The 7th Annual New Play Lab at the William Inge Theatre Festival

2024 New Play Labs

The William Inge Center Welcomes the 2024 New Play Lab Playwrights.

The New Play Lab at the annual William Inge Theatre Festival is a partnership between the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and the William Inge Center for the Arts at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas.

The7th Annual New Play Lab will connect 13 playwrights with the regional and national theatre community during the 41st Annual William Inge Theater Festival, April 18th -20th, 2024. The program is headquartered at The William Inge Center for the Arts, at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas. The William Inge Theatre Festival endeavors to cultivate, promote, and nurture a collaborative environment with respect to diversity and inclusion in the world of theatre.

Selected playwrights will receive a professional public staged reading of their play, feedback from a panel of theatre artists regarding their submitted and selected script, exclusive playwriting masterclasses with master playwrights, and full access to all private and public festival events.

2024 Selected Playwrights

Brett Crandall – WE WERE ALTOS TOGETHER. Brett Crandall (he/him/his) is a Kansas-born actor, writer, producer, puppeteer, and activist. An actor’s life has always appealed to Brett since obsessing over PINOCCHIO, wearing out the tape. While studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Brett branched out to other creative mediums. His first full-length play, FELT LEFT OUT, a LGBTQ+ history lesson parodying the Sesame Street characters, premiered in 2014, and has since been workshopped into a musical. While working in New York City touring public libraries and schools, Brett began building his own puppets and felt the lack of such enriching programming back in Kansas. So in 2018, Brett produced his first tour, presenting Dicken’s A Christmas Carol for rural communities around Kansas, founding Brett Crandall Studios. His Pride arts festival, Playchella, tours with pop-up puppet shows with voter-registration initiatives between acts, touring with queer-centric plays like GOOD KING WENCESLAS and ONDINE: A QUEER FAIRY TALE (R Creatives UK Queer Voices selection). Keeping the arts in Kansas, Brett has also scripted his first feature film, a horror/dance/comedy, beginning production Dec 2024 in Western Kansas. Brett would like to thank his family for never doubting his dreams and his wonderful husband, Marc.

Rebecca KaneDUET REHEARSAL. Rebecca Kane’s writing has appeared in numerous theatre festivals and readings in New York City and beyond, with credits including the Secret Theatre (NYC), Relative Theatrics (Laramie, Wyoming), the National Women’s Theatre Festival, and more. In 2019, her parody ALMOST MAIMED performed simultaneously in LadyFest at The Tank and in the inaugural season of Rogue Theatre Festival. One of her plays, TIGHT (HAHA NICE), was filmed and streamed in summer 2021 in both Orlando Fringe’s DigiFringe and Rogue Theater Festival. In 2021, she received a City Artist Corps Grant from the New York Foundation of the Arts. She is developing a solo show devoted to spreading knowledge on opioid overdose preventions. She’s a happy resident of Queens, New York.

Topher Kielbasa – OUR FATHER. Topher Kielbasa is a writer and actor from Chicago, where he was an ensemble member and Literary Manager of Cor Theatre. There, he served as dramaturg for CHRISTINA, THE GIRL KING and LATE COMPANY, as well as creative consultant for THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN and WHAT OF THE NIGHT? Prior to joining Cor he worked in the literary department at American Theater Company, where he co-produced the 13th-annual Big Shoulders Festival and was script supervisor for The Project(s). His work has been seen at Chicago Dramatists and produced in the Actors Studio Drama School Repertory Season. He is a member of the Playwrights/Directors Workshop at The Actors Studio in New York. BFA, DePaul University. MFA, Pace University.

John MabeyEVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. John Mabey’s plays and scholarly articles explore themes of sexual & gender identity and spirituality across the lifespan. Their work has been produced on stage across the United States and Europe, with their multi award-winning play A COMPLICATED HOPE published through Dramatic Publishing in 2024. John has been the recipient of the Getchell New Play Award, the Essential Theatre New Play Award, and the Panowski Playwriting Award, with work included in Smith & Kraus Best 10-Minute Plays, Best Women’s Monologues, and Best Men’s Monologues in each of the past 3 years. Their work as a playwright is connected to a long career in Psychology and Mental Health Counseling, infusing everything they learn about behavior, emotion and relationships into their plays.

Susan Middaugh – SKELETONS IN THE CELLAR Theatrical Mining Company has produced two of Susan Middaugh’s full-length plays, BLACK WIDOWS and A MODERN PAS DE DEUX for the Baltimore Playwrights Festivals. Next Stage Press has published BLACK WIDOWS. In 2022 she received a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council for a staged reading of her full length, MASTER THEFT. 18 of Susan’s short plays have had productions by 34 theaters in the U.S., including Barrington Stage, Source Theatre, Magnetic Theatre, Greenbrier Valley Arts Center; Dorset Players, Fells Point Corner Theatre, Davidson Community Players, Shandaken Theatre, Onstage Atlanta and The Strand Theater. Susan is a member of the Dramatists’ Guild, the New Play Exchange and the Playwrights Group of Baltimore. Website:

Neil Ellis OrtsRANDOS. Neil Ellis Orts is a writer in Houston. His work has been published in a number of small press journals and anthologies, most recently Synkroniciti, The Bad Day Book, Soul by Southwest, and Unknotting the Line. Though his BFA (Texas State University) was for acting, he has recently turned to writing for the stage and has had two 10 minute plays produced and is polishing up his first full length play. His novella, Cary and John, is available from Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Everett Robert – SPUTNIK Everett Robert, is an author, playwright, actor, and director, has been hailed as “one of our best new children’s authors,” by Heartland Play Publishers. With over two decades of experience in the arts, Everett’s creative journey began and continues in Kansas, where he currently resides. An alumnus of Colby Community College, Emporia State University, and Fort Hays State University, he is proud member of The Dramatists Guild of America. Everett’s theatrical works have garnered acclaim on both national and international stages, with performances reaching diverse locations, including the Philippines, Spokane, WA, Hollywood, CA, Minneapolis, MN, Kansas City, KS, Atlanta, GA, and New York City. Everett’s unique storytelling, rooted in the heartland and deeply connected to its essence, continues to captivate audiences. Everett looks forward to sharing his narrative craftsmanship with a broader audience.

Mindy R. RollTHE MATCHMAKER. Mindy R. Roll (she/her), of Houston, Texas, is an emerging playwright and essayist who writes at the intersections of relationships, gender, spirituality, mystery, friendship, and religion. She has been a member of the Dramatists Guild of America since January 2021 and holds degrees from Texas A&M, Yale Divinity School, United Lutheran Seminary, and Brite Divinity School. Her plays have been performed at Theatre Southwest, the Naples Players, Theatre Three, College of Brockport, Stageworks, and appeared in several literary magazines. 

Lizzy SantanaMEDUSA, MODERN WOMAN Lizzy Santana (she/they) is a writer and actor from Wellington, Kansas. She is in her second year at The University of New Orleans pursuing an MFA in Playwriting. As a writer she gravitates towards mythology and horror, the fantastical and the macabre, but also has a love for hyper-realism. You can currently find her work in The Hooghly Review Issue 2.

Dakota SilveyTHE MAKER. Dakota Silvey is a NYC-based playwright, EMT, wildland firefighter, and USAF veteran. He recently won the 15 Minutes of Frame 1 Act Festival and, as a result, will be premiering his first Full-Length production at the Gene Frankel Theatre in Manhattan this Spring. His full-length WILDFIRE was selected as Semi-Finalist in Adam Driver’s AITAF Bridge Award competition (head judge Paula Vogel). He is pursuing an M.F.A. in Playwriting at the Actor’s Studio Drama School and is a member of the Cut Edge experimental theatre collective. Dakota is honored to be a participant in the William Inge Theatre Festival and thrilled to pay homage to the playwright’s hometown!

Erica Smith – A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH. Erica Smith is a Maryland-based playwright and actor who likes writing about love, friendship, ghosts, and, when the occasion calls for it, horror. Awards include Best Play at the 2018 LiveArt in a Day Festival (UNION STATION) and Best One-Act at the 2023 Dominion Stage Playwriting Competition (ONLY THE GOOD). She is a founding member of The Coil Project, a Washington, DC-based theater collective, serving as co-Artistic Director from 2020-2022 and Playwright in Residence since its founding. Her voice and writing can be heard every other Sunday on Takoma Park Radio at 6 PM on The Coil Project Variety Hour. 

Lainie Vansant #BLESSED. Lainie Vansant (she/her) is the Assistant Professor of Directing at the University of South Dakota. She has worked on productions as an actor, stage manager, playwright, dramaturg, and director and holds a PhD in theatre and performance studies from the University of Missouri – Columbia, for which she translated and adapted a play by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Her plays have been performed in community theatre and summer stock and have received multiple readings at venues like the Midwest Dramatists Conference, the University of Missouri, KCACTF Region V, and Pot Luck Productions. In addition, she has directed and helped develop short plays for the Mizzou New Play Festival, the Starting Gate New Play Festival, Short Attention Span Theatre, and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) – Region V.

Wendy Vogel – OVERTIME. Wendy Vogel is a veterinarian, author, and boardgame designer. Her debut full length play VIRTUAL REALITY will premier next season at Falcon Productions in Kentucky. Novels include the Horizon Alpha science fiction series, The Forgotten King, and The Risen (as D.W. Vogel).  She lives in Cincinnati with husband Andrew and a houseful of special needs cats.