UC San Diego News Center


Lily Padilla’s “How to Defend Yourself” was staged at the 2018 Wagner New Play Festival and went on to premiere the following year at the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays. Photos by Manuel Rotenberg

Welcome to the Festival

Tickets available now for the five world-premiere productions at the 2019 Wagner New Play Festival, April 30 – May 18 in the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theatre District

Tickets for the 2019 Wagner New Play Festival at UC San Diego are going fast, and guests have five world-premiere productions to see: each one written by current students in the Department of Theatre and Dance MFA playwriting program.

The 2019 festival runs in repertory April 30 – May 18, meaning the plays are produced on multiple stages in the UC San Diego Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theatre District on a rotating schedule, giving viewers the opportunity to see every single production over a short period of time.

“Prominent on the national scene over many decades, UC San Diego has inspired other top MFA playwriting programs to replicate our influential Wagner New Play Festival,” said Theatre and Dance chair Allan Havis, an award-winning playwright and former provost of Marshall College. “We invite the entire community to come to campus and see these boldly innovative productions, highlighting our graduate students as the next-generation vanguard artists.”


From left, MFA actors Max Singer and Assata Hefner in Ali Viterbi’s “Joshua,” part of the 2018 festival. Viterbi wrote this year’s “Shame Spiral.”

Renamed the Wagner New Play Festival in 2013 in recognition of Arthur and Molli Wagner, the festival is a major draw for both casual theater goers and professionals, giving students in the playwriting program the opportunity to showcase their original work. Plays premiering at the festival often go on to win awards and be produced by theater companies in major cities around the world.

This year’s five, full productions are all written by women: “Monster” by Ava Geyer, “The Gradient” by Steph del Rosso, “Shame Spiral” by Ali Viterbi, “The Jefferson Middle School Monthly” by Mara Nelson-Greenberg and “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” by Vivian Barnes. A special reading of “Incendiary” by Dave Harris will take place May 17 at 2 p.m. in the Arthur Wagner Theatre.

Geyer and del Rosso were recently announced as the first to be selected in a new partnership between UC San Diego and La Jolla Playhouse. The Tony Award-winning Playhouse and the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance will offer a joint commission to each MFA student for a new work upon graduation. Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla praised the program, saying the partnership will continue to provide rewarding, cultural-enrichment opportunities on our campus.

Division of Arts and Humanities dean Cristina Della Coletta said UC San Diego students working closely with La Jolla Playhouse gives added value to their time as students. “The professional experience and exposure that our students receive is unmatched,” she said.

Tickets and complete information for the 2019 Wagner New Play Festival are available from the Department of Theatre and Dance, with discounted pricing for UC San Diego students.

“Monster” by Ava Geyer

When TV self-help guru Drew Capuano's compulsive masturbation comes to light, he retains the services of the only one who will still represent him: his power hungry 24-year-old female assistant. “Monster” is a brutal and brutally funny odyssey through America's media machine that puts perpetrator and survivor on an inevitable collision course of reckoning. Directed by graduate student Joseph Hendel.

Preview: April 30 @ 7:30 p.m.
Show dates: May 7-16 @ 7:30 p.m.
Theatre: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre

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“The Gradient” by Steph del Rosso

Tess just landed a job at sleek tech start-up: a center where men accused of sexual misconduct are sent to be rehabilitated. When Tess meets a client who says all the right things, she's forced to question her most basic assumptions about what is true and what is real. “The Gradient” asks what it means to say I'm sorry and whether it's possible for people to truly change. Directed by Steph del Rosso.

Preview: May 1 @ 7:30 p.m.
Show dates: May 8-17 @ 7:30 p.m. and May 18 @ 2 p.m.
Theatre: Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre

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“Shame Spiral” by Ali Viterbi

When contestant Lauren S joins “The Bachelor” in its 23rd season, she’s prepared for all the drama, but not the internet’s response to the revelation of her virginity and the subsequent fallout. “Shame Spiral” engulfs all in the alternate reality of reality TV. What’s the price we’re willing to pay to find true love? Directed by UC San Diego alumni and current faculty member Natalie Griffith Robichaux ’99.

Preview: May 4 @ 7:30 p.m.
Show dates: May 9-17 @ 7:30 p.m. and May 11 @ 2 p.m.
Theatre: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre

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“The Jefferson Middle School Monthly” by Mara Nelson-Greenberg

There’s something amiss at this school. Women are missing, Cora’s turning into a doll, and MJ has tubes growing out of his belly button. A coming-of-age comedy about the dark underbelly of life, “The Jefferson Middle School Monthly” explores what it means to become an adult in a world where the adults have messed everything up. Directed by UC San Diego Alumni and lecturer Carla Harting ’96.

Preview: May 6 @ 7:30 p.m.
Show dates: May 10-16 @ 7:30 p.m. and May 18 @ 7 p.m.
Theatre: Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre

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“Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” by Vivian Barnes

A Royal Wedding is looming. The Duchess and Soon-to-be-Duchess are meeting face to face for the first time. There are rules. There’s a way of doing things. Remember, everybody is watching, and you don’t want to know what happens if you step out of line. “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” looks at the hidden costs of being the “luckiest girl in the world.” Directed by graduate student Juliana Kleist-Mendez.

Preview: May 9 @ 7:30 p.m.
Show dates: May 11-17 @ 7:30 p.m. and May 18 @ 10:30 a.m.
Theatre: Arthur Wagner Theatre

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