Roundabout Theatre Company & Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre Program Announce 2020 Winners of Columbia@Roundabout’s New Play Reading Series

July 30, 2020

Underwriting Support Generously Provided by the Tow Foundation

Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director/CEO) and Columbia University School of the Arts (Carol Becker, Dean of Faculty) are pleased to announce the winners of Columbia@Roundabout’s 2020 New Play Reading Series. As part of the collaborative partnership between Roundabout Theatre Company and Columbia University, the reading series awards three playwrights from the current MFA program and recent alumni with a cash prize as well as a reading produced by Roundabout. Five finalists have also received cash prizes in recognition of their exceptional work. No other collaborative partnership in the New York area brings together an esteemed Ivy League MFA program with a Tony Award-winning, not-for-profit theatre. The reading series is made possible by a grant from The Tow Foundation.

Playwrights featured in the fifth annual Columbia@Roundabout New Play Reading Series include: Sam Grabiner (Next Year in Jerusalem!)Gethsemane Herron-Coward (BLANKS) and Devon Kidd (In the Jungle).

Finalists include Ciara Ni Chuirc (Juggernaut), Johnny G. Lloyd (The Problem with Magic, Is:), Zizi Majid (How to Gild an Eagle), Cristina (Cha) Ramos (Fire Burn Them), Daniel Irving Rattner (Rooster Teeth).

The New Play Reading Series will be held August 24-28, 2020. Readings will be open to industry members and other guests by invitation only.

The selection committee consisted of two representatives from Roundabout Theatre Company: Associate Artistic Director Jill Rafson and Literary Manager Anna Morton; and two representatives from Columbia University: Christian Parker, Head of Dramaturgy concentration and David Henry Hwang, Head of the Playwriting concentration for the Theatre Program at Columbia University School of the Arts.

Schedule of Readings

Next Year in Jerusalem!

By Sam Grabiner

In July 2005 London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. For many, this was cause for celebration. But for a small group of gardeners based in a knotty overgrown patch of East London, the victory was a death knell. Next Year in Jerusalem! follows two friends, Sid and Eli, who have tended this community garden all their lives. One day, Eli’s precocious granddaughter arrives with a vision to save the allotments from destruction through ground roots organizing. As the Second Lebanon War rages on in the background, a generational clash between the older conservative Jewish men and the young, idealistic Ava takes place on a patch of land that has offered refuge to the rootless for a century. The play considers the forces of globalism rubbing up against localism, and asks what it costs to communicate across deep generational divides.


By Gethsemane Herron-Coward

Medical student Reese hunts for the romance of her dreams while classmate Iris and Reese’s “aunties” dissuade, distract and try to save her from love’s violent abandonment. Something they all experienced. Something they did not survive. BLANKS interrogates how intimate partner violence, intersectional patriarchy, and neglect affect Black women’s pursuit of romantic and filial love and asks if love conquers all, what happens when it conquers you?

In the Jungle

By Devon Kidd

Set in a boxing-gym in Chicago, Illinois, In the Jungle, illuminates the scourge of toxic masculinity. In 1999, teenage Fred moves to Chicago on his own with no help, but finally finds companionship in the men that box at Mr. Louis Gym. Unfortunately, he soon realizes that his inability to decide what it means to be a “man” by his own terms puts him in a position to be molded by the ideologies of others. Simultaneously, the play follows the narrative of Fred and his own son 20 years later at the same gym which he now owns. In the second narrative, Fred is an accomplished boxer, but still struggles with his grasp of “manhood” with his upcoming-boxer son. In the Jungle explores how sexuality, limitation of resources, and societal pressures combine to illustrate that for Black men, toxic masculinity may be a cyclical curse.

Winner Bios

Sam Grabiner (Next Year in Jerusalem!). Sam Grabiner is a London-born playwright, making work that explores the psychic effects of environmental collapse. His play NEPTUNE was shortlisted for the 2019 Bruntwood Prize. He is a resident playwright at Papatango Theatre Company in London, with whom Next Year in Jerusalem! was developed. He was shortlisted for the 2015 Papatango Prize with Amygdala Wonderland and his play STIFF! is a winner of the Harry Porter Prize. He co-runs the theatre and comedy company Pelican whose clown-inspired work has been presented at The Soho Theatre in London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He is a graduate of the clown school L’ecole Philippe Gaulier. He has taken part in the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme in London and is finishing an MFA in playwriting at Columbia University.

Gethsemane Herron-Coward (BLANKS) is a playwright from Washington, D.C. She has developed work with JAG Productions, The Flea, The Hearth, Magic Time @ Judson, The Ice Factory Festival at the New Ohio Theatre, Playwright’s Playground at Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Fire This Time Festival, The Liberation Theater Company, and Ars Nova, where she is a Resident Artist with Ars Nova’s Play Group. Additional residencies from the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts, VONA and the Millay Colony, where she was the recipient of the Yasmin Scholarship. Semi-Finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Finalist for Space on Ryder Farm’s Creative Residency, the Dennis and Victoria Roth Playwright’s Program, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, and the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival (pending). MFA: Columbia University. Proud member of the Dramatist’s Guild. She’s enamored with Sailor Moon, witches and other magical girl warriors. She writes for survivors.

Devon Kidd (In the Jungle). New York-based writer, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with aspirations of establishing his voice in various entertainment mediums including poetry, playwriting, television, and film. With a passion for writing both surrealist and realist works in fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, and drama, Devon possesses the ability to succeed in numerous genres while maintaining a distinct voice. Devon’s chief goal as an artist is to both explore and expand the written possibilities of African Americans in Entertainment. In the words of the playwright, "I create worlds where Black people fly, fail, jump over moons, and cry over heartbreaks. In my works, Black people fight racism, fight each-other, fight mythical creatures, fight depression, fight witch’s curses, and fight political opponents. I make customized theatre about Black people surviving a world in which we are not seen because that is every layer of my being." In response to COVID-19, Devon co-founded Zoomfest: The Theatrical Podcast which aims to amplify the talent of people from marginalized communities via technological platforms. Devon Kidd graduated Summa Cum Laude from Morehouse College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 2016. His play, Not Even God, was a 2019 Finalist for the Columbia@Roundabout Reading Series in partnership with Columbia University and Roundabout Theatre. Mentors to the playwright are Lynn Nottage (Sweat, Ruined, Intimate Apparel) and David Henry Hwang (Soft Power, Yellow Face, M. Butterfly).

Finalist Bios

Ciara Ni Chuirc (Juggernaut) is an Irish writer and a member of Elephant Run District Theatre Company in New York City. Her work has been performed in the Samuel Beckett Theatre and Project Arts Centre (Dublin); Theatre Exile (Philadelphia); The Kennedy Center (Washington, DC); and The Tank, Irish Arts Center, Schapiro Theatre, Kraine Theater, and the Studio Theater (NYC). She was selected as an emerging playwright by the Stewart Parker Trust and by Play On (Dublin Theatre Festival). Her plays have been developed with Theatre Exile and The University of the Arts (Philadelphia); Fishamble Theatre Company and Dublin Theatre Festival (Dublin); and Elephant Run District Theatre Company (New York). She was a 2018 finalist and 2020 semifinalist for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. She is an MFA candidate in Playwriting at Columbia University.

Johnny G. Lloyd (The Problem with Magic, Is:) is a New York-based writer and producer. Recent productions include OR, AN ASTRONAUT PLAY (Co-Production, InVersion Theatre & The Tank), PATIENCE (Corkscrew Theatre Festival), ROUND (Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival), IT’S A GHOST STORY (Homebase Collective), PLANT THERAPY (Columbia University), and IN THE WOODS WE RETURN (Fringe NYC). Other recent plays include RUINATION and STRIP HEARTS. His work has been seen and developed at 59E59, Dixon Place, Judson Memorial Church, JAGFest (White River Junction, VT), TheatreLab (Boca Raton, FL), and more. Johnny is a member of the 2019-2020 Liberation Theatre Company’s Writing Residency. Johnny was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Open-Application Commission at Clubbed Thumb and was the 2017-2018 Shubert Fellow for Playwriting at Columbia University. MFA Candidate in Playwriting at Columbia University.

Zizi Majid (How to Gild an Eagle) is a Singaporean-Malay playwright based in New York City whose work advocates for a shared humanity. Plays include RETURN TO FALL (Finalist, Blue Ink Playwriting Award 2020 (Chicago); Semi-Finalist National Playwrights Conference 2020; Semi-Finalist Bay Area Playwrights Festival; Semi-Finalist WP Lab 2020; Semi-Finalist Corkscrew Theatre Festival (NYC); Reading, Last Frontier Theatre Conference* (Alaska). BEING IN TIME (International Human Rights Arts Festival 2019, NYC), COAST, (Climate Change Theatre Action 2019, NYC), ZULFIQAR (Semi-finalist, Red Bull Theatre Short New Play Festival, NYC), HOW DID THE CAT GET SO FAT? (nominated Best Play, Life! Theatre Awards, Singapore); NOT COUNTED (World Premiere, Journey@Beijing Festival) and YUSOF (Festival Main Commission, Pesta Raya, Singapore). Upcoming: HOW TO GILD AN EAGLE* (New Plays Festival, NYC). For five years, Zizi was Artistic Director of Teater Ekamatra (Singapore), successfully breaking into the mainstream during her tenure, tripling audiences and funding as well as garnering multiple awards. Awards: Young Artist Award (National Arts Council, Singapore). Member: Cut Edge Experimental Theatre Collective 2020, NYC. MFA Theatre (Playwriting) Columbia University (expected graduation May 2020) *Postponed due to Covid-19.

Cristina (Cha) Ramos (Fire Burn Them) is a proud Cuban-American (bilingual and bisexual) multidisciplinary theatre artist who calls both northern New Jersey and New York City home. Cha has been making theatre since she was a toddler, and working professionally in the theatre for over a decade. She performs, writes, dramaturgs, and creates movement (violence, intimacy, and dance) for the stage. Her first original play Real | Crazy had a developmental reading with Everyday Inferno Theatre Company. Her second original play Fire Burn Them was developed under the guidance of Leslie Ayvazian and had an invited reading at Riverside Church. She is currently working on her third full-length play, an adaption, under the guidance of Morgan Jenness. More about her at

Daniel Irving Rattner (Rooster Teeth) is a playwright and director based in New York City. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Playwriting at Columbia University. Previously, he worked as the Director of Interviewee Relations for Anna Deavere Smith's The Pipeline Project, assisting Ms. Smith with research and production for her play Notes From the Field. Daniel also served as the Artistic Director of Princeton Summer Theater, on whose Board of Trustees he currently sits.

Columbia University’s MFA Theatre Program is collaborative, international, and interdisciplinary. It defines itself by its location in New York City. It thrives on the extensive network of Columbia alumni and faculty who work in prestigious theatres at every level, who direct and perform in award-winning productions, and who engage with our students far beyond the classroom.

The Theatre MFA Program seeks students who have the talent, vision, and commitment to become exceptional artists. At the School of the Arts, students interact with the leading creators, practitioners, producers, and analysts of today’s theatre, acquiring rigorous training rooted deeply in the classics, while exploring new forms and the cutting edge of theatrical art. The best theatre across all times and cultures has not only reflected, but has also shaped its society. At its best, theatre helps point society to its best future. Columbia’s MFA Theatre Program aims to train theatre artists to fulfill that important role in today’s society.

MFA Programs include Acting, Directing, Dramaturgy, Playwriting, Stage Management, Theatre Management & Producing, and Theatre JD/MFA. Full-time faculty include Arnold Aronson, Anne Bogart, James Calleri, Steven Chaikelson, Peter Jay Fernandez, Liz Hayes, David Henry Hwang, David Klass, Brian Kulick (Chair), Sita Mani, Lynn Nottage, Christian Parker, Michael J. Passaro, Blair Singer, Ron Van Lieu, Lance Weiler, and W.B. Worthen.

Notable alumni include Saheem Ali, Jocelyn BiohRachel Chavkin, Anchuli Felicia King, Anson Mount, Diane Paulus, Ming Peiffer, Darko Tresnjak, Jillian Walker, Barbara Whitman, and Beau Willimon.

About the Tow Foundation: The Tow Foundation, established in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow, funds projects that offer transformative experiences to individuals and create collaborative ventures in fields where they see opportunities for breakthroughs, reform, and benefits for underserved populations. Investments focus on the support of innovative programs and system reform in the fields of juvenile and criminal justice, medicine, higher education and culture. For more information, visit or follow @Towfdn on Twitter and Facebook.

Roundabout Theatre Company celebrates the power of theatre by spotlighting classics from the past, cultivating new works of the present, and educating minds for the future. A not-for-profit company, Roundabout fulfills that mission by producing familiar and lesser-known plays and musicals; discovering and supporting talented playwrights; reducing the barriers that can inhibit theatergoing; collaborating with a diverse team of artists; building educational experiences; and archiving over five decades of production history.