orlando is a short play that shares a first person account of what goes through your mind during this terrifying moment. But who is speaking? Is it the shooter, the bystander or the victim? Three actors, three directors, three perspectives, and one play.

2024 Plays

Flowers for Men

by Christian Mendonça
Henri, a latinx social worker, creates “Flowers for Men” with one goal in mind: to unpack the toxic masculinity of five men in his community as they tend to a community garden. As the community garden grows, each of the men’s complicated connection to themselves and each other is revealed.

Meet The Playwright

Christian Mendonça

Christian Mendonça is a Portuguese-American playwright, whose work has been read at the Dennis and Victoria Ross Foundation's Roundtable Reading Series (Come Flores, 2020) and at the INKubator New Play Festival by Art House Productions (Flowers for Men, 2022). Distinctions include: finalist for the Goldberg Play Prize (American Quality, 2018), semifinalist for the New American Voices Play Festival, Landing Theater (Filomene, 2021), finalist for DISQUIET International Literary Program’s Luso-American Fellowship (Untitled Screenplay, 2023), and finalist for Premiere Stages Play Festival (Flowers for Men, 2023). Christian is currently commissioned by Art House Productions via the Hudson County History Partnership Program to write a play about the Bayonne Oil Refinery Riots of 1915-1916. He lives in New Jersey, where he also runs a monthly supper club (IG: @yum.and.yearn). BFA: New York University.

Goddess at the Lucky Lady Motel

by Nimisha Ladva
The Lucky Lady is more than a motel, it’s a home and a refuge for Indian immigrant Mummy-ji and her America-born son, Ravi.  Following the loss of their patriarch, the family will each reckon with their understanding of class, gender, and cultural identity. Over the nine days of Navatri, a family fractures, and reforms.

Nimisha Ladva

Nimisha Ladva was born in Kenya, raised in the U.K. and now lives outside Philadelphia. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants. Her storytelling has been broadcast on The Moth Radio Hour, on NPR and BBC Radio 4, on Stories from the Stage on PBS as well as numerous podcasts. In 2019, she was a member of the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive. She is one of seven playwrights selected from a pool of over 1000 to be a member of the 2023-2024 Playwright’s Realm Cohort. Her play Goddess at The Lucky Lady Motel was a 2022 Play Penn New Play Development Conference selection, a finalist for the Jane Chambers Award in Feminist Playwriting, and a 2023 Finalist for the Pittsburgh Public Theater New Works Festival. An excerpt of Goddess was included in The Bechdel Group’s Sunday Shorts Program in March 2022. Her solo play, Uninvited Girl, tells the true story of her journey from becoming an undocumented immigrant to becoming an American citizen, an experience she wrote about for The Guardian as well. Nimisha was a finalist for a residency at SPACE at Ryder Farm in 2020. In 2019, she was selected for the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive. Her solo show, Uninvited Girl, was first staged in Philadelphia at the First Person Arts Festival in 2016, and premiered in New York at the Women in Theater Festival in 2018. She is currently a member of The Foundry, Philadelphia’s three-year playwright incubator. Her short stories and essays have been published in the U.S. and U.K. Her work has been supported by grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Leeway Foundation. She teaches writing at Haverford College and is the public speaking specialist on campus.

Meet The Playwright

Aberdeen and Netarine

by Syd Rushing
Two church mothers have a lot to say about their once thriving community that is now disintegrating with multiple school closings, burnt out buildings and gang shootings. They decide to go up against the school board, the church and the prominent political figures of the city to implement change to save the city's children.

Meet The Playwright

Syd Rushing

Syd has penned various stage productions in Chicago, Texas and Los Angeles. He also wrote and performed his one man show Brother’s Tellin’ in Los Angeles. The show opened up for Lily Tomlin’s show, The Search for Signs for Intelligent Life in the Universe. Syd was then selected for the Mark Taper Playwright’s Program. He went on to a string of produced plays including Akashic Permutations, Flossie, Unsung Heroes and more. Rushing was honored to be a recipient of the Lorraine Hansberry Distinguished Achievement Award, The Inaugural August Wilson Fellow and a top ten finalist in the Screen Craft Pilot Screenplay Competition 2023. Rushing is part of the Theatre 4 the People Coop, ATG BIPOC Play lab and has enjoyed partnerships with the National Black Theatre. That said, he is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Writer's Boot Camp and the Dramatic Writing program at Texas State University – now faculty. Finally, he is excited with the collaboration at American Stage.

Glenburn 12 WP

by Vickie Ramirez
While the city is protesting police brutality, two strangers – one Black, one Native American – meet in an empty Irish bar. Over one afternoon, a chance meeting turns into a life-changing event.

Meet The Playwright

Vickie Ramirez

Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora) is a founding member of Chukalokoli Theater. Her work has been developed and/or produced at Native Voices at the Autry, Alter Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Black Swan,)The Public Theater, The Roundabout Theatre Company, Labyrinth Theater Company. Honors: Resident-New Dramatists through 2027, Winner-2020 Smith Prize for Political Theater (NNPN), The Kilroys-Honorary Mention 2019 for Pure Native and 2014 for Standoff At Hwy#37, Semi-finalist-Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2019, Semi-finalist Eugene O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference 2018, Alumna-Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group (2009). Productions: Pure Native - Alter Theater (Summer 2022) and Native Voices at the Autry, Standoff at Hwy#37 – NV Autry and the University of South Dakota, Glenburn 12 WP - Summer Shorts at 59E59, Smoke - Mixed Phoenix Theatre Group at Pershing Square Signature Center. Published: Monologues for Actors of Color: Women, Monologues for Actors of Color: Men and Contemporary Plays by Women of Color Edition 2: (Routledge Press), Glenburn 12 WP – Short Plays: Vol 1 (TRW press). Member: Dramatists Guild, PEN America Consultant: Outer Range for Amazon TV

The Dog

by Lily Rushing
Taryn reveals more than she intended when she recounts her experience on a reservation while vacationing in Arizona. It’s just a dog…right?

Meet The Playwright

Lily Rushing

Lily Rushing a playwright and artist from Sacramento, CA. Her play Desert Stories for Lost Girls will  received a full production by Native Voices in the Autumn of 2022. Desert Stories was also a part of the Indigenous Circles workshop led by Play Penn in 2021. She is the 2018 recipient of The Playwriting Initiative award at Interrobang Theatre Project, where she wrote Cowboy Play. In 2020, Cowboy Play was part of the Read, Rant, and Relate Series by Relative Theatrics. She is a graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul University where she received her BFA in Playwriting. She has also worked with: The Raven Theatre Company, Sacramento Theatre Company, and Victory Gardens.


by Steven J. Burge
Part confessional. Part storytelling. All ridiculous, “Bats#!t” is a 75 minute monologue that, depending on statutes of limitations and local laws regarding admission of guilt wherever this may be produced, is either 100% fictional or entirely autobiographical. Trigger warning:  This show contains a cis white man talking about himself for over an hour. It also contains some legit-upsetting topics like parallel parking; theater camp; coming out in small-town, rural America; assault; addiction; pickle ball; and mental illness. Oh! And clowns!

Steven J. Burge

Steven J. Burge is humbled to be included in American Stage's Lift Every Voice New Play Festival, and to be in the company of these other courageous storytellers. He is a Colorado-based AEA actor; an occasional Teaching Artist with the Tony Award-winning Denver Center's Theater Education Program; a freelance director; a public speaker; and now an aspiring playwright. "Bats#!t" started out as a lighthearted collection of essays exploring Steven's journey to sobriety (three years and counting). He's grateful to have this opportunity to learn more about his piece ("Is it a book? Is it a play? Is it a hamster's cage liner?"), and offers his deeply heartfelt gratitude to Helen R. Murray for believing in him, when he could not believe in himself.

"For mom, dad, and Jenn. And for all the amazing women who have always been my friends, family, and fiercest protectors."

Insta:  @stevenjburge

Meet The Playwright

New Plays Submission

Please complete this form as part of your submission to American Stage's 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival.

Play Title
Playwright Last Name
Playwright Email Address
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Lift Every Voice New Play Festival 2025 “Call for Readers”

Join us as a reader for the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival! 

Are you passionate about the power of storytelling? American Stage is thrilled to invite you to become a vital part of the 2025 Lift Every Voice New Play Festival as a Reader!

As a Reader, you will have the unique opportunity to dive into a diverse array of plays. Your keen insights, critical eye, and passion for theatre will play a crucial role in identifying the works that will take center stage at the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival. Being a Reader is not just about reading plays, it is about being a part of the creative process, championing emerging voices, and nurturing the next generation of theatrical talent. Join us and be at the forefront of uncovering the transformative power of storytelling. 

Volunteering as a Reader is certainly a commitment with approximately 10  hours spent reading and evaluating plays. But, being a reader is fun and it is thrilling to play a pivotal role in the creative process of the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival! 

As a Reader, you will immerse yourself in the world of each submitted play through three rounds of reading. You will start with reading 10 page submissions and then will move into reading full plays. It is paramount that you commit to meeting the deadlines that the Lift Every Voice team will apply. Your objective evaluations will help us select the plays that will captivate audiences and leave a lasting impact on the theatrical landscape.Readers will receive two complimentary all-access passes  to the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival!

Readers who  share our love for theatre and storytelling are welcome! Whether you are a seasoned theatre enthusiast, a budding playwright, or, simply, someone who appreciates a good story, your unique perspective is invaluable to us, enriching our cultural landscape and inspiring audiences. 

How to become a Reader for the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival?

To become a Reader for the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival, please go to the following link and complete the interest form. The deadline to submit the Reader Interest Form is May 10, 2024

For any questions regarding becoming a volunteer Reader for the Lift Every Voice New Play Festival, please email: