The Twin Cities theater scene has played a pivotal role for a number of A-list actors, including Nick Nolte, Amy Adams and Sterling K. Brown. The same can now be said about those working behind the scenes. Some of the most in-demand TV writers this fall have direct ties to the Playwrights' Center, the Minneapolis-based institution that nurtures writers who thrive on taking chances.
"It's an extraordinary time for storytelling in this country, both in theater and through other mediums like television, film, podcasts and VR/gaming," said Jeremy Cohen, the center's longtime producing artistic director. "To have so many writers we support traverse these different forms means we're supporting a more multidimensional generation of storytellers in this country. I'm thrilled that these playwrights who the center has supported are finding so many opportunities to tell incredible stories and sustain their vocational lives in doing so."
We checked in with four scribes who give the institution a lot of credit for their current success.
Plays: "Cannabis Passover," "This Party Sucks"
TV: "Gaslit," "The Dropout," "The Bear"
Time at the center: Jerome Fellow (2018-19); Core Writer (2019-2022).
What she learned: "Workshops focused me and allowed me to continue to hone my collaborative interests and skills, and continual rewriting built my rigor as a writer."
Key TV scene: "There's a scene in my episode of 'Gaslit' with John and Mo Dean, where he is nervous to go testify and about to back out. She sort of lays down the law for him. Working specifically on their emotional and relationship arc was one of my favorite parts of that writers' room."
Twin Cities fave: "I lived right in between Lake of the Isles and Bde Maka Ska. I probably walked the loop around one or both of them nearly every day, except when it got too freezing. The beauty blew me away."
Must-see TV: "I'm obsessed with 'The Rehearsal.' I've been a Nathan Fielder fan since 'Nathan for You' back in the day, but what he did with this current show breaks the boundaries of TV."
Plays: "The Grove," "In Old Age"
TV: "A League of Their Own," "Pachinko," "Little America"
Time at the center: McKnight Fellow (2017-18)
What she learned: "The art of collaboration. I'm not going to lie. That was not the easiest of transitions for me. I was used to holding onto my own grand ideas. But when you put them with others, you can make grander ideas."
Key TV scene: "I wrote Episode Four of 'League of Their Own' when Max first meets her Aunt Bertie and then realizes it's her uncle. She walks into the house and then runs out. She's not ready for the answers to the questions she's not even ready to ask."
Twin Cities fave: "I remember Seward Cafe. I used to go there for brunch. I loved Dilla's Ethiopian Restaurant, sitting there talking philosophy and theater."
Must-see TV: "I've been going back to the classics and seeing how they hold up. Except for the fat jokes, I'm in love with 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.' 'The Golden Girls' was so progressive for its time."
Plays: "Sweet," "To Let Go and Fall"
TV: "One of Us Is Lying," "The Nevers," "The Plot"
Time at the center: Jerome Fellow (2014), McKnight Fellow (2015-16), Core Writer (2016-19). Current president of the board of directors.
What he learned: "It changed everything for me. I'd been writing for almost 10 years when I left New York City for Minneapolis and fell in love — with the center and the city and the artistic community — and decided to stay."
Key TV scene: "There's a scene in my episode of 'The Nevers' between a husband and wife that I'm particularly proud of. It's several pages of dialogue, which can be rare on TV shows, as the scenes tend to be shorter and more visual. The scene is intimate and raw. And the actors took to it beautifully."
Twin Cities fave: "I love to eat and we have some of the best restaurants around. Some of my St. Paul favorites include Estelle, Myriel, Hyacinth and Tongue in Cheek."
Must-see TV: "I've been very taken by Season 2 of 'Industry.' The way the characters use words is electric. And also, 'Heartstopper.' Such a sweet story, but never saccharine."
Charly Evon Simpson
Plays: "Jump," "Behind the Sheet"
TV: "Industry," "American Rust"
Time at the center: Core Writer since 2020.
What she learned: "I've appreciated being able to learn from others' experiences while also being able to share my own experiences for their benefit."
Key TV scene: "It's a small moment, but it is the introduction of the character Rachel Walton in my episode of 'American Rust.' The character is named for a number of important people in my life — some of whom were integral to me becoming a playwright and TV writer."
Twin Cities fave: "I have yet to actually visit. I'm hoping to rectify this in the upcoming season."
Must-see TV: "'Atlanta.' I love the different modes of storytelling used throughout the show. I love the creativity and patience exhibited in both the crafting as well as the pacing. But I have to say the show also stresses me out sometimes."