Multiple Theatre Alumni Work on 'Baby Jessica's Well-Made Play'

Anastasia Ellis
February 06, 2023

Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play, written by Dramaturgy alumnus Philip Santos Schaffer ’18, is currently running at Pipeline Theatre Company. Dramaturgy alumna and Theatre staff member Anna Woodruff ’18 serves as the dramaturg for the production, and both Schaffer and Theatre Management & Producing alumna Natalie Gershtein ’15 are co-directors of Pipeline Theatre Company. Tickets for Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play are currently on sale through March 30, 2023. They can be purchased here.

Loosely inspired by the 1987 true story of Baby Jessica—an 18-month old girl who fell into a well and whose rescue took 56 hours—Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play is a five act phone adventure to the bottom of a well and back again. The show is an interactive, intimate performance-for-one that happens on viewers’ phones from the comfort of their homes. Over the course of two nights, Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play engages audience members in conversations about fear, hope, self-care, imagination, culture, and memory. It is an experience in which audiences discover what brings them up and out of the dark.

Described as “a phone call from an old friend who talks a lot,” the show involves pre-recorded audio and one-on-one conversations. These conversations are guided by an existing script, but there is plenty of room for audience members to engage with and respond naturally to the dialogue. Viewers will also be connected with another audience member at a point during the show, and all participants are provided with tools throughout the play to determine the extent to which they participate and to ensure their emotional safety. 

Schaffer (they/he) began writing Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play as a part of their thesis project at Columbia, entitled Small Plays for Giants, in which they wrote and produced five solo performances. Schaffer is a playmaker creating interactive performances in intimate and unconventional settings. Their work has been seen in bathtubs across the country, listened to over the phone, and found in a series of living rooms (and has appeared in more conventional spaces). Schaffer’s work deals with politics, pop culture, intimacy, and empathy through participation, humor, music, and more. Prior to earning their MFA, Schaffer received a BFA in Directing from Hofstra University. They are one fifth of the creative team behind WalkUpArts, which they co-founded in 2015.

Anna Woodruff is a dramaturg who specializes in new play development. In addition to her MFA from Columbia, she holds a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Connecticut. She has worked at many artistic institutions across the country including The Lark, American Conservatory Theater, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Soho Rep., Roundabout Theatre Company, and Waterwell Drama Program. Anna has worked with WalkUpArts on several projects, including I Live With William Walker and Small Plays For Giants

Natalie Gershtein has been working with Pipeline Theatre Company since 2015. Prior to Pipeline, Natalie was the Associate Director of Young Playwrights Inc. and the Artistic Producer of Beautiful City Theatre, which she co-founded in Montreal. In New York, she has worked on several festivals in the city, including the 27th Annual Festival of New Musicals with NAMT, Cherry Lane Theatre’s 2015 Mentor Project, The Public Theater’s 2014 and 2015 Under the Radar Festivals, and the 2013 Lincoln Center Festival. Gershtein has worked with various other companies, including Lincoln Center Theater, Second Stage Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, MCC, and Ars Nova. Natalie was awarded the 2016 Gatchell and Neufeld Manager Award.