House on Fire and The Dramaworkshop
When Lyle Kessler’s House on Fire receives its world premiere at Palm Beach Dramaworks on December 7, it will be the second play in two years to make it to the company’s mainstage from The Dramaworkshop, the company’s lab for developing new works.
Each season, playwrights submit their plays for consideration to be further developed. A select number are chosen for workshops and staged readings, with the aim of nurturing significant new work for PBD’s mainstage and theatres all across the country.

PBD Producing Artistic Director William Hayes launched The Dramaworkshop in the fall of 2014 out of an abiding belief that it is essential for regional theatres to cultivate new plays. “From the time this company was founded, one of my goals was for PBD to be an incubator of new plays and a producer of world premieres,” said Hayes, who directs House on Fire . “I knew that could only happen after we were well-established and thriving. After we announced this new venture, we made the call for submissions and the response from playwrights around the country was inspiring. The number of submissions has grown every year, underscoring the need for The Dramaworkshop. Simply put, new work is vital to the future of theatre. The economics of Broadway discourage Broadway producers from championing plays that have not previously been done elsewhere, which makes it imperative for regional theatres to identify, encourage, support, and bring to life exciting new plays. And I’ve found that audiences are hungry for the sense of discovery that this initiative provides. They could be seeing the next Indecent , which opened our season, or Fences, which opens here in March. Both those plays were developed at regional theatres.”

The first show to emerge from The Dramaworkshop and receive its world premiere at PBD was Joseph McDonough’s Edgar & Emily , which was produced last season. In this comic fantasia, the emerging poet Emily Dickinson is unexpectedly visited by a desperate Edgar Allan Poe. The play received a second production earlier this season from another Florida theatre.

In House on Fire , Kessler uses magic realism to tell a moving and funny parable of love, resentment, and redemption. Colman returns home after a self-imposed, decade-long absence upon learning from his brother, Dale, of their father’s death. Despite the presence of the Old Man’s lifeless body, Colman is not convinced he’s actually gone. Before long, all three men are battling for dominance. Then two uninvited guests arrive, and lives are changed forever. 
The quality of the work that has been submitted to The Dramaworkshop has been so promising that PBD is ushering in 2019 with its first-ever New Year/New Plays Festival, which runs from January 4-6. Under the auspices of The Dramaworkshop, five evolving works will be given readings on the mainstage. Four of the five were chosen from among some 300 plays received by The Dramaworkshop during the 2018 submission period. The fifth play was commissioned by PBD for a future mainstage production. 

The New Year/New Plays Festival provides playwrights with the opportunity to hear their words performed in front of a live audience, which is instrumental to the development and growth of a play. And audiences not only have a chance to feel the excitement of seeing something brand new, but to offer invaluable feedback to the playwrights.

The plays are The Captives by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, Drift by William Francis Hoffman, With by Carter W. Lewis, Ordinary Americans by Joseph McDonough, and Red, White, Black and Blue by Michael McKeever.

For more information, visit , or contact the box office at (561) 514-4042.

Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.

The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street.