Play Development


Working Theater commissions new plays about issues of concern to working people. We also commission new plays by writers who tell more personal stories from the vantage point of working people, drawing from America’s melting pot of cultures, and amplifying their rich diversity of voice and experience.

Since 2015 the Company has been immersed in its new play development program the Five Boroughs/One City Initiative, in which five playwright/director teams are engaged in creating new theater pieces with specific communities of working people in each of the five boroughs of New York City.

Other commissioned plays include:

  • Ed Cardona, Jr.’s La Ruta, sharing the journey of undocumented immigrants crossing the United States border, staged inside an actual 18-wheeler;
  • Lisa Ramirez’s To the Bone, which explores the struggles of undocumented women working in poultry plants;
  • Jason Grote’s Box Americana: A Wal-Mart Retail Fantasia,  an entertaining and informative satire of global economics, rabid consumerism and the effects of Big Box retailers on Americans and workers abroad;
  • Mike Batistick’s Asbury Park, sponsored by a grant from New York State Council on the Arts;
  • Linda Faigao-Hall’s Walking Iron, which addresses homophobia in the workplace;
  • Herman Farrell’s Reconstruction, an exploration of race identity set in a psychiatric hospital;
  • Marty Pottenger’s Abundance, an examination of economic issues that is based on interviews with billionaires and minimum wage workers;
  • OyamO’s I am a Man, one of the company’s first commissioned plays, about the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis,  has been produced at regional theaters across the country including Washington’s Arena Stage and the Goodman Theater in Chicago.


Our 2005 season marked the inauguration of First Stage Presentations, in which we presented three plays in workshop form. This program facilitates the development of commissioned pieces and other new works and gives writers the opportunity to develop plays, with a full cast on their feet, director and design team. Each workshop receives a minimal physical production budget, plenty of support and rehearsal time and culminates in one or two weeks of public performances. These presentations are closed to the press, giving the artists the opportunity to cultivate work in a safe, supportive, creative environment.