Providing advocacy & resources for the field of theatre for young audiences.

James Still


James received his Observership with Indiana Repertory Theatre to observe theaters with playwriting for youth (kids writing the plays) as part of their ongoing programming. He was the then newly-appointed Playwright in Residence, and they were looking to explore their extensive Summer Conservatory (a training program for kids ages 8-18) that runs for a month in the summer at the IRT.  James went to the Denver Center Theatre Academy (part of the Denver Center Theatre) and the Coterie. In both cases he observed a class being led by an adult with young people as writers. At the Coterie he also attended an evening performance of scenes written by their teen group in a playwriting program.

From James:
“The success of the Fellowship is in the result:  the following summer I started the Playwriting component for the IRT’s Summer Conservatory and that continues to this day.  I taught it for several summers and eventually trained other teachers who do the classes now.  Some years later we also initiated a new program at the IRT called “Young Playwrights in Process” (named by the donor and visionary for the program) which is a Indiana state-wide contest with open submissions for plays written by young people (two groups:  6-8th grade; and 9-12th grade). The plays go through a thorough reading process (several readers) who score each play and provide feedback.  3-4 plays in both categories are then chosen as “finalists.” Those 6-8 young writers are then brought to the IRT for a 2-day intensive writing workshop (led by a playwright) which is a kind of “playwriting bootcamp” on the nuts/bolts of structure/character/action, etc. They also get to hear their plays read aloud by Indianapolis-based (adult) actors.  Through that intensive experience the finalists are then expected to rewrite their plays and resubmit a few weeks later.  The “final drafts” then go through another reading process (with different readers) who decide as a committee the two winners (one from the high school, one from the middle school category).  Each winner receives $1,000 (more than I was paid for my first commissioned play!).  And best of all, we then do a public presentation with local actors doing staged readings of the two winning plays, as well as excerpts from the other plays. I mention “Young Playwrights in Process” because I believe the Ann Shaw Fellowship paved the way for me to help implement this extensive ongoing initiative at the IRT.”

James is in his 18th season as the IRT’s playwright in residence. The IRT has produced fifteen of his plays, and he has directed sixteen productions as well (mostly plays by other writers).


**James Still’s** work has been produced throughout the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Europe, South Africa, and Australia.  He is an elected member of the National Theatre Conference in New York and a Kennedy Center inductee of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. Other honors include the Todd McNerney New Play Prize from the Spoleto Festival, William Inge Festival’s Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, the Orlin Corey Medallion from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, and the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Award for Distinguished Body of Work. His plays have been nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize, and have been developed and workshopped at Robert Redford’s Sundance, the New Harmony Project, Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, the Colorado New Play Summit, the Lark in New York, Launch Pad at UC-Santa Barbara, Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival, Telluride Playwright’s Festival, New Visions/New Voices, and Fresh Ink in Minneapolis.  Three of his plays have received the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre & Education.  James is the Resident Playwright at Indiana Repertory Theatre, and an Artistic Affiliate at American Blues Theatre in Chicago.  Some of the other theaters that have produced his plays include the Kennedy Center, Denver Center, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Geva, Cornerstone Theater Company, Ford’s Theatre, People’s Light & Theatre, the Barter, Pasadena Playhouse, Portland Stage, the Station, the Asolo, Company of Fools, the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis, Metro Theater Company, B-Street Theatre, Tricklock, Vermont Stage Company, the Round House, American Blues, Illusion Theater, and the Mark Taper Forum.

Recent world premieres are the Denver Center Theatre production of Appoggiatura which was then a nominee for Outstanding New Play for the Henry Awards at the Colorado Theatre Guild. Appoggiatura is the second play in the family trilogy that began with the award-winning The House That Jack Built and concludes with Miranda which premiers in 2017 at Illusion Theater in Minneapolis followed by a second production at Indiana Rep.  Also premiering in 2015 was The Widow Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.; and April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How To Dream at Indiana Rep.  James’s short play When Miss Lydia Hinkley Gives a Bird the Bird has appeared in several festivals around the country and was a  finalist for the Heideman Award from Actors Theatre of Louisville.  New plays in the works include (A) New World , as well as an adaptation of the classicBlack Beauty commissioned by Seattle Children’s Theatre.  Other plays include I Love to Eat (solo play about culinary icon James Beard); The Heavens are Hung in Black; Iron Kisses; Looking Over the President’s Shoulder; Searching for Eden; And Then They Came For Me;  Amber Waves, andIllegal Use of Hands.

James also works in television and film and has been nominated for five Emmys and a Television Critics Association Award; he has twice been a finalist for the Humanitas Prize. He was a producer and head writer for the series PAZ, the head writer for Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear, and writer for the Bill Cosby series Little Bill. He wrote The Little Bear Movie and The Miffy Movie as well as the feature film The Velocity of Gary. James grew up in Kansas and lives in Los Angeles.

James on Twitter