The cover of The Atlanta Issue of The Dramatist
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Merely Players Presents: Merely Writers
Daniel Guyton. Photo credit: T’Shauna Mae Henry
Daniel Guyton. Photo credit: T’Shauna Mae Henry

When acclaimed playwright and director Joanie McElroy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she was struck by how fleeting life could be. When asked if she had any “bucket list” items yet to accomplish, she replied, “I want to start my own theatre company.” Over the next year, McElroy not only defeated cancer, but she also started Merely Players Presents (MPP), a nonprofit theatre company just north of Atlanta. When asked which was more difficult—starting her own theatre company or defeating cancer—McElroy was hard-pressed to decide.

In 2018, after several years of award-winning productions of big-name plays like Proof, A Raisin in the Sun, and more, McElroy (MPP founder and Producing Artistic Director) decided to produce more original works, especially by local authors. She clarifies, “I wanted to give an opportunity for people to grow as artists and to provide representation for communities that otherwise may not see themselves on stage or have the opportunity to create plays that reflect their personal experience.” That year, McElroy asked me to help her create Merely Writers, a new play development group. She explained to me, “So many playwrights are hungry to create new work. This should be a great incubation opportunity for new writers. A comfortable, welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere.”

Together, we established a biweekly writers’ group wherein local playwrights present their work to the group and share feedback. In addition, we conduct workshops and other playwright-centric activities throughout the year. Since 2018, MPP has transported several new works from rough draft all the way into full production, including Covid’s Metamorphosis (a modern retelling of the Ovid myth, with a pandemic twist), Un Lugar Para Suenos (a collection of plays about the Cuban American immigration experience), American Bhishma (about the Indian American immigration experience), and more.

The COVID-19 pandemic took a massive hit on MPP, but we stayed afloat by conducting readings and productions virtually. Since then, we’ve attracted several new members from around the world; writers from Boston, New York, India, and more now join our virtual readings and performances. MPP will return to in-person events on April 30, which may pose a challenge for our distant members, but we plan to maintain a virtual element. This transition back to live theatre is exciting and terrifying, in equal measure, but, as McElroy says, “While this is certainly a challenge, it’s one I happily accept.”

For more information, please visit www.merelyplayerspresents.com.

Daniel Guyton
Daniel Guyton

is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter from Atlanta, GA. His stage plays have been produced nearly 600 times around the world, and he has been published in over 50 anthologies and solo publications. He is the Writing Development Coordinator for Merely Players Presents. He is also a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Writers Guild of America East. www.danguyton.com