Company of Angels’ New Play Festival

By Alison Minami

The Company of Angels Theater (CoA) is gearing up for its New Works Festival, which will be held in-person at their Boyle Heights theater space from October 29 – November 13. The festival will include five full length plays and an evening of shorter pieces that were all developed through their playwrights’ group. 

The CoA playwrights’ group, of which I have been a member for two seasons, has been running for nearly fifteen years. Artistic Director, Armando Molina, explains that the group was born out of a need to support Los Angeles based playwrights from underrepresented communities. He says “During a time when other large theater [institutions] were dissolving diversity initiatives, CoA picked up the slack to support a forum for diverse voices to experiment and develop” their work.

While playwrights are not mandated to set their plays in Los Angeles, Molina describes the spirit of CoA as committed to creating work that “reflects and responds to LA” whether it be literal or embodied in the notion of LA as a “phenomenon” or a “state of mind.” In the past, the group served as an incubator for CoA’s annual LA Short Play Festival (formerly LA Views), which was a fully produced evening of theater cast with company members.

The group meets bi-weekly to share new pages that are read aloud, and playwrights receive feedback from those who’ve lived with the work from the ground up and know its overall aims. Additionally, CoA offers further support by bringing in a professional dramaturg to work with writers and offer feedback on their pieces to ready them for the rehearsal process, and ultimately, a staged reading. Sonia Desai, Literary Associate at the Old Globe Theatre, served as this season’s dramaturg, and my conversations with her were so insightful and cracked open the possibilities for my play.

Tamadhur Al-Aqeel and John Dubiel have served as co-leaders of the playwrights’ group for over a decade. They are both facilitators and participating playwrights who know the value of a supportive and intimate space to develop work.  Al-Aqeel describes the group as having been “a wonderful place to land” after taking a long break from writing to raise her young children. After seeing her first CoA show, she was inspired to get back to writing, and the group reaffirmed that she could “still write.” This is a huge epiphany for writers who are burdened by the insecurity that often comes with having shut off their creative faucet for years; I can relate.

For myself, CoA has supported a writing practice and helped me to stay connected to a creative community. At the height of the pandemic, I knew that the isolation was either going to take me down or not. I chose the latter. The past few years have been the most creatively productive time for me as a writer. Formerly, I was primarily a fiction writer, an even more lonely endeavor than playwriting. For years, I would beat myself up and think “If you want to write, just write” or “If you’re not writing, you obviously don’t want it bad enough”—all the unproductive, self-flagellating words that block an artist’s creative mind. CoA helped to resuscitate my creative voice, and I learned that it wasn’t that I couldn’t write, I just needed better structure and support. Dubiel echoes this sense of community, saying that CoA provides “a lot of opportunity for creative people to come together.”

Coming together will finally happen in-person after two long years of virtual zooms and shows. CoA is reuniting with their New Works Festival, and I for one am looking forward to meeting the people who’ve supported my creative life in real life. Maybe I can give them a big hug too! This season’s playwrights include: Tamadhur Al-Aqeel, John Dubiel, Leah Zhang, MJ Kang, Emily Brauer Rogers, Matt Callahan, Danny Munoz and Alison Minami. For a full schedule of performance dates and times please visit the Company of Angels.