2019 Boston Project

2019 Boston Project

April 17, 2019

SpeakEasy’s Boston Project is back for a fourth season, featuring two brand new locally-set plays by playwrights MJ Halberstadt and Laura Neill.

We are thrilled to announce the return of Phaedra Michelle Scott, a 2017-2018 Boston Project Playwright, who will continue development of her play DIASPORA!.

The three Boston Project playwrights will each receive a commission and will have nine months to write and develop their proposed plays. Throughout the process, SpeakEasy Stage will provide directors and dramaturgs dedicated to each project, research assistance, developmental readings, and other support as needed. The playwrights will also benefit from the input and support of SpeakEasy Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault. Work on each play will build toward a two-week developmental workshop, culminating in invited staged readings in June 2019.

Once again this year, The Boston Project has been made possible through funding from the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Read more about all three plays and playwrights below. Thank you to everyone who submitted. The overwhelming response to our call for proposals demonstrates that there are many stories to be told about Boston. Our hope is that this project will put more of them into the theatrical ecosystem.



The Usual Unusual is a scrappy and quaint bookstore where Boston’s LGBTQ+ community has gathered to shop, organize, and flirt since the 70’s. When the store’s charismatic founder Pete announces his retirement, neurotic staff-member Charlie persuades him to pass leadership on, rather than close the store. Generational disputes about identity, community, and trauma arise as the staff-members advocate for competing visions for the store’s future. The attempts of one bookstore to unite a fractured community under one banner — or just coordinate a weekly reading night — lead to fraught and hilarious results.

MJ Halberstadt is the Boston-based playwright of The Launch Prize (Elliot Norton Award, Bridge Repertory Theater), That Time the House Burned Down (Fresh Ink Theatre), not Jenny (Bridge Repertory Theater), and other plays all involving some intersection of Antarctica, community, privilege, and queerness. His less traditional work includes immersive plays performed in cars and museums, and a chamber opera about Grindr (with composer Marc Hoffeditz). He is an alumnus of Boston University and Emerson College, where he teaches screenwriting, as well as a Founding Playmaker Emeritus of Bridge Repertory Theater, a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., and a devoted knitter. Learn more at MJHalberstadt.com.

JUST CAUSE by Laura Neill

When the abandoned T tunnel under City Hall is re-discovered, Blue Star LLC buys it from the city to build (what do you think?) luxury condos. Minimum-wage security guards Harry and Sammy keep watch for squatters… and other things… as Blue Star bosses rationalize mysterious red stains on the walls and Ava (a.k.a the inevitable white liberal) stages periodic sit-ins to protest. But is that interchangeable white guy boss really in the Caymans, or did he maybe die in an explosion of blood and shadows? A gory and incisively depressing comedy that takes a hard look at Boston’s economy, the monsters that lurk in our shadows, and what we do to survive.

Laura Neill will develop her play Winter People at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference this summer. Previous productions include DIVAS, commissioned and premiered by OperaHub; Skin and Bones, workshopped with the Wilbury Theatre Group; and Don’t Give Up the Ship, premiered by Fresh Ink Theatre. Laura was an affiliate of the 2016 Company One PlayLab, and she was the WomenWorks playwright-in-residence at the University of Tulsa in 2017. She was a finalist for the Todd McNerney Award and winner of the Eleanor Frost Award. She co-edited the New England New Play Anthology for StageSource. Laura has taught courses on creative writing and theatre at Boston University, Emerson College, and Boston College. MFA: Boston University. Learn more at http://laurajneill.wixsite.com/home.

DIASPORA! by Phaedra Michelle Scott

Sunny and Janae are sisters on a quest to understand their shared, complicated history. Sunny is writing a biography about her family and wants to include the white grandfather who abandoned them. Janae wants to embrace her blackness in a radical way and renounce all ties to whiteness. The sisters meet at a crossroads where they challenge each other on questions of authenticity, ownership and the terrifying freedom of forging their own own futures with an unknown past.

Phaedra Michelle Scott is a playwright and dramaturg based in New York City. This is her second year of development at SpeakEasy Stage for Diaspora! at SpeakEasy Stage, and has recently become a resident at SPACE on Ryder Farm for her upcoming play Plantation Black. Phaedra has worked in theatres across the country including Cleveland Play House, Huntington Theatre Company, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Salt Lake Acting Company, Playwrights Realm, and MCC Theater. She is the recipient of the Bly Creative Capacity Grant for her work with Black Theater Commons where she is the Resident Dramaturg. Currently, Phaedra is the VP of Programs for the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, and is the resident dramaturg of the New Harmony Project. She is a proud graduate of Washington College, and a proud obscure history and horror enthusiast.

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