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Langston Hughes Playwright's Workshop


The Langston Hughes Playwright's Workshop offers an environment for African American playwrights that nurture their plays with the help of professional theatre artists.


The mission of the Langston Hughes Playwright's Workshop is to develop plays by African American playwrights and provide them with an environment of sharing where they along with actors, directors, and other theatre artists can come together and offer themselves as vehicles for learning and growth.

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History of the Workshop

In 1983, the 52nd Street Writer’s Workshop was established by Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts under the advisement of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Charles Fuller, playwrights Rufus Caleb and the late Billy Graham. Located at 224 South 52nd Street, the Writer’s Workshop is a 90-seat cafe facility where workshop plays are mounted. During this time, our main-stage space developed into a four-play season with at least two of those plays coming out of workshop. A resident group of nonprofessional actors was established and a series of classes were created to facilitate the development of workshop plays.


In 1985, a resident core of professional actors and playwrights was established after Bushfire attained professional status through LOA with Actors Equity Association. The 52nd Street Writer’s Workshop continued to grow and developed a relationship with director Lloyd Richards and playwrights PJ Gibson, Jeff Stetson, Judi Ann Mason, Richard Wesley, and the late Matt Robinson.


In 1990, Al Simpkins, Bushfire’s founder and artistic director was invited to the Eugene O’Neill summer workshop in Waterford, Connecticut by Tony Award winning O’Neill Workshop director, Lloyd Richards where the late August Wilson served as the workshop dramaturge. By 1991 the 52nd Street Writer’s Workshop had increased its annual number of workshop plays to twelve and Bushfire was producing at least three world premiere plays each season. As a result of the overwhelming number of plays coming in to be workshopped, and Bushfire’s inability to meet the demands of the number of local and national playwrights submitting plays, the initial idea for the Langston Hughes Playwright's Workshop emerged. Al Simpkins sought support from nationally recognized playwrights, Pearl Cleage, Kathleen McGhee-Anderson, Richard Wesley, Rudy Grey and PJ Gibson. The Playwrights Think Tank Symposium resulted and African American playwrights continued to meet once a year for the next two years to discuss their needs.


Bushfire began discussion with Lincoln University in 1995 on the establishment of the Langston Hughes Playwright's Workshop appropriately because Langston Hughes graduated from the University. Since 1995, nationally recognized playwrights have come to Lincoln University on three occasions to advise in the development of the Langston Hughes Playwrights Workshop. Lincoln University and Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts are pleased to announce the first Langston Hughes Playwrights Workshop on June 23, 2006 through June 30, 2006.  We are grateful to the William Penn Foundation and the Philadelphia Foundation for their support in funding the establishment of the Langston Hughes Playwright's Workshop.


Langston Hughes received a scholarship to Lincoln University in 1926.  “Lincoln is wonderful,” Hughes wrote to Countee Cullen after a week at the little university of just over three hundred students, located amidst ‘trees and rolling hills and plenty of country.” For the first time since the segregated third grade in Kansas, Hughes was in school among his own people.  His first impressions were all favorable. “Out here with the trees and rolling hills and open sky, in old clothes and this do-as-you-please atmosphere, I rest content. I like Lincoln so well that I expect to be six years in graduating” (citation).  While a student living in Cresson Hall, Langston continued to write and graduated in 1929.

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