PlayGym: A New Play Development Forum 


PlayGym is a unique forum for playwrights to hear their work read and to receive feedback from professionals in a supportive environment. At each session, playwrights have access to professional actors trained in new play development and a professional dramaturg to guide the process.

There are two versions of PlayGym-
PlayGym: Scenes and Short Plays, for writers working on scenes from a play-in-progress, or on a short play (up to 30 minutes), and
PlayGym: Full Lengths and Long One Acts, for writers working on completed drafts of full-length or long one-act plays.

Playwrights of all career levels are encouraged to participate in both versions of PlayGym, depending upon what they are currently working on. Both versions of the class follow the same process of dramaturgical feedback and engagement, promote The NJPL core values of collaboration, methodology, and excellence, and afford playwrights the opportunity to learn and reinforce best dramaturgical practices through the exploration of their own work and the work of others. However, there is more room for experimentation and less structural rigor in PlayGym: Scenes and Short Plays than in PlayGym: Full Lengths and Long One Acts due to the inherent nature of the form.

Testimonials from PlayGym playwrights

“If you’re a New Jersey playwright, or want to be, and you want specific, honest, and supportive guidance in writing and rewriting your plays, The New Jersey Play Lab’s workshops and programs
are the answer.”

“Writing a play is hard. PlayGym makes it easier.”

“PlayGym has been essential in my growth as a writer of both short and full-length plays. Hearing my work read by professional actors and receiving critical feedback from experienced dramaturgs has helped me delve deeper to strengthen my plays.”

Summer 2021 PlayGym

Due to ongoing concerns and restrictions surrounding Covid 19, all Summer 2021 PlayGym classes will be offered virtually via Zoom.

Registration for this session is now closed!

Full Lengths and Long One Acts
with PlayGym Dramaturg James Kenna

For writers working on completed drafts of full-length or long one-act plays

Wednesdays 7pm to 10pm
July 7, 14, 21, and 28
Fee: $175
Class Limit: 3 writers

For playwrights who may be interested in joining this session with a scene or short play, please email us at


Week One: Introductions to each other, the plays, and the PlayGym dramaturgical process.
Weeks Two–Four/Five: Each playwright is given one three-hour session in which to hear their play read aloud by professional actors, followed by a facilitated discussion.
Follow-Up Conferences: In the week following the reading of their play, each playwright has an individual phone conference with the dramaturg. These conferences provide an opportunity to reflect on the feedback received and to discuss next steps.

Meet the Dramaturgs

Emily Dzioba

Emily (she/her/hers), the Literary Manager of The NJPL, is a dramaturg, arts administrator, and educator. Alongside Cheryl + Kaitlin, she has done dramaturgical work for We Victorians, and continues to provide artistic support the 2020 Residency play selections and in PlayGym! Other artistic homes have included George Street Playhouse; Tectonic Theater Project and the Moment Work Institute; Keen Company; the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; and the Writers Theatre of New Jersey. Along with new play development, she specializes in the research and development of devised and ensemble generated work. Emily is a reader for She NYC Arts, the Playwrights Foundation/ Bay Area Playwright’s Festival, Kitchen Dog Theater, and Campfire Theatre Festival. She is the resident dramaturg and an artistic mentor for the Union Catholic Performing Arts Company, and her day job is with Night Castle Management. When not doing any of those things, she also produces an interview and story-based podcast, “Once Upon a Time: A Storytelling Podcast”. Emily is a proud member of LMDA and ATHE, and lives in the very real Central NJ. BA, Drew University, 2018. You can read more about her on her website, here.

Darin F. Earl II

Darin F. Earl II (he/him/his & they/them/theirs) is a Garden State native, delighted to contribute to the beautiful culture that The NJ Play Lab has fostered. As a member of the Play Lab’s Acting Company, he is honored to offer incoming playwrights the encouragement and success that the Play Lab provides. With a background in theatre and journalism, he has nestled into communities, fostering environments of support and collaboration amongst artists as an actor, playwright, teaching artist, and arts administrator. Darin attended Rider University for Theatre Performance along with studies in Journalism, emerging as the only Black Theatre Performance graduate in the Class of 2016. As a First-Generation, Queer artist, Darin has made an effort to lead with love and create with care since stepping foot into the Jersey scene. He has been involved with theatre organizations such as The New Jersey Creative Arts Collaborative, New Jersey Repertory Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Luna Stage, and Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre. 
As one of Newark’s Finest Ambassadors, he’s performed since his youth, attending the Newark Boys Chorus School in Newark, NJ. Since then, he’s performed on stages from Upstate New York down to the Cayman Islands and over to Croatia. In 2014, he attended St. Mary’s University of Twickenham in England, UK and in 2017, he traveled with his alma mater to perform in the International Student Dionysian Festival in Đakovo, Croatia. He has also travelled to Los Angeles, California and Charlotte, North Carolina for featured roles in filmed series. With momentum for development, production, and direction, Darin co-founded Visions Productions and North Corner Theatre, two production companies with the intent to assemble an artist collective dedicated to fostering artistic opportunities for our youth. In 2019, Darin was the Interim Director of Education for Writers Theatre of New Jersey. Presently, Darin works in digital media as a webcast production assistant for a corporate creative studio. Aside from his involvement in the artistic community, Darin is an advocate for the Queer community as a member of Beta Gamma Chi Fraternity, Inc. He also is an administrator at HPI School of Allied Health, and a registered pharmacy technician. To follow Darin’s journey, follow him on Instagram: @OfficialDarinEarl.

James Kenna

James Kenna (he/him/his) is a dramaturg, writer, and educator. He has called many theatre’s artistic homes such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Hangar Theatre, Dreamcatcher Theatre, and The 52nd Street Project. His work often explores the collision of fantasy and reality, with a specialized interest in heightened language, non-linearity, theatrical impossibilities, and humor. James is represented by UIA Talent Agency. 

Select recent credits include: Film: The Garden Will Not Crumble (Short Film, ACT Skyfest 2021). Plays: “Beowulf: Her Story” (Dragonfly Theatre Finalist, Slated for 2020 Edinburgh Fringe Festival Postponed due to COVID-19, and Featured on The Subtext Podcast). Writer for Tsquared Theatre Company’s New Works Festival, “Italian Rose: A Solo Show” (Ars Nova Grant, Developed at Fordham University). “The Key: A Solo Show” (Fordham University). 

James has also been seen on stage at The Hangar Theatre, The Edinburgh Fringe, Symphony Space, and various small spaces in New York City. During the day James works as a New York City Ironworker, erecting columns and beams for skyscrapers. James received his BA from Fordham University with awards in distinguished achievement. You can learn more about him and his work on his website here.

Lia Romeo

Lia Romeo’s play The Forest was developed at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, and was scheduled to receive a National New Play Network rolling world premiere in the upcoming season (cancelled due to the coronavirus). This and three of her other plays have been recognized by the Kilroys List. Her plays have been produced at 59E59, Unicorn Theatre, Project Y Theatre Company, Dreamcatcher Rep, HotCity Theatre, and many other companies. She was the winner of City Theatre’s 2019 National Short Playwriting Award, and was a 2018 Individual Artist Fellowship winner in playwriting from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts. Her plays are published by Broadway Play Publishing, Playscripts, Dramatists Play Service, and Smith & Kraus. She is the associate artistic director with Project Y Theatre Company, and she teaches playwriting in the M.A. program in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the B.F.A. program at Molloy College. She earned her B.A. from Princeton and her M.F.A. in playwriting from Rutgers/MGSA.


How do I know if I’m ready for PlayGym?

Long ago we decided that this was not for us to determine—if you feel ready and able to do the work based on the description of the class, then you probably are! However, there are some things that our PlayGym playwrights share:

  • You have some basic training in playwriting and understand the terminology of the craft.
  • You are self-directed in setting goals, writing and rewriting outside of class, and determining what material you want to bring in and articulating specific goals you have in wanting to hear it read.
  • You are genuinely open to feedback and have a desire to further develop your play.
  • You are willing to give thoughtful feedback to your fellow playwrights through a structured, facilitated discussion.

If this sounds like you, then PlayGym is for you! If you have questions and would like to discuss further, please contact

I’ve never worked with you before. Do I need to submit a sample of my work?

If we are not familiar with your writing, then please do submit a sample of your writing—ideally a piece you plan to work on in session. You can submit to with “PLAYGYM SAMPLE” as the subject of your email. 

I really want to take PlayGym, but I am not available at the times you are currently offering it. What do I do?

We really appreciate your interest! Since each PlayGym section is only designed for a small number of writers, we are constantly assessing the need to add additional sections. Please sign up here to indicate your interest in additional sections and indicate the times you would be available to attend. 

I have actors that I really like to work with. Can I bring them into the process for my reading?

How wonderful that you have found actors that you feel “click” with your work! The New Jersey Play Lab has a company of actors who are trained in new play development who we work with regularly. However, we want to serve playwrights in the development process as best we can, so we are always open to new suggestions of actors.

Our forums are designed for a small number of students to allow for a more intimate experience. However, keeping our forums small means that we must meet that enrollment in order to run them.
Please note that cash refunds will ONLY be issued in the event that a section is cancelled by The New Jersey Play Lab. An enrolled student may withdraw up to one month prior to the start of the session and receive a credit for a future semester.

For any questions, please contact

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