The Zeiders American Dream Theater—The Z—is a professional, not-for-profit theatre company with the mission to introduce new works and emerging artists. Its goal is to become an integral part of the community using the arts to encourage individuals to embrace their dreams and achieve their full potential. The Z is building partnerships with other community arts organizations across the shared regional home of Hampton Roads to present a full range of artistic experiences. But to the aspiring playwright—the emerging artist with a new work—what does this mean?
Hampton Roads has got talent. The region is brimming with exceptionally gifted creative people and performers—musicians, dancers, playwrights and more. But for many years, development of local playwrights has been a dream often deferred as the older, established theaters concentrate on more traditional missions. Enter The Z, a unique professional venue for these artists to showcase and develop their craft in real time.
And they are fulfilling that mission. Less than two years after opening a new, 14,000-s.f. theater facility in the bustling Town Center of Virginia Beach, The Z has assembled a team of emerging, talented, and socially active writers in the region. Through two distinct development programs, The Z has fostered and mounted over two dozen staged and table readings, workshop presentations, and world premieres of stage plays and musicals created by both Virginia and national playwrights and composers. And they do it by:
• Presenting staged readings and full productions of new plays, musicals, and other theatrical works in “The Hatchery” theatrical development program, led by Artistic Director (and DG member) Bart Kuebler.
• Developing writers through a dynamic workshop collaborative, the “American Dreamwrights Workshop,” led by DG members Jean Klein and me. The workshop includes area playwrights and student members from Regent University, Norfolk State University, and Tidewater Community College. Additionally, the workshop has held professionally staged readings and workshop productions for over 20 new plays since its inception in 2017, featuring new works by local area artists.
• Presenting theme-based variety cabaret shows featuring local artists.
• Presenting local, regional, and national musical artists in a live concert venue.
• Presenting comedy, improv and other late evening acts at a primetime hour.
• Offering community workshops and classes for all curious about developing their own creative voice.
For the past 30 years, Hampton Roads has had only a few inclusive, organized programs for new and developing playwrights—especially those from diverse backgrounds. Enter The Z, a unique force, armed with the desire and ability to open its doors and provide Hampton Roads with the most precious gift a developmental theater can offer—reading, rehearsal, and production of a newly created stage work. Exciting stories penned by local playwrights living and working in the here and now. This is the beginning. The best is yet to come.