What is the McCarter LAB?
The McCarter LAB is a year-round creative incubator that provides artistic and financial support to artists at all stages of their careers. LAB programming allows McCarter to take artistic risks in the interest of identifying and nurturing promising talent and new work for our stages. Consisting of readings, workshops, commissions, the annual Spotlight Production, and the Sallie B. Goodman Artist Retreat, LAB events are tailored to the needs of individual artists and many programs are open to the public, providing audiences with an exclusive window in the creative process.
The majority of LAB programs take place in the intimate and flexible 70-90 seat performance studio/rehearsal room located within the Roger S. Berlind Theatre.
Annual Spotlight Production
More than a reading, Spotlight is a small-scale workshop production in an intimate setting that affords playwrights and directors the opportunity to deepen their collaborative experience over an extended and flexible rehearsal period (two to four weeks.) Incorporating basic design elements, the creative team is able to see the work staged in front of an audience and patrons are given a first-look and inside peek at the evolution of a new play in progress. Artists benefit from immediate, live feedback with the support of a major theatrical institution as they continue to develop their material—without the pressure of critics or a main stage premiere.
New Play Commissions
McCarter offers commissions to playwrights whose stories, craft, and voices we believe in nurturing. In addition to a commissioning fee, these artists receive developmental support from the artistic staff as well as special opportunities, including an invitation to the annual Sallie B. Goodman Artist Retreat.
Current McCarter play commissions include: Rachel Bonds, Denis O’Hare, Jiehae Park, Lisa Peterson.
Current Berlind Commissions (in partnership with Princeton University) include: Christopher Durang, Naomi Iizuka, Sarah Ruhl.
Turning Off the Morning News was originally commissioned by McCarter Theatre Center and the Roger S. Berlind '52 Playwright-in-Residence Program at Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts.
Our Princeton and Slavery commissioned artists were: Nathan Alan Davis, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Dipika Guha, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Emily Mann, Regina Taylor.
Past commissioned artists include: Edward Albee, Eric Bogosian, Marina Carr, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, John Guare, Beth Henley, Emily Mann, Dael Orlandersmith, Polly Pen, Will Power, Regina Taylor, Stephen Wadsworth, Doug Wright.
The Sallie B. Goodman Artist Retreat
In addition to developmental readings and workshops, each year McCarter hosts the Sallie B. Goodman Artist Retreat, held at the Palmer House in Princeton. McCarter identifies and invites a diverse group of 10 to 12 playwrights to spend 10 days together in Princeton over the summer. Retreat artists—a combination of established award-winning writers, mid-career playwrights, and emerging new voices—are able to work in a uniquely supportive environment, at their own pace, on whatever inspires them—with no mandate. This program is a signature feature of the LAB and aligns with the core values of all of our LAB initiatives by encouraging supportive artistic relationships across generations and providing artist-driven development support.
In the Writer’s Voice
Once a year, McCarter hosts “In the Writer’s Voice,” an evening that features invited playwrights, composers, and lyricists who read or perform aloud short excerpts of their works-in-progress in an intimate cabaret setting. “In the Writer’s Voice” is a chance for McCarter to cultivate relationships with theater artists of interest and engage at an early stage in their creative process. This special event also provides our audiences with a glimpse into the many aspects and stages of a creator’s journey.
Community Engagement and the LAB
As a part of the readings, workshops, commissions, and annual projects that comprise the LAB, McCarter regularly presents works that explore and respond to social and political issues, and complex local and global current events. This programming provides our audiences—and artists—with an opportunity to experience and engage in a vital dialogue through theater. This is where community engagement and the McCarter LAB intersect. Programming highlights include The Every 28 Hours Plays, Hoodwinked, and the 2017 Princeton & Slavery Plays. These events traditionally feature dynamic discussions where artists and audiences are in conversation with scholars, community leaders, and experts on the topics at hand.
LAB Features in McCarter Stories
Protect the Beautiful Place
A conversation with playwright Nathan Alan Davis
McCarter Theatre Center and The Princeton and Slavery Plays
McCarter Theatre Center presented a reading of new 10-minute plays, commissioned in conjunction with a significant and timely community endeavor: the national public rollout of The Princeton and Slavery Project.
Highlights - Projects Developed in the LAB
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang
A McCarter commission, our co-production with Lincoln Center transferred to Broadway in 2013; winner of Tony Award for Best Play; and the most produced play in the U.S. in the 2014-2015 season.
Eclipsed by Danai Gurira
Originally produced in the LAB 2009; world premiere at The Public Theater 2015; premiered on Broadway in 2016 starring Lupita Nyong’o; received Tony nomination for Best Play 2015.
Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz
McCarter’s production transferred to Broadway in 2003; winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Crowns by Regina Taylor
Winner of four Helen Hayes Awards in 2004; McCarter’s production transferred to Second Stage Theater in New York; became one of the most produced plays in the country.
Noura by Heather Raffo
2017 Spotlight Production; winner of the 2017 Weissberger Award, upcoming production at Shakespeare Theatre in D.C.
The Brother/Sister Plays by Tarell Alvin McCraney
McCarter’s 2009 production was co-produced by The Public Theater; in 2013, McCraney received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award.