Marquee Dinner Spotlight on Michele Volansky | Theatre Philadelphia
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Marquee Dinner Spotlight on Michele Volansky

Jan 30, 2018

On February 5th, we will host the Marquee Dinner, honoring the Independence Foundation and celebrating new plays and playwrights in Philadelphia. This spotlight shares some background on the key artists that make our region a hotbed for new theatrical work. 

My name is Michele Volansky and I was born and raised in South Jersey. I saw my first show, Annie, at the Forrest Theatre (part of the tour) and then my parents routinely took us to see plays at Glassboro State (now Rowan), where students and professionals alike performed. After grad school at Villanova (where I was an intern for Philadelphia Theatre Company), I lived in Louisville and Chicago and returned home to be the Dramaturg/Literary Manager at PTC -- we did all kinds of new work! For the past 14 years, I've been the Dramaturg and, more recently, the Associate Artistic Director of PlayPenn, a national new play development organization.

Nearly every theater that I go to -- and artists with whom I work -- has been supported by the Independence Foundation. The impact is significant. More personally, PlayPenn has been fortunate enough to receive generous operating support from the Foundation, which allows us to continue to do the kind of intensive, new play work that we do.

Philly is HOME. I understand the people, our moods, our stories and our strengths and weaknesses -- the chips on our shoulders and the reasons why we swagger. We embrace art as much as we embrace our sports, and take both as seriously. We recognize and respect others to a degree that I've not found in cities like Louisville, Chicago or even New York. Philly will forgive you and encourage you to keep making the work about which you are passionate. I get inspired every time I see our skyline, or approach the city from the myriad of entrances.

I'm currently knee-deep in James Ijames's play TJ Loves Sally 4Ever, which PlayPenn has been workshopping. And I'm about to start R. Eric Thomas's play Mrs. Harrison, with Azuka. Both plays -- and writers -- inspire me as a result of how bold they are. James, a frequent collaborator, is an assertive, smart, sassy and funny playwright who demands that you bring your "A" game. I like to be pushed and challenged. And Eric's play is just smart...I'm still learning about it, which makes the work engaging.

As I've grown as an artist, I've been supported by...My parents. My Villanova friends and professors. Definitely Paul Meshejian. Leonard Haas. Bruce Graham. Sara Garonzik. Every writer I've ever worked with, frankly.

The writers that are inspiring me today? Gosh, there are too many to name.  Definitely the Orbiter 3 folks (James, Mary, Emily, L, Doug, Emma, Maura, Sam)  Kevin and the writers he assembles at Azuka. Becky Wright.   MJ Kaufman, David Jacobi, Anne Marie Cammaroto, John Yearly, Lena Barnard...where do I even stop?  There are so many -- it's a remarkable time to make new plays in Philly.

Hear more from Michele, and share a meal alongside other creators of new work, at the Marquee Dinner on February 5th and Panorama Restaurant!