2016-17 MFA Playwrights
Third Year Students
Rachel Bykowski, (seated to the right in the photo) a Chicago native, writes plays to raise awareness about social issues. Specifically, much of her writing features women and analyzes gender roles, rape culture, and male privilege. Rachel’s full-length play TIGHT END was selected by the National New Play Network to be workshopped at the Kennedy Center for the MFA Playwrights’ Festival. TIGHT END will be receiving its world premiere production with 20% Theatre Company Chicago in May of 2017. Rachel was one of six graduate students at Ohio University to be awarded a Named Fellowship, The Trisolini. The Trisolini will allow Rachel to work with Ohio University’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department to research violence against women perpetrated by male privilege for the 2016-2017 academic year. This research will be showcased in her thesis play VOODOO DOLL during the 2017 Seabury Quinn Playwrights’ Festival at Ohio University. Other playwriting credits include her full lengths: ORIGINAL RECIPE workshop production (DePaul University,) GOT TO KILL BITCH staged reading (Cock and Bull Theatre,) GLORY VS. THE WOLVES staged reading (20% Theatre Company and Women and Children First Bookstore,) and A GIRL NAMED CHARLIE staged reading (Ohio University). Rachel’s ten minute plays have been produced with various companies around Chicago and the Midwest including 20% Theatre Company, Fury Theatre, Commedia Beauregard, and Actors’ Theatre of Louisville Apprentice Company. Rachel received her BFA in playwriting from the Theatre School of DePaul University and is currently attending Ohio University for her MFA in Playwriting. Rachel is a proud company member and Literary Manager for 20% Theatre Chicago. For more information, check out her website http://www.rachelbykowskiplays.com
Catherine Weingarten (seated to the left in the photo) hails from Ardmore, PA also known as the area that inspired the preppy sexy TV show “Pretty Little Liars” and is a NYC friendly playwright. Catherine’s comedic plays delve into the societal pressure placed on young women to be both impossibly good looking as well as ridiculously intellectual, humble, kind as can be but sexy. Her plays usually include some hot fantasy sequences which helps attract the common man into the theater! She graduated from Bennington College in Vermont where she studied playwriting with Sherry Kramer. Her 10 minute sex fantasy play “Pineapple Upside Down Cake” was a National Semi-Finalist at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Her full length playwriting credits include: staged reading of Are You Ready to get Pampered!? produced at the Dixon Place, Less Than Rent and Last Frontier Theater Conference Playlab series; staged reading of This Car Trip Suckss produced by Piper Theater Productions; and Karate Hottie produced by West of 10th in NYC. She is currently the playwright in residence for “Realize Your Beauty Inc” which promotes positive body image for kids by way of theater arts. Catherine is thrilled to pursue her MFA at OU and thankful for the awesome opportunity for baller mentorship. catherine-weingarten.squarespace.com
Second Year Students
Cristina Luzarraga (far right, in photo) was born and raised in Short Hills, New Jersey, save for a few teenage years spent in London, England. She graduated in 2011 from Princeton University with B.A. in Comparative Literature. Subsequently, she moved to Chicago where she studied sketch writing and improvisation at iO Theatre and The Second City Conservatory and performed stand-up comedy at Zanies and elsewhere. Her full-length play Due Unto Others was produced by Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts. Her short plays Hippo Woman and Baker’s Three were produced at Greenhouse Theater in Chicago.
Philana Omorotionmwan (centered in photo) was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She uses writing to create images that explore the the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Her short plays have been produced at Ensemble Studio Theater, Manhattan Theatre Source, and Berkeley Rep. Her poems have been published in New Delta Review and African American Review. Philana earned her BA from Stanford University and is excited to be pursing an MFA here at OU. You can find out more about her work at philanaplays.weebly.com.
Natasha Smith’s (far left in photo) play Catapult was a semi-finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and received a staged reading with Arizona Theatre Company in 2014, where she served as the Artistic Intern for two years. She has also worked with Horizon Theatre and the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Natasha’s play In Her Place was produced at Amherst College, where she studied Theater/Dance and English, and won the Denis Johnston Playwriting Award from Smith College. She has taught creative writing in the US and in Kenya, and is a three-time recipient of the Roland Wood Fellowship from Amherst College. www.natashawrites.com
First Year Students
Inna Tsyrlin (centered in photo) is currently pursuing her MFA in Playwriting at Ohio University after taking classes at HB Studio (New York City) and at Primary Stage (ESPA, New York City). Inna’s one act plays performed in New York City, include: I (heart) Subway (2014) and Happy Anniversary (2014) (Emerging Artists Theater: New Works Series); My Wife (HB Playwrights Foundation shorts series); Principal’s Office (semi-finalist of Manhattan Repertory Spring 2014 One Act Competition); Fat (Mount Carmel Theater Winter 2014 New Works program). Her one acts, Coffee and Murakami (2014) and Bentley (2013) have had staged readings as part of the Jack & Julie Project at HB Studio; while she has also had readings (2015) for Lama Theatre Company, and a reading of her full-length Animals (2015) in New York City. Apart from plays, Inna has written and produced shot films, reviewed Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway plays for stagebuddy.com, and contributed to Australian lifestyle publications. Her work tends to focus on exploring darker and unusual aspects of relationships and how these reflect in our current social and political environment, with particular attention to freedom and identity.
Katherine Varga (far right in photo) is a freelance writer and playwright originally from New Britain, CT. She recently received her B.A. English from the University of Rochester, where she was awarded a Take Five scholarship to study urbanization and the arts. Her plays have been developed at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York and Curious Theatre in Denver, Colorado, and read at the 2015 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.
Trip Venturella (far left in photo) is a graduate of Colby College with a degree in Religious Studies. He has worked with Colby College’s Theater and Dance Department, the human rights group ANHAD: Kashmir, Delhi University in New Delhi, Floating Space Theatre Company in Sri Lanka, and many, many groups in the Boston area. He has done field work on Chams Dance in Sikkim and studied Chhau Dance in Delhi. He currently serves as the Development and Outreach Director of Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he has overseen the conception of, fundraising for, and buildout of the Riseman Family Theatre and the Chelsea Blackbox Theatre, as well as the production of three years of Apollinaire in the Park: a free, outdoor, bilingual summer theatre production. His original musical “Killer Maples: The Musical!,” a collaboration with the composer Andres Ramos, was produced by Yelling Man Theatre in June of 2016.