The Propulsion Lab
Mission to (dit)Mars, a theatre arts collective serving Queens artists, is excited to announce the selection of nine new members to The Propulsion Lab, a Queens’ writers group serving emerging playwrights from the borough.
The nine new members are Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria), Scott Casper (Astoria), John Caswell (Astoria), Mrinalini Kamath (Astoria), Elizabeth Seldin (Astoria), Mac Rogers (Astoria), Amy Witting (Sunnyside), and Tori Keenan-Zelt (Forest Hills) with returning members Lisa Huberman (Woodside), Kristine M. Reyes (Astoria) and Tyler Rivenbark (Sunnyside). Rounding out the group are inaugural members August Schulenburg (Forest Hills) and Mariah MacCarthy (Astoria), who will serve as “Writers in Residence.”
Each playwright will focus on writing a new full-length play over the course of the year. The new members were selected by Mission to (dit)Mars co-founders Kari Bentley-Quinn, Don Nguyen, Meredith Packer and Laura Pestronk. The writers group meets bi-weekly at the Secret Theatre in Queens.
On what excites her about the new members, Kari Bentley-Quinn explains “they are as diverse as they are accomplished…in style, ethnicity, and approach – much like the residents of our beloved borough.” Laura Pestronk adds “The new members excite me because of their amazingly different voices. Such a diverse group of stories are going to be told this season!”
Commenting on the surprisingly rapid growth of the lab, Meredith Packer suggests “The amount of submissions we had this year and the amount of talent we were given the opportunity to read meant that after three years this lab is what we have been preaching all along- that Queens has a vast amount of talented artists that are looking for a community in their own back yard. And that we are doing our job at Mission to (dit)Mars to bring them together.” Don Nguyen adds “the meteoric rise in members of the Propulsion Lab is a direct reflection of the immense growth of artists living and working in the borough and, in general, the increasing desire of making Queens a profound place to make theatre. We’re excited to help foster both.”
On its ongoing relationship with The Secret Theatre, Don Nguyen adds “Richard Mazda (Artistic Director) has been extremely supportive of new work in Queens and particularly of our group, where his generosity has been overwhelming on all fronts. Our relationship with has proven to be a rich one and we look forward to continuing and deepening our alliance with Richard and The Secret Theatre this year.”
The Propulsion Lab was created to meet the needs of like-minded theater artists who wanted to have a way of developing new work locally in Queens on an on-going basis. In addition to bi-weekly meetings, the year will include industry meet and greets with Artistic Directors and Literary Managers, three Launch Pad readings of full length plays, and All Systems Go!, an evening of excerpts from the new Propulsion Lab plays.
Meet our current Propulsion Lab writers
Nat Cassidy Astoria
Nat Cassidy is an award-winning writer, actor, director, and musician. He’s appeared in television shows such as “The Following” (Fox), “The Affair” (Showtime), “Red Oaks” (Amazon) “High Maintenance” (HBO), as well as numerous productions and workshops both Off- and Off-Off-Broadway. Nat’s plays have been nominated for a combined total of 17 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, including 3 times for Outstanding Full-Length Script (which he won in 2009, and in 2011 for Outstanding Solo Performance). His work has been seen throughout the country and is published by Samuel French, Smith & Kraus, NYTE, Applause Books, and Indie Theatre Now (where he is a bestselling playwright). In 2012 Nat was commissioned by The Kennedy Center to write the libretto for a world-premiere opera; and in 2014 his play Any Day Now was chosen to be part of Primary Stages’ ESPADrills (The Duke Theatre, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel). He’s an inductee in the Indie Theatre Hall of Fame, an NYTheatre Person of the Year, and was a finalist for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. www.natcassidy.com
Ray Yamanouchi Astoria
Ray Yamanouchi is a Hunter College graduate with a degree in film and theatre. He has written numerous short plays and four full-length plays (Mercy Killing Kids, It’s Our Kitchen, Tha Chink-Mart, and Impact) which have been workshopped all across NYC. Tha Chink-Mart was a semi-finalist for the 2016/17 New Dramatists Princess Grace Award. He is a member of Working Title Theatre Co. Playwrights Collective (wttheatre.com) and currently works at the Lucille Lortel Theatre when he isn’t at the local bar.
Jason Tseng Long Island City
Jason makes plays, comics, illustrations, and games — mostly about queer people and people of color. Most recently, his play Rizing received its world-premier in New York City with Flux Theatre Ensemble. His work has been featured in GeeksOut’s LGBT comics anthology Power, Sub Rosa magazine, and Nonprofit Quarterly. He also produces the podcasts Play x Play –featuring the best plays you’ve never heard of– and Queer and Present Danger, a queer nerd pop culture podcast. Find more at JasonTseng.com.
Jonathan Alexandratos Astoria
This is what Jonathan Alexandratos does when he’s a playwright: (1) writes DUCK, a full-length animal allegory about abuse, as a 2014-2015 member of Mission to (dit)Mars. (2) Submits DUCK to Nashville Repertory Theatre’s Ingram New Works Lab, and becomes an Ingram New Works Playwright for the 2015-2016 season. (3) Writes WE SEE WHAT HAPPEN, a full-length immersive theatre piece about his grandmother’s immigration to the U.S. in 1951, as performed by superhero action figures. He writes this for Nashville Repertory Theatre, who will perform the piece as a staged reading in May 2016. This play is also workshopped at Mission to (dit)Mars’ Propulsion Lab. (4) Attends a production of DUCK in Strasbourg, France, put on by PEACE Productions in June 2016. This is what Jonathan Alexandratos does when he’s not doing all of that: (1) writes academic essays on action figures for the book he’s editing, tentatively titled POINTS OF ARTICULATION: ESSAYS IN ACTION FIGURE STUDIES. (2) collects action figures. (3) co-manages Denver Comic Con’s literary conference. (4) awaits your email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Casper Astoria
Scott Casper is an actor, director and playwright living in Astoria, NY. As a writer, his short plays have been produced as part of the Asolo Conservatory’s Late Night Series, Firecracker Productions’ Red Light Nights, and Left Hip Productions’ From the Hip Festival. Scott is also the Artistic Director of taxdeductible theatre, and he has had several plays produced as part of The Dare Project (world-premiere ten-minute plays, written on a dare). The Dare Project also provided the starting point for his full-length play #hero, which was authored in collaboration by taxdeductible theatre. #hero received its world premiere in 2013.
Mrinalini Kamath Astoria
Mrinalini Kamath’s plays have been performed around the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Australia and India. She has been a semi-finalist for both the O’Neill and Seven Devils Playwrights Conferences, a finalist for the Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival and was Fluid Motion Theatre and Film’s inaugural Start the Story commission recipient. She won first place in the first East West Players (Los Angeles, CA) Got Laughs? Asian-American Comedy Play Contest and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Several of her short plays appear in various Smith and Kraus anthologies. She is an alumna of Youngblood, the emerging playwrights’ collective at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City and a current member of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab.
Writers in Residence
Lisa Huberman Astoria
Lisa Huberman is a New York-based playwright and a third-generation vegetarian from Youngstown, Ohio. She received her BA in Theatre Performance at Bradley University and an MFA in Playwriting from Rutgers, where she developed the full-length play, Egyptology. Her full-length play, Sex and Charitable Giving, was developed in the New Light Theatre Project Darkroom Series and the Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab. The play was then produced in the inaugural F*ckfest at the Brick Theatre and recorded as part of the HeRD Podcast at The Tank. She is the author of several one-act plays, including Under the Rainbow(Regional Winner, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival), Health Nuts(Semi-finalist, Little Fish Theatre Pick of the Vine Competition), Sub-prime (
Lisa also wrote and directed the documentary short, “Transforming Memory” at Jerusalem’s Ma’aleh Film School. You can watch the film here:https://www.youtube.com/
Kristine M. Reyes Astoria
Kristine M. Reyes is a playwright raised and based in New York City. Her plays have been performed in NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and include Lily in Love (Mission to (dit)Mars Launch Pad Reading Series; Queens Theatre’s New American Voices Reading Series); Queen for a Day (Diverse City Theater Company’s First Draft Fellowship) and Stage/Mother. She was a 2014-15 Fellow at The Dramatists Guild, where she is also a proud member. She has been published on Indie Theater Now and has contributed as a guest blogger on Howlround. www.kristinemreyes.com
Tyler Rivenbark Sunnyside
Born and raised in North Carolina, Tyler Rivenbark received his MFA in Playwriting from the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, CUNY in 2010. Currently, he is an Adjunct Lecturer in the English Department of Queens College. Select plays include hands (The Bushwick Starr, Brooklyn), The Wild Papers (Latimer House, Flushing), This Woman Must Be My Wife (Gantry Plaza, Long Island City), Monosyllabic (Mellow Pages, Brooklyn), Silence (Dixon Place, NYC; Artists’ Bloc, Washington, DC), and Inside the Rain (Dixon Place, NYC). He co-curated the site specific theatrical experiment Unstaged as part of the Rough Draft Festival (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center). He has received a Poetry Society of America commission to adapt Rita Dove’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poems, Thomas and Beulah. He was a writer-in-residence at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, a residency he now oversees. He is the co-founder of The Hammer & Pick Collective and the Queens Writers’ Collective. He is a member of the Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab and the Dramatists Guild.
Amy Witting Sunnyside
Amy E. Witting finally admits she is from New Jersey although now resides in Sunnyside, New York. Beyond owning three crockpots she is a semi-retired actor, producer, teaching artist, and playwright. Some of her plays include The House on Top of the Hill (Atlantic Theater Commission, Abingdon Theatre New Play Reading Series, Semi-finalist O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), There’s Never A Gavin: The True Story of a Disco Roller Skater (Atlantic Theater Amplified Reading Series, nominated 2016 Weissberger Award, Finalist The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep 2016 ), The Midnight Ride of Sean & Lucy (Roundabout Underground Reading Series, Finalist SOURCE Festival), A BAD NIGHT (2015 Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship), Day 392 (Kennedy Center ACTF/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop, Honorable Mention Kilroy’s List), Victor (Cabrini Rep, winner 2013 Thespis Festival), 36 Hours (Frigid Festival), FALLING (NY International Fringe Festival), G.I. Joe Jared (Edinburg Festival Fringe and 59E59) and Create Me Pegasus (finalist, The Sam French Festival). She was a 2015 finalist for the Leah Ryan FEWW award and nominated for the 2014-2015 Susan Smith Blackburn prize. She received an inaugural 2015 LAUNCH Commission from Atlantic Theater Company. Her plays have been developed at Tofte Lake Center, The Lark Play Development Center, The Kennedy Center, NNPN and Space on Ryder Farm. She received her MFA at Hunter College and is a member of PIPELINE PlayLab, Mission To (Dit)mars Propulsion Lab, and The Dramatists Guild.
Tori Keenan-Zelt Forest Hills
Originally and proudly from Pittsburgh, Tori writes curiosity-chasing plays that sniff out in-between spaces in big theatrical worlds. Many of them decide to be comedies. Her current/recent work includes [nbd], Seph, Air Space, The Egypt Play, or The Misses Blake on a Holiday Jihad, Truth Dare… (Best Ensemble, Pittsburgh Fringe), Episode #121: Catfight! (Yale Cabaret), and others. She has developed/presented work around the country, including at The Lark, The O’Neill,Yale Cabaret, Nashville Rep, Ensemble Studio Theatre (upcoming), Williamsto
Recently, she has been an Ingram New Works Lab Playwright, a Playwrights’ Center Core Apprentice, a Lark Dramaturgy Fellow, and a writer for Colonial Williamsburg’s PBS education series. She has been named an Emmy Nominee, Jerome Finalist, Princess Grace Finalist, Playwrights of New York Nominee, Kilroys List Nominee, and some other things. Right now, she is a member of Bastard Playground @ The Drama League, Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab, the 2016 Fresh Ground Pepper PlayGround PlayGroup, & the Dramatists Guild. Some of her short plays are published by Next Stage Press. AB, Harvard. MFA, NYU Tisch Asia (Singapore).
Mac Rogers Astoria
MAC ROGERS’ plays include SOVEREIGN (New York Times and Backstage Critic’s Pick), BLAST RADIUS (New York Times Critic’s Pick), ADVANCE MAN (winner of the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Premiere Production), FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS (NYIT nominee, Best Premier Production), LIGATURE MARKS (CityBeat Critic’s Pick), VIRAL (winner, Outstanding Play at FringeNYC 2009), UNIVERSAL ROBOTS (nominated for four New York Innovative Theatre awards), and HAIL SATAN (Outstanding Playwriting Winner at FringeNYC 2007. Mac’s plays have earned acclaim from The New York Times, Backstage, The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, New York Post, Flavorpill, io9.com, Tor.com, NYTheatre.com, and many others. Also an audio dramatist, Rogers wrote the sci-fi podcast thriller The Message, which has been dowloaded over 4 million times worldwide.
Past Writers in Residence
Mariah MacCarthy Astoria
Mariah’s work has been developed and presented at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Rattlestick, Primary Stages, Culture Project, New Dramatists, La MaMa, HERE, Dixon Place, The Brick, Atlantic Stage 2, Fringe NYC, various New York apartments, and Paris. Indie Theater Hall of Fame (“Person of the Year” 2012), PoNY nominee. Plays include Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People (winner of the Dr. Robert J. Thierauf Producer’s Pick Award; viewed over 41,000 times on YouTube), Honors Students (Kilroys List Honorable Mention; EST/Youngblood Unfiltered), Safeword (Dixon Place), Magic Trick (FringeNYC and Theatre Row; winner of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award and Lotos Foundation Prize in the Arts and Sciences), Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion (“sweet and boisterous…a lot of fun” –The New York Times), The Foreplay Play (two NYIT Award nominations), Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story (twenty Looking Glass Forum Awards,
August Schulenburg Forest Hills
August’s plays include Carrin Beginning, Kidding Jane, Rue,Riding the Bull, Good Hope,Other Bodies, Honey Fist, Dark Matter, Jacob’s House, DEINDE, Dream Walker, Denny and Lila, Dark Matter, Jane the Plain and The Lesser Seductions of History. His plays have been produced and developed at the Lark Play Development Center, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Chelsea Playhouse, Theater for the New City, Portland Stage Company, Dayton Playhouse, Colonial Players, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Contemporary Stage Company, Abingdon Theater Company, Gideon Productions, New Amerikan Theatre, Penobscot Theatre, Impetuous Theater Group, Decades Out, Soundtrack Series, Reverie Productions, Wolf 359, Blue Box Productions, Piper McKenzie, Boomerang Theatre Company, Adaptive Arts, Hall High School, Nosedive Productions, MTWorks, Purple Repertory, Valley Repertory Company, The Brick Theater, CAPS LOCK Theatre, Chameleon Theatre Circle, Retro Productions, Elephant Run District, TheatreLAB and Flux Theatre Ensemble, where he is the Artistic Director. He is a member of the Propulsion Lab for Mission to (dit)Mars. His work has also been published in the New York Theater Review, Stage and Screen, Indie Theater Now, Midway Journal, NoPassport Press and in two issues of Carrier Pigeon. He also writes for film and television with MozzleStead Productions.