Actors rehearse for the Hotchner Playwriting Festival

A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival 2022

We invite you to become a part of the playwriting process at the script-in-hand staged reading of each play.

For over 20 years the Performing Arts Department has produced the A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival as a vehicle to support and develop new plays written by WashU students. The annual Festival begins with a university-wide solicitation of new, unproduced plays. Several plays are selected, through an anonymized screening process, to be developed in a two-week event in September.  During those two weeks, each play will be workshopped with a professional dramaturg, a faculty director and student cast.  The Festival culminates in a public staged reading of each play.  Supported initially by A.E. Hotchner himself, a WashU alum, writer and businessman, and then by the Newman's Own Foundation, the company Hotchner co-founded with Paul Newman, the Festival is now fully supported by the Performing Arts Department.

The 2022 winning plays are Democratic Airlines by Zachary Stern and Ferns Don't Flower by Melia Van Hecke.  Guest dramaturg, Liza Birkenmeir, AB '08, a recent playwright-in-residence at New York talent hub Ars Nova, will mentor the writers during the Hotchner Festival workshop in September 2022. MA Candidate Natasha Cole will serve as the Festival Assistant.

All Readings will take place in-person in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre.  Admission is free and open to the public.

The Fern
by Melia van Hecke

Friday, September 23, 2022
7:00 p.m.

Legend has it that on the night a fern blooms, whoever picks the flower shall have their heart's truest wish come true. In The Fern, this piece of folk lore is put to the test when five American strangers gather at a mysterious European inn on the summer solstice.



Democratic Airlines
by Zachary Stern

Saturday, September 24, 2022
7:00 p.m.

Halfway between New York and Los Angeles, disaster strikes aboard Democratic Airlines Flight 789.  The pilot has been found dead in the cockpit.  While this might seem dire, hilarity ensues when the plane's passengers now have just a few short hours to elect a new pilot before time, and fuel, runs out. 



Meet the Dramaturg


Liza Birkenmeier was the 2019-2020 Tow Playwright-in-Residence at Ars Nova, where her play Dr. Ride’s American Beach House, directed by Katie Brook, premiered in 2019. Her most recent work includes Please Welcome Our Guest, commissioned by MTC for their Snapshot Series, Honestly Sincere with Theater in Quarantine, and ISLANDER at HERE. Her work has been developed at Dixon Place, New Georges, PRELUDE, The Public Theater, New York Stage and Film, City Theatre, and elsewhere. She has taught playwriting at Carnegie Mellon and NYU Tisch. Her first production, Candlestick Park, was part of the Hotchner Festival and was directed by Andrea Urice in 2009. She was born in St. Louis, and has returned to work with Shakespeare Festival STL, Wash U, St. Louis Actors Studio, the Rep, and Upstream Theater. She is a Macdowell Colony and Yaddo fellow, received her BA in Drama from Wash U's PAD, and received her MFA in playwriting from Carnegie Mellon University. 



The adjudication committee consisted of  Andrea Urice, Bill Whitaker, Elizabeth Hunter and Ann Marie Mohr. The authors' names were removed from the scripts so that the adjudication process was “blind”. The committee thanks all student playwrights who submitted plays to the 2022 Festival.