New Drama by Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18 Named 2023 NPC Finalist

New Drama by Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18 Named 2023 NPC Finalist

Accolades and Awards, Alumnae, Playwriting

July 12, 2023

New Drama by Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18 Named 2023 NPC Finalist Meredith Levy

Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ‘18 is one of 70 playwrights whose work has been chosen as a 2023 Finalist by the National Playwrights Conference (NPC) at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Levy’s The Bread Baking Play is among fewer than five percent of script submissions to make it to this phase of NPC’s selection process. Each year, the NPC receives between 1,200 and 1,500 scripts for consideration. A small volunteer group of more than 200 professional theater makers (including directors, dramaturgs, actors, designers, critics, and administrators) reads every submission in its entirety.

“This exceptional group of writers is at the forefront of artistry, curiosity, and perspective in contemporary playwriting,” the NPC notes on its website. “We firmly believe that our 2023 NPC Finalists deserve the attention of the national new work audience and enthusiastically encourage you to connect with them and their work.”

Sisters Martha and Polly are the focus of The Bread Baking Play. “Their brother has died,” Levy explains. “As they bake communion bread for his funeral, old hurts and new secrets rise to the surface. Without their brother to bridge the gap, will Martha and Polly be able to rise above their differences, and reconcile themselves to one another?”

Levy admits she’s “attempting a lot” in the play. “Like, bake bread onstage. Write in a naturalistic style. Explore themes of reconciliation. Modernize the biblical sisters of Martha and Mary. Investigate a faith tradition that, in so many ways, has hurt or oppressed so many women – sometimes in the name of these two sisters.”

Yet, Levy adds, “their example has been such a touchstone in my own faith practice. Martha and Mary embodied for me a ‘both/and’ paradox. They are both right; they are both wrong; they are both faith-filled; they are both loved. In a world where it is ever easier to become isolated, where we are more polarized and divided as ever, I want this play to embody what the very act of being present can do; when love shows up, can we rise above the rest to meet it to forgive, or at least, reconcile?”

Based in Roanoke, Levy is now a two-time NPC Finalist, having also earned the honor in 2020 for her queer political epic, The Hills. Her full-length, all-female cast historical drama Decision Height was published by Samuel French in November 2014. Two other plays, the whimsical Underground comedy Coupler and the lyrical monodrama She Made Space were produced as part of the Hollins-Mill Mountain Theatre Winter Festival of New Works in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Coupler received the 2016 David L. Shelton Full Length Play Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region IV, while She Made Space placed first in the short play award category at KCACTF Region IV in 2017.

Levy completed her M.F.A. at the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University. She conducted the dramaturgical research for The Bread Baking Play as part of her dramaturgy coursework with Art Borreca (codirector of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and a visiting associate professor in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins for nine years) in 2016. She wrote the first full draft in her Advanced Playwriting Tutorial class with playwright and filmmaker Roland Tec the following summer.

“I continued to revise the play each Lenten season for a few years after that,” she says.

Located in Waterford, Connecticut, the NPC at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is the country’s premier institution for new play development. Every summer, the NPC accepts scripts from all styles and genres of theatre by playwrights from across the globe. Of the initial submission pool, about 20 to 25 percent will be moved forward to the Semifinalist round of consideration. Roughly 20 percent of the NPC Semifinalists proceed to the Finalist round of consideration each year. From this pool, a select number of plays are chosen for development. The NPC offers each selected play a week-long, 30-hour workshop, culminating in two public script-in-hand staged readings. “We believe that these staged readings are a crucial step in the O’Neill’s development process, serving as an invaluable opportunity to hear a fresh audience’s real-time response to the play in a welcoming environment,” the NPC says.

Since its founding in 1964, the NPC has developed more than 700 plays – many of which have gone on to full production around the world. “From pioneers of 20th century playwriting like August Wilson, David Henry Hwang, and Wendy Wasserstein to some of today’s most influential and groundbreaking theater makers – Jeremy O. Harris, Dominique Morisseau, and Martyna Majok – NPC playwrights have reimagined the American theater in fundamental ways,” the organization states.