La MaMa Umbria: International Playwrights’ Virtual Retreat

July 06 - July 11, 2020

For further information, please contact: David J. Diamond, Symposium Coordinator, (212) 620-0703,

Fee: $350 [includes all workshops and time for community sharing]

The selected group of playwrights will participate in virtual writing workshops led by award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris, while having time between sessions to work on their own writing, based on prompts provided in the workshop.


Nambi E. Kelley HeadshotAward winning playwright and actress Nambi E. Kelley, was chosen by literary legend Toni Morrison to adapt her novel, Jazz, for the stage (Marin Theater Company, Baltmore Center Stage) and penned an adaptaton of Richard Wright’s Natve Son which has been seen across the country. Notable Natve Son productons include the Of-Broadway Premiere at The Duke on 42nd Street (Actng Company) Yale Repertory, and the world premiere at Court Theatre in Chicago where it is the highest grossing producton in the theatre’s 60 year history.  Nambi has also authored plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, Lincoln Center (Director's Fest), and internatonally. Of her adaptaton of Natve Son, the L.A. Times wrote "As profound as it is disturbing... Kelley's adaptaton leaves no daylight between Bigger Thomas and the society that shapes him.” Nambi is a former playwright in residence at the Natonal Black Theatre in New York (I Am Soul Residency) and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago (Playwrights Unit). She most recently served in residence at New Victory Theatre and as a Dramatsts Guild Foundaton Fellow. She’s been recognized with several awards and nominatons including The AUDELCO Award for BEST PRODUCTION, Natve Son Of Broadway Premiere 2019, a Drama League nominaton for best revival for the same producton; the Prince Prize 2019 ($25,000), Writers Alliance Grant 2018- 19 (Dramatsts Guild Foundaton, $5000), the Francesca Primus Award 2015, and 2019 (fnalist); and The Kevin Spacey Foundaton Award (fnalist). Current commissions include a play based on the life of Stokely Carmichael (Prince Prize/Court Theatre), and African American icon Dr. Maya Angelou (North Carolina Black Repertory Theatre).

On stage Kelley has played the role of NYA in Pipeline by MacArthur Genius,
Dominique Morisseau, directed by Reg Douglas at City Theatre in Pitsburgh; premiered of- Broadway playing opposite Broadway great Jef McCarthy in Jefrey Sweet's Kunstler, and was nominated for a Broadway World Award and a Hate McDaniel Award for Best Featured Actress for her work as Risa in August Wilson's Two Trains Running at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, among a host of other actng awards. Throughout her career, Nambi has played opposite such notable actors as Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Blair Underwood, and the late Patrick Swayze to name a few.

Nambi’s just completed work as a season three staf writer on Showtme's The Chi, and as an actress has been seen on TV in Dick Wolfe’s NBC Chicago based franchise of Chicago Med, Chicago PD, and Chicago Justce; and on CBS’s Person of Interest, Elementary, and Madam Secretary.

Nambi earned a BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University, and an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College.

About the Playwright Retreat

Playwrights, both professionals and students, are welcome to spend their summer with La MaMa Umbria International. The selected group of playwrights will participate in writing workshops led by an award-winning playwright. Past workshop leaders include Lynn Nottage, Lisa Kron, Naomi Izuka, Chuck Mee, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Erik Ehn and Mac Wellman, among others. 

Frequently Asked Questions

REGISTRATION: Space is limited. Please fill out the Online Registration Form. Registrants will be notified about their acceptance into the Program. Registrants must fill out the Registration Form and forward a recent resume. Space is secured by payment of the Full Fee. All events during the five days, workshops, time for interacting with your colleagues and time to write are included. It is anticipated that each playwright accepted into the Program will attend all workshops. 

From Previous Participants in the La MaMa Umbria Playwright Retreat:

A gentle introduction to writing residencies and retreats, with a great daily balance of structured vs. unstructured writing time, in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by interesting people who will inspire and transform your writing. I began writing with greater trust in my instincts and more curiosity about topics that scare me.
- MT Cozzola, Chicago Dramatists

La MaMa's Umbria was a transformative experience for me as a playwright. And one I will never forget. A timeless time away to work on your craft while surrounded by other artists and exposing your body and mind to a whole other kind of environment than one is likely used to.
- Matthew Paul Olmos, playwright

I loved my experience at La MaMa and think of it as a breakthrough in my creative career. It helped me to break out of a box of insecurity and doubt into exploring and appreciating the myriad of different ways I had available to approach a project. The retreat and all associates make you feel warm and loved and that the art you are creating is beautiful and important. That, to me, is a priceless gift that continues to be expressed even after returning home.
- Barbara Jwanouskos, playwright