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2014 New American Voices

Play Reading Series

March 7-9, 2014

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts - University of Houston

Studio 208

StopMart by Vicki Riba Koestler

Alexandria, Virginia

Friday, March 7, 2014 @ 7pm




On a road trip through an economically struggling rural area, newspaper columnist Jack Limmerman and his wife, Larissa, have a disagreement. She wants to drop in on a Facebook friend she hasn’t seen since fifth grade; he doesn’t. Eager to check into the upscale golf resort where they have reservations, Jack is unwilling to waste a minute socializing with two strangers—Larissa’s long-lost friend, Heather, and Heather’s latest life partner.


But when the Limmermans stop in a convenience store picnic area to hash things out, Jack receives a distressing email, one that changes the scope of their problems and Jack’s view of just about everything. Soon the worsening weather, Jack’s new perspective, and a variety of hidden agendas combine to challenge the couple as they are trapped inside the convenience store along with Heather; her significant other, Devin; and the store’s mysterious manager, Mr. B.




Vicki Riba Koestler’s full-length comedy We Gather Together, a winner of The Chameleon Theatre Circle’s New Play Contest, was produced by that Minnesota theatre company in 2011. Her one-acts Googling Fin, Snedekker’s, and Bad Move have been staged in one-act showcases, and her full-length Decked won first place in the Walpole (MA) Footlighters New Comedy Project, receiving a staged reading in 2008. Several other of her plays have placed in competitions and/or had staged readings, including Orange Sunset, which was staged at the 78th Street Theatre Lab in New York and was published in the volume Stage This! Too in 2007.


In writing plays, Vicki likes to use humor as a way of getting at things that may be less than funny. She’s done this as an essayist as well; her humorous essays have appeared in The New York Times, Child magazine, New Jersey Monthly, and The Record of northern New Jersey, among other places. Her work has been syndicated by The New York Times and excerpted in Reader’s Digest.


She has also coauthored two books with self-help author Gary Null: Choosing Joy and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Getting it Right the Second Time Around.


A native of New York City, Vicki now lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Life by Mackenzie Jahnke

Honolulu, Hawaii

Saturday, March 8, 2014 @ 7pm




How does one deal with the loss of their true love, the loss of a parent to Alzheimer’s, the loss of their appearance to a freak accident? The characters of Life are all confronted with great loss. They must figure out what value their lives have to them after enduring this loss, trying to answer the age-old question of what makes life worth living. Ultimately they must decide whether it is ever okay to let go, and choose to say goodbye to life.




Mackenzie’s play Barbara Ann was a finalist in the Dayton Playhouse FutureFest Competition. For the Dream was a finalist in the Dubuque One-Act Competition. Her play The Last Dance was performed at LiveGirls! Theatre in Seattle andThe Photo Shoot was performed at the American Globe Theatre in NYC. Blinders has been a finalist in the Tennessee Williams Playwriting Festival as well as Boomerang Theater's First Flight Festival and a Semi-finalist in the Drury University Playwriting Competition. It was performed in Distilled Theatre’s Playoffs Festival this past September. Mackenzie was recently published in The Dramatist Magazine in the Season in Review edition. She is extremely grateful to The Landing Theatre Company for bringing her most recent play, Life, well… to life.

Echo by Barbara Lhota

Chicago, Illinois

Sunday, March 9, 2014 @ 1pm




It’s the early 1990s and Abby, an autistic teen, only speaks in echo-speech, until she is introduced to a promising new method that requires a facilitator to help her type letters into a communicator. Abby’s mother is thrilled, but her sister and her father are dubious about this new method - the latest in a long line of therapies. Just as the facilitator convinces the family that Abby is actually typing words and sentences, Abby types a shocking accusation that forces them all to choose: either Abby is an intelligent young woman communicating something unthinkable, or this therapy is a sham and every “I love you” Abby has typed was nothing but an illusion.


Echo examines the complex dynamics of a family at their inevitable boiling point: a family ripped apart due to the ongoing, increasing pressures of hope.




Barbara Lhota is thrilled that Echo was chosen for the New American Voices Play Reading Series. Barbara is a network playwright with Pride Films and Plays and Chicago Dramatists, as well as a member of the Dramatist Guild. Barbara received an M.F.A. from Brandeis University, where she was an artist-in-residence and taught playwriting. Her plays have been produced in Boston, Chicago, New York and throughout the country. Some of the companies she has worked with in Chicago include: American Blues Theater, Artistic Home, AstonRep, Babes with Blades Theatre Company, Backstage Theatre Company, Bailiwick Repertory, Boston Theatre Works, Circle Theater, Rascal Children’s Theater - The Side Project, StrangeLoop, Symposium, The Women’s Theatre Project, Theatre of Western Springs, 20% Theatre Company and Women's Theater Alliance. Recent and upcoming work includes: Echo (Circle Theatre Chicago – Reading – 2013, full production - July - 2014), All Good Children Go To Heaven co-written with M.E.H. Lewis (Chicago Dramatist Readings – 2014), Warped (Stage Left Theatre –2013), Personal Penchants (City Theatre - Miami–2013/The Women’s Theatre Project – 2013), 180 Degree Rule co-written with M.E.H. Lewis (Pride Films and Plays Women’s Work Finalist and Chicago Dramatists Saturday Series – 2013, Workshop Production; Finalist, Babes With Blades Theatre Company’s Fighting Words), The Enduring Banquet (Women’s Theatre Alliance – 2013) The Double (Babes With Blades Theatre Company – 2011). Publishing credits include Strangers and Romance - Women Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2001 (Smith and Kraus) and a 4-volume series co- authored with Janet B. Milstein and Ira Brodsky - The Forensic Duo Plays. Her monologues are included in Young Women’s Monologues from Contemporary Plays (Meriwether), The Best Men’s Stage Monologues of 2001 and The Audition Arsenal Series. She is a recipient of the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Award for Hanging by a Thread and the JS&P Margaret Martin Award for Los Desaparecidos: The Vanished. Echo, a 2013 Eugene O’Neill semi-finalist, was chosen for the Athena Project in 2013. She was also a Love Creek Theater’s Samuel French finalist for The Beekeeper and His Daughter. More information at

Guest Lecture by Keelay Gipson

New York, New York

Sunday, March 9, 2014 @ 6pm




After returning home from her first semester at college, Julie finds her connecting with her two dads, Jonathan and Tim, to be a new challenge. Jonathan and Tim have been together for many years, but are newlyweds by the rest of the country's standards. When a fight erupts over the creation of an online profile leaves the couple on shaky ground, everyone seems to be grasping at straws to get along. After Julie's impromptu slam poetry performance at a local club, she meets Rahim and agrees to go out with him--a welcome distraction from her family. Little do they know, Rahim already has ties to Julie in more ways than one.When the cast sits down to Christmas dinner, they must navigate all of their newfound relationships, as well as maintaining some semblance of civility, but the dropping-in of Jonathan's "friend" from the neighborhood doesn't seem to help matters.Guest Lecture is a meditation on family, race, politics, and navigating through the grey areas a modern family represents while maintaining a jovial holiday atmosphere.




Keeylay Gibson is a multi-disciplinary artist with a degree in Theater from Pace University, who works as an actor, filmmaker, writer and director. As a writer he has had the opportunity to work with several theater companies in developing new works, especially within the last few years of pursuing his degree with the advent of Pace New Musicals. His provocative play N/F was recently accepted into the 2013 Downtown Urban Festival in New York--an experience that has given him a wealth of knowledge as a writer and as a collaborator. His works have also been seen at The Wild Project and HERE Arts Center. As an actor he has performed in World Premiere musicals such as Quanah, with music by the Grammy Award-winning Larry Gatlin of The Gatlin Brothers and Darling by composer-lyricist Ryan Scott Oliver. He has directed productions of Red Light Winter and See What I Wanna See in New York as well as new plays and concert pieces including Sign "O" The Times at The Duplex Cabaret Theater and Blood at Manhattan Repertory Theater. He has assisted on projects such as The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adley Gurguis, White’s Lies off-Broadway starring Betty Buckley and Boeing Boeing at The Mar-Va Theater. He has been featured in The Advocate, Next Magazine and TimeOut New York for his play N/F. His play The Lost, Or How To: Just Be will have its NYC premiere as part of the Planet Connections Theater Festivity. You can see more of his work at: http://





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