Our Origin Story

The Z Playwrights Lab began in October 2017 when, at the request of Bart Keubler, Clyde Santana moved his playwrights group that had operated at the Attucks Theater in Norfolk Virginia from January 2009 to June 2017 to Zeiders American Dream Theater in Virginia Beach.

October 2018, The Lab presented scenes from three plays as part of the inaugural Z Proteus Festival. With our eye on developing more plays, we presented table & staged readings of 15 new scripts that season in the Studio Theater and Lobby. The October 2019 Proteus Festival featured three Lab workshop productions.

Over the course of two years, we held virtual table readings and developmental critiques of over 30 scripts and musicals. We trained numerous playwrights in the art of telling stories for the stage. Meeting virtually proved to be extremely accessible so we continue to meet virtually to this day. 

Our story continued as The Z opened back up…leading to the Proteus New Play Festival of October 2022. The Lab continues to produce workshop productions, table reads, and fully-staged performances in current and upcoming seasons at The Z. 

Who we Are

We are a consortium of serious playwrights developing our scripts for festival & professional productions at The Z and beyond. Our goal: Restore the developmental process plays received in the early days of American theater, namely a forum for playwright collaboration, revision of plays through out-of-town openings, and a professional community of theater artisans who share the goal of revitalizing the American theatrical experience.  

Run as a virtual workshop with two lead facilitators, Clyde Santana and Jean Klein, we meet twice monthly to read scripts and constructively critique our work in a safe and productive environment as well as share professional, educational, and marketing guidance to advance our plays towards production.

The Dramatists Guild of America, the national trade association of playwrights, composers, lyricists and librettists, has recognized The Z Playwrights Lab as unique in its mission in this area of our country. Two members of The Lab serve as ambassadors to the Guild for Virginia-East.


Membership is determined by The Lab, The Z, and the availability of slots. We are committed to fostering and supporting an inclusive arts community and therefore does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, or any other protected characteristic as established by law. The Z actively seeks opportunities to diversify our pool of participants and patrons. All members agree to uphold this policy and to work with The Lab to maintain a supportive, inclusive and productive environment. 


Membership Expectations:

  • Be fully engaged in developing your craft as a playwright.
  • Currently be involved in developing one or more of your own scripts.
  • Commit to helping other Lab members as they develop their work.  
  • Plan to attend readings & Lab meetings regularly.
  • Read and respond to scripts-in-development of other members.
  • Actively solicit productions of your work.
  • Share knowledge of theaters and developmental workshops with The Lab.
  • Understand playwriting vocabulary: inciting incident; beat; French scene as it applies to writing a play; “triggers and heaps”; the differences between loglines and premises; rising and falling action; the designing principle of a play; etc.
  • Know the standard formats for submitting plays to contests and theaters.
  • Support the successes of fellow Lab members.
  • If you have little or no experience as a playwright, be prepared to familiarize yourself with basic texts on the art of writing a play: Backwards and Forwards by David Ball; The Dramatic Writer’s Companion by Will Dunne; Anatomy of a Story by John Truby; Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. These are available to read or sign-out at The Z during Creative Lobby Hours, accessible to Z Artist members only.

To apply for Membership:

  1. Apply for Lab membership by submitting an application including submission of a complete play (short or long) GOOGLE FORM. 
  2. Attend meetings as a non-participating observing guest for one month to understand our discussion guidelines for critiquing plays. 
  3. Hold an up-to-date Z Artist membership. Click HERE to learn more. 

*Any questions please email The Z’s Community Engagement Director: sibel.galindez@thez.org