Palm Beach Dramaworks

Palm Beach Dramaworks Names

Jenny Connell Davis

Resident Playwright

(Wednesday, July 12, 2023) West Palm Beach, Fla. – Palm Beach Dramaworks is pleased to announce that Jenny Connell Davis, whose commissioned play The Messenger will have its world premiere during the upcoming 2023 – 24 season, has been named the company’s first resident playwright, effective immediately. 

“I am delighted that Jenny accepted our invitation to join us as our resident playwright,” said Producing Artistic Director William Hayes. “PBD has made a resolute commitment to both developing new plays and producing new works. In the past five seasons we’ve produced seven world premieres, and since 2019 our new plays festival has showcased 25 readings of stimulating works still in development. New plays are now so integral to who we are that the logical next step was to offer a playwright an artistic home. And Jenny is not only immensely talented, but she meshed with PBD from the moment she first worked with us.

“We met in 2020 when her play, As I See It, was chosen for the festival,” Hayes continued. “I was so impressed by her writing that we planned to produce the play’s world premiere. Unfortunately, due to external circumstances, we couldn’t make it happen. But I knew she was someone I wanted to collaborate with. I admire the way she approaches her work, and we discovered we had a similar sensibility and an easy rapport: we can bounce ideas off each other, and we listen. We may not always agree, but we respect each other’s viewpoint and keep our minds open. It’s a wonderful working relationship.”

“From the moment I arrived here and began meeting everyone, it was like I’d found friends and collaborators,” said Davis. “And I’m not speaking just about the artistic staff, but about board members and patrons. I felt like I had come into a welcoming community, and I wanted to continue to be a part of it. I’m very excited that PBD is committed to new work. Right now, the appetite for new work nationwide is not high, and the opportunities are contracting. So, naming a resident playwright is a brave step when the theatre community nationally is trying to figure out how to be brave. It’s an honor that they talked to me about the position, and it was an easy ‘yes’ for me.” 

Hayes and Davis envision a continuous series of commissions, over a period of years, about subjects that stimulate both of them. The Messenger is such a play. It’s inspired by the life of Holocaust survivor Georgia Gabor and connects the dots between Holocaust denialism, free speech in schools, and racial discrimination in present-day America.

A reading of The Messenger by Jenny Connell Davis on Friday, January 6, 2023

From left to right: Jenny Connell Davis, Jade Duong, Margery Lowe, Angela Gulner and Casey Sacco

“Bill wants to commission work that he would not only like to see onstage at PBD, but that he thinks will have a life beyond PBD,” said Davis. “If I bring him an idea and he says, ‘There’s no way we’re going to do that,’ then I’ll look for another idea. I can always write whatever play I want on my own time. But if it’s on PBD’s time and dime, the idea should be something that excites him. It’s a project commitment, which is great; that’s not how it always works. And I won’t be pumping out a play a year for the company, which is a good thing. Sometimes a play takes two or three years to write. And I’m sure there are plenty of other playwrights with whom Bill would like to develop relationships.  So, this works well for both of us. The relationship is ongoing, and we’ll always be batting around what might come next.”

Jenny Connell Davis is a playwright from Maine, who lives in Austin, TX. Recent plays include Matinicus: A Lighthouse Play (a true story about Maine heroine Abigail Burgess); As I See It, about the relationship between painter Alice Neel and poet Frank O’Hara; and Anton Chekhov Is A Tasty Snack, a comedy about the tragedy of theatre, and the people who love it. The Messenger, commissioned by PBD, will have its world premiere during the 2023-24 season. Her stage plays have been developed or produced by PBD, the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, The Playwrights’ Center, Icicle Creek, ACT in Seattle, the Araca Group, The Gift Theatre, Stage Left and ATC in Chicago, Ars Nova, Asolo Rep, NAATCO, Theater Mitu, New York Stage and Film, Shrewd Productions, Impact Theatre in Berkeley, Chance Theatre, SPACE at Ryder Farm, and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation. In addition to PBD, she has been commissioned by The Chance Theater, Penfold Theater, and Ars Nova. By day, Jenny works as the in-house writer at Emmy Award-winning Baobab Studios, developing stories that they iterate across tv, film, books for kids, graphic novels, Roblox and NFT games, and VR. She adapted bestselling novelist Jennifer Weiner’s first YA novel, The Littlest Bigfoot, for screen; it’s currently under development with Fox/Disney. Her first pilot script, a soapy supreme court drama, sold to Sony. Her short films have screened at festivals worldwide, including SxSW and Toronto. 

Palm Beach Dramaworks is a professional, nonprofit theatre company founded in 2000 and located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach. Each season, the award-winning company produces five mainstage shows and offers a wide variety of programs for students at the theatre and in schools. Committed to fostering the future of theatre, PBD has become a hub for playwrights in Florida and around the country to nurture their work through initiatives including The Dramaworkshop and the new Plays Festival. PBD is a member of Theatre Communications Group, Florida Professional Theatres Association, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, and NNPN.

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Jennifer Sardone-Shiner

Marketing Consultant

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