In Development

whatdoesfreemean? by Catherine Filloux

Developed in collaboration with Nora’s Playhouse and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, whatdoesfreemean?, a new play by award-winning playwright Catherine Filloux, takes us into the cell and the mind of its central character, Mary, an incarcerated African-American woman who spends time in solitary confinement but finds the strength to endure neglect, abuse, and hallucinations until she achieves parole.

Mass incarceration is an acknowledged crisis in the United States. Most public attention has focused on prisoners who are men, but women bear the brunt of the consequences when they or the men in their lives are sent away. More than 205,000 women are incarcerated in America today. Most of them are mothers, and many of them are first-time offenders. But the statistics don’t capture the enormity of the impact mass incarceration has on women as inmates, grandmothers, wives, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, social workers, and activists.

Playwright Catherine Filloux and Nora’s Associate Artistic Director Amy S. Green have been exploring the topic for more than a year, co-teaching a course on the topic (“The Drama of Mass Incarceration”) in John Jay’s Department of Interdisciplinary Studies last year.

Nora’s Playhouse presented a stage reading of whatdoesfreemean? at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City in April 2016. This reading was followed by a panel discussion with formerly incarcerated prison reform activist Evie Litwok and correctional psychiatrist Dr. Annette Hanson, moderated by attorney Sheila Samuels. In November 2016, Nora’s presented another reading of the play with a terrific team of 20 professional and faculty actors for the entire Department of Interdisciplinary Studies freshman cohort (100+ students) at John Jay.  This reading was followed by a Q&A/panel discussion regarding the state of play for incarcerated women and female returning citizens with attorney Sheila Samuels; former NYS Correctional Facility Supervisor Joseph Williams; The Reverend Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of the College and Community Fellowship; and Nicholas Montano, Youth Justice Research Associate at the Vera Institutes of Justice.

Nora’s is now exploring the best way to bring this play and this important issue to a larger audience and hope to have a full production in New York City in 2018.


Ashes & Ink by Martha Pichey

Molly would do anything for her son, especially since the death of her husband.  But trying to keep Quinn on track after he descended into addiction means she’s close to going off the rails herself.  Now he’s just out of rehab with the chance to audition for a place at the world’s best drama school.  Molly wants to trust him.  She wants him well more than anything.  But how does a mother move on and make room for new love when she’s consumed with the life of her son?

Martha Pichey is a playwright who began her career in journalism, writing for publications such as Travel & Leisure and Vanity Fair.  She is a member of the Playwrights/Directors Workshop at The Actors Studio, and women’s writing collective, The Beehive.  Ashes & Ink is her first play.  This compelling tale of a mother’s love, a son’s addiction, and learning to let go was a semi-finalist for The O’Neill Conference.  Its development has had support from the John Drew Theater Lab at Guild Hall in East Hampton, and a residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm.

Nora’s Playhouse presented a stage reading of Ashes & Ink at EAG’s Guild Hall in New York City in May 2017.