The Storyteller Studio

A Community for the Development of Young Playwrights and Dramaturgs


Jump ahead to the program details.


Meet the 22-23 Cohort Members

Elisabetta Bracer is a recent graduate from Montclair State University, with dual bachelor degrees in Theatre Studies and English Literature. She’s spent most of her early theatrical career performing, but has since moved to teaching, writing and dramaturgy. Elisabetta held the position of Dramaturg in Residence for the new Meraki Entertainment and has been a dramaturg for Don’t Tell Amy Productions. She was asked to return to Montclair State as an alumni guest artist for the fall production of Dance Nation as “Connie” and get her acting skills back into good use! She will also be starting teaching artist positions with Envision Theatre and Porch Light Studios within the next few months. Elisabetta made her NYC debut with the New York Theatre Summerfest in May with her original one-act play An Empty Museum, and she is very excited to get this opportunity to work with this cohort.

Nyasia Drye is an emerging playwright, and actress. Her artistic career began at the MCVT School of Performing Arts, in East Brunswick NJ. She continued her education at Rutgers NJIT Theatre Arts program, where she has since obtained her BA in Theatre and English, and completed a teacher preparation program to receive her English teaching certificate. She is currently a full time teacher at Piscataway Township Schools. While acting is also a passion of hers, she primarily focuses on writing, primarily stage plays. Her future goals include graduate school for playwriting, and producing her play Dr. Heidi and the Tales of Frankendoll. https://sites.google.com/scarletmail.rutgers.edu/nyasia-drye-portfolio/

Ally Duvak (she/her) is a recent graduate from Muhlenberg College with a BA in English and minors in Creative Writing and French & Francophone Studies. Ally wrote her first play in 2021 and was lucky enough to see multiple productions of it brought to life throughout 2021 and 2022. When she’s not writing plays, she’s writing for her job in marketing, writing fiction and narrative non-fiction, or just writing for fun. She writes a lot.

Salma Elwy (she/her) is a theatre artist and educator based in South Jersey. Salma received her B.A. in Theatre Arts this past May, along with a minor in Arabic Studies and a certification Teaching ESL. She is continuing her education this year at her alma mater, Rowan University, in pursuit of a Masters in Theatre Education. As a playwright, Salma’s work often contains themes of girlhood and adolescence, family, and the immigrant experience. Her original play These Walls was presented in a staged reading in April 2022 at the Eagle Theatre for their New Works Development Series. In addition to teaching and theatre-making, Salma enjoys traveling, bike-riding, and alllll things Taylor Swift. salmaelwy.com

Liesl Eppes a storyteller and explorer of life who’s favorite mediums include the stage, screen and written word. Inspired by the belief that stories are our greatest tool for shaping a better world, Liesl focuses her life on gaining a greater understanding of the multifaceted human experience and honing the narrative craft of sharing that experience with others. In 2021 she graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts and Spanish at Drew University with concentrations on Directing, Writing, and Spanish Film. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, receiving the President’s Award in Theatre Arts and is a member of Alpha Psi Omega (National Theatre Honors Society) and Sigma Delta Pi (National Spanish Honors Society). 

Brynn Hambley (she/they) is a queer and disabled playwright, devising artist, educator, poet, and podcast host residing in the NYC area via New Jersey by way of Pittsburgh, PA. She earned her BA in Theatre Arts from Gettysburg College and her MFA in Theatre (Playwriting and Devising) from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work explores loneliness, disability, queerness, and the very human ability to have hope despite it all. Brynn has been a featured artist for Theatre Viscera; a finalist for the International Award for Improper Dramaturgy; and has been featured in Z Publishing House’s collection of Best Emerging Poets in America. Her work has been developed by Cut/Edge Collective, First Kiss Theatre Company, Soundscape Theatre, Waterhouse Collective, Loud Colorful Filth, Sarah Lawrence College, and more. She is also the creator and co-host of Play-Mates Podcast– a theatre education podcast where she analyzes plays with the help of co-host Lee Harrison Daniel. Find more of her work at www.brynnhambley.weebly.com. Member of The NJPL Storyteller Studio and Cut/Edge Collective, Resident Artist with First Kiss Theatre Company.

Alison O’Brien is a “multi-hat” theatre artist who graduated Drew University in 2019 with a BA in Theatre Arts. After completing a production internship at the American Shakespeare Center, Alison went on to co-created and produced the web-series Hive.  Recently, she worked with elementary school children on devising and producing an original piece over the course of seven weeks returning to her focus on new play development through the directorial and dramaturgical lens. Her work is often inspired by the small, quiet moments that give a sense of magic and wonder in our day-to-day lives.

Jennifer Pillaga is a recent graduate of Kean University with a B.F.A Theater Performance. She is currently a Miranda Family Fellow after she completed a summer acting intensive at the National Theatre Institute in Waterford, CT. She was also a literary intern for Premiere Stages this past summer. Her onstage credits include Anna in the Tropics as Conchita and The Hungry Woman as Luna. Her writing credits include, The 7th Floor Apartment, a short play that had a reading by Stream On Productions and The House of Stars, which was the winner of the 2022 Bauer Boucher Awards at Premiere Stages. She is always grateful to her family and friends for constantly supporting her artistic journey.

Angel J. Rivas  is an actor/writer from West New York, New Jersey. Most recently, he was seen as Armando, in The Armando Project, by Orlando F. Rodriguez. His most recent play, Track, will be produced at Villagers Theatre in their next season. He’s grateful to be a part of the Storyteller’s Studio and is excited to share his work. Angel thanks his friends and family for their continued support. Education: BFA in Acting, Montclair State University. www.angeljrivas.com

Arly Rubens (she/her) is a dramaturg, actor, and director with a special interest in experiential, immersive, and collaborative dramaturgy. As a production dramaturg, some favorite projects include Parade (featuring a tactile mini-museum of “found objects” in the lobby), Urinetown (with an Actor’s Packet That Is Also A Riot and a lobby display meant to be defaced), and Anna in the Tropics (featuring a series of cigar-rolling workshops with the cast and crew). She holds a BA in Theatre and English from Kean University and has trained with the Kennedy Center (Fellow, 2021 Dramaturgy Intensive), The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (Dramaturgy/Education Intern), and Premiere Stages (Literary/Artistic Intern). Currently, Arly works as an Administrative Assistant in the Rutgers University Writing Program, and she’s working to mount her first productions with The People’s Theater, a new socialist theater collective of which she’s a founding member. www.arlyrubens.com

Alexis Telyczka is an artist and poet, creating out of Somerset, NJ. She is a graduate student in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism at The New School in New York City, and an alumna of New Jersey Institute of Technology, where she completed degrees in both the Theatre Arts and Technology program and the Science, Technology and Society program. Her research and writing interests include psychology, philosophy, ethics, and the natural world. Her creative projects often include the themes of legacy, familial relationships, gender and femininity. She is a lover of devised theatre and a novice dramaturg. But, at her deepest core, she is a cupcake connoisseur, pin collector, and waterfall enthusiast; easily drawn to anything that is pink, and is excited for every chance she gets to create.

Annie Vee is a NJ/NYC Theater Artist who graduated from SUNY at Purchase College in 2019 as a Theater and Performance major, alongside a Playwriting minor. Annie spends most of her time writing about fantasy/sci-fi, and learning voiceover! Currently, she is a Co-Producer/Staff Writer on “Murphy,” an audio drama premiering fall of 2022– filled with cryptids, and mystery. In addition, Annie was a part of NJ Play Lab’s Storyteller Studio 2021 Cohort as well, and is thrilled to be back! Past projects in the past few years: Watching Through Frames, P.OV Fest 2018 & 2019, Access. https://www.ghostlymuseproductions.com/murphy

Devon Villacampa is a screenwriter, playwright, and storyteller of all kinds who was born and raised in Randolph, New Jersey. His ten-minute play Kidneys was recently performed at the Chatham Playhouse as part of their annual Jersey Voices show. His horror and cartoon screenplays have placed in the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition, ScreenCraft Feature Competition, HorrOrigins Film Festival, and ScreenCraft Animation Competition. He is currently hard at work on a pilot for a TV series. In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, acting in community theatre, skiing, indoor rock climbing, and hanging out at the Jersey Shore. https://writers.coverfly.com/profile/writer-daf7638f7-171828


Meet the Staff

Emily Dzioba (she/her) is the Artistic Director of The Storyteller Studio, having conceived and launched the program in late 2020. She is a dramaturg, arts administrator, and producer. Her full bio can be read here, and you can visit her website here.

Alyssa Sileo (she/her) is the Studio Coordinator, having been a member of the original 2021 pilot year Cohort. She is a playwright, dramaturg, applied theatre artist, and arts access advocate. Her full bio can be read here. Website: thealyssaproject.com


About the Studio

What is the Storyteller Studio?

The Storyteller Studio is a collaborative space for young playwrights and dramaturgs to hone their craft through peer and professional support, and to develop the skills and working habits necessary for success as they transition into professional careers.
This program is intended for those who have recently graduated from university programs, or those who have established their initial interests in these art forms through alternative avenues.

Why the Studio?

Playwriting and Dramaturgy could be considered the backbone of theatre. Yet, there are often gaps in learned experience in these disciplines. Student playwrights in a university setting often leave without the chance to fully explore their work off the page, and student dramaturgs often fall through the cracks of curriculum and production opportunities. Often, the expectations placed upon students do not align with what will be expected of them in a professional setting, leaving them unprepared and ill-equipped as they embark on their emerging careers. 

Young artists who have foregone higher education face numerous barriers to artistic development, and artists at an entry-level point in their careers often do not have a consistent support network of peers who share their goals and skill sets. There are few spaces for young playwrights and dramaturgs to create that aren’t classes, internships, fellowships, or jobs, and many of these existing programs for emerging artists have education requirements or present financial barriers. This reality can leave young artists isolated and with a fractured, unproductive path in which to continue to grow and learn. 

The Storyteller Studio was conceived with all of these challenges in mind as a uniquely and radically accessible, virtual, no-cost opportunity, structured to champion self-determination by each artist while offering community support, targeted mentorship and professional development.

How does it work?

The Storyteller Studio operates on an yearly basis with an outreach and open application process beginning in the spring, a selection process occurring in the summer, and the work of the Cohort taking place over the course of eight months from mid-fall to late spring. Each Cohort is led each step of the way by an experienced Lead Mentor.

Artists selected to participate in a Cohort begin their Storyteller Studio experience by working closely with the Lead Mentor to identify a project to work on throughout the course of the program. Playwrights’ projects may take the form of a reading of a play or play excerpt, the pitching of a treatment, or learning the process of working with a dramaturg or a director. A dramaturgical project may take the form of a “pitch” presentation of a dream play, a collaboration with a new play in progress, the designing of a research packet, or an audience engagement concept. This selection process, like every aspect of The Storyteller Studio, is artist driven. The Lead Mentor is there to ask leading and challenging questions and to pose alternative points of views, but ultimately to support the artist in articulating their goals.

The Cohort meets virtually two times per month over the course of the program. The majority of these meetings are dedicated to artists’ presentations of their work, but periodically, the meetings are reserved for visiting professional artists.  These individuals are brought in to offer their perspective and experience around topics which are relevant and resonant to the needs of the specific Cohort, as well as to serve as a prospective professional connection.

The final component of the program is professional support. At the close of the Cohort session, the Lead Mentor meets individually with each artist to discuss what the artist has gained over the course of the program, and what opportunities would most benefit the artist moving forward.  Whether through referrals, placements, the publication of a digital portfolio of the Cohort’s work, or collaborating on other in-house opportunities, the staff of The New Jersey Play Lab aims to invest in the next generation of young literary artists and assist them in taking these necessary next steps.

Who is this for?

The Storyteller Studio is a no-cost opportunity for young writers and dramaturgs early on in their artistic careers who want to dive headfirst into their craft, creating alongside a community of their peers, while being guided by experienced mentors. This program was conceived as a transitional program for young artists who want to position themselves to be successful in a professional and collaborative setting. 

The criteria for selection of a Cohort is based primarily on a commitment to one’s art form, regardless of the formality of experience or scope of a resume. That said, cohort playwrights should have some writing experience and be able to share some examples of their work. Cohort playwrights will learn dramaturgical concepts to deepen their craft and receive actionable feedback on their writing, but the STS is not a place to come to learn how to write. However, the STS may be the first place Cohort dramaturgs explore the art of dramaturgy in a formal way. 

All applicants should articulate a willingness and desire for participation in a dramaturgically-focused creative process, and demonstrate the ability to create the time and space to meet the demands of the program. The STS is about process, not product. Although cohort artists will move ahead in their chosen projects, the primary goal of the program is discovering and sharing a process of learning and developing work through collaboration with other artists.

The Storyteller Studio is for you if:

  • You consider yourself a playwright or dramaturg, even if you have yet to have the opportunity to fully explore these art forms.
  • You want to build your craft and your artistic process, and connect with peers.
  • You are open to giving and receiving feedback about your work, and to discovering the value of this process.
  • You are organized and can keep self-imposed deadlines.
  • You are able to commit to a 10-month process. Showing up is important to success.
  • You thrive in a supportive group of artists your own age, and also welcome the support of more experienced professionals.
  • You’re under 30 years old
  • You consider NJ a literal or artistic home.

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