Actor’s Express Launches New Play Commissioning Program


Actor’s Express has launched a new play commissioning program that focuses on Atlanta-based playwrights. The first writer to receive a full-length commission is Quinn Xavier Hernandez.

Actor’s Express aims to become a home for new play development with the goal to support local Atlanta artists while inviting patrons to experience the development process. For each of the next five years, Actor’s Express will commission one playwright to write a new full-length play. The goal is then to offer each commissioned writer development resources over the course of the following year. This process will include workshops, as well as public and private readings. By the end of the cycle, there will be five completed full length plays.

Artistic Director Freddie Ashley comments, “I believe one of the best ways to support the local playwriting community is to invest directly in it. This is why all of our commission projects will center Atlanta-based writers. Commissioning offers a way to pay writers directly to create new stories and bring them to life. Atlanta’s playwriting community is brimming with talent and new ideas. AE has been expanding our commitment to the local playwriting community for the past several years. “

Development Director Natalie Holly details, “As we strengthen our commitment to inclusive and ethical representation across all layers of our organization, the focus will be on People of the Global Majority, women, and LGBTQIA+ playwrights, and intersectional experiences. Additionally, we will focus on early to mid-career writers.”


Freddie Ashley continues, “When the pandemic forced us to explore digital platforms to deliver our programming, we discovered that podcasting is a perfect fit for us. It offers us the opportunity to take our work outside of our doors and connect directly with audiences where they are, and in a free format no less. To further deepen this investment in our local writers, we have made the commitment to center Atlanta-based writers and performers in all Amplify podcasts. With the breadth and diversity of the local playwriting scene, we will use the podcast to create and share stories about intersectional experiences that reflect our local and global communities. It is a democratizing storytelling format that reaches both local audiences and brand new listeners everywhere. Since we have listeners literally around the country and the globe, it means that AE and Atlanta artists can engage with people all over the world with homegrown stories from Atlanta’s best and brightest.”

AE has already been in the practice of commissioning playwrights for other projects, notably its recent project Amplify: Podcast Plays from Actor’s Express. For its first installment of Amplify, 2021’s “Crossroads,” AE commissioned writers Natasha Patel, Avery Sharpe, Skye Passmore, Kayla Parker, Quinn Xavier Hernandez and Amina S. McIntyre. Following the success of “Crossroads,” the Express recently launched Season 2 of Amplify with a brand new story called “Tucker’s Cove,” which dropped in late January with new episodes dropping weekly. “Tucker’s Cove” was written by Atlanta writers Kayla Parker and Sofia Palmero. AE will announce a new season of Amplify each year, all to be written by Atlanta writers. These podcasts are available on most major streaming services and are free to the public. Additionally, each podcast episode will include a supplemental “behind the scenes” episode featuring interviews with key artists.

These new initiatives join an existing annual commission for a new play to be performed as a showcase for the theatre’s resident Apprentice Company. For over fifteen years, a different writer has been commissioned to write this play, including playwrights like Steve Yockey, Joshua Harmon, Michael Lew and Amy E. Witting. Moving forward, this annual commission will also be given to a local writer. Playwright Annie Harrison Elliott is currently writing the showcase play for the 2022 Apprentice Company.

Writers will also work with Actor’s Express on supporting writing projects. Projects may include, but are not limited to, writing the intern showcase, writing digital content (like the podcast plays), participating in our play reading series and teaching intern classes. Each of these projects would be paid independently of the commission fee. By creating opportunities in these additional programs, AE hopes to deepen our relationship with each writer, establishing the cohort as an ongoing, integral part of the AE family.

In addition to commission fees, development resources and additional projects, Actor’s Express will offer dedicated space and office resources to the cohort writers. This will not only provide a physical home for the writers but add to the flow of creative energy inside the building at all times.


The Commission Project will be led by the AE Artistic Director Freddie Ashley and National New Play Network Producer in Residence Amanda Washington, with support from Managing Director Alex Scollon. Actor’s Express’ first commissioned artist is local playwright Quinn Xavier Hernandez.

Hernandez says, “This process is a huge step for me. I’ve had several small commissions before this (several of which were also through Actor’s Express), but this is the first full-length commission I’ve been asked to write. That alone is an absolutely massive and incredible part of my career already. The fact that I get to write it for a company that has poured so much into me already is just amazing. I recognize as an early career playwright that this is just the start, but oh wow how excited I am to continue writing and growing both with AE and beyond!”


Since its founding in 1988, Actor’s Express has become the preeminent hub for dynamic, provocative and consistently outstanding theatre in Atlanta, presenting work that sparks personal transformations and catalyzes community conversations. We are committed to enacting Anti-Racist and Anti-Bias principles that create a diverse, inclusive, safe and brave space for artists and audiences. Actor’s Express is located on the westside of Atlanta in the King Plow Arts Center at 887 W. Marietta Street, Suite J-107, Atlanta, Georgia 30318.


Transitioned from an apprentice to Technical Director in April of 2022. Her first show as Technical Director was Booty Candy and she continues to grow technically with each set she constructs. Education: AA Theatre, University of North Georgia; BA Theatre, Brenau University; Actor’s Express 2021-2022 Apprentice Company. Special thanks for the many blessings God has put in my life, my friends and family who support me, and my professors for showing me all that theater has to offer. English Brackett Website


Claire Quinn received her BFA in Acting from CCPA at Roosevelt University in Chicago and is currently pursuing her MA from Emerson College in Boston. Her recent credits include Rooted at Horizon Theatre and Flame and Filament at the Atlanta Fringe Festival. Claire is thrilled to be apart of the Actor’s Express team! 


Amanda Washington currently serves as the Associate Artistic Director at Actor’s Express. She joined Actor’s Express as the National New Play Network Producer in Residence from 2020 to 2022. Her AE directing credits include, Crossroads, Sunset Baby, cullud wattah, and Blues for an Alabama Sky. Amanda guides the apprentice company during their one-year sojourn with AE. Other areas of her work include Community Engagement and assisting the playwrights for the AE Playwrighting Commission Program. Amanda received her MFA in directing from the University of Southern Mississippi and her BA from Brenau University. To learn more about Amanda, visit her website at www.washingtonamanda.com.


Marysa Sutton joined Actor’s Express in July of 2021. She has previously worked in the world of campaign finance and public service. Her theatre credits begin and end with Switzer Elementary School’s production of Santa, You’ve Got Mail where she starred as Ms. Walker.


Seamus M. Bourne was a Production Manager and Technical Director at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He has designed scenery at AE for Company, Wolves, Next Fall and Spring Awakening. He has designed scenery or worked in other production capacities throughout Atlanta, including Theatrical Outfit, Aurora Theatre, Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare and Theatre in the Square.


Freddie Ashley has been Artistic Director of Actor’s Express since 2007. He has directed around 40 AE productions, including The Crucible, Stupid Fucking Bird, Bad Jews, Murder Ballad and World Premieres of Serial Black Face, Broadsword, Albatross and Fair Use

Other directing credits include work with Dad’s Garage, Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Jewish Theatre of the South, Theatre Gael and numerous projects with Aurora Theatre. He has been a frequent guest director or lecturer at such universities as Virginia Commonwealth University, Hendrix College, University of Georgia, Austin Peay State University, South Carolina School of the Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Oglethorpe University.

Prior to joining AE, Freddie served as Literary Manager of the Alliance Theatre (recipient of the 2007 Regional Theatre Tony Award), where he served as dramaturg for around 30 productions. He has developed new plays around the country with the Playwrights’ Center, Kennedy Center, New Group, Page 73, and Jewish Theatre of the South. Ashley has worked on new play projects with some of the most compelling and important writers working in the American theatre today, including John Patrick Shanley, Joshua Harmon, Lindsey Ferrentino, Jen Silverman, Kenneth Lin, Janine Nabers, Marco Ramirez and Michael Lew.

He is a four-time Suzi Bass Award winner and has been named Best Director in Atlanta three times by Creative Loafing. He has received the Elliot Hayes Award for Dramaturgy from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Medallion of Excellence. 

Ashley is Assistant Professor of Acting at Kennesaw State University, where he has served on the faculty since 2002. He is President of the National New Play Network Board of Directors and holds an MFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi and a BFA in Theatre cum laude from Shorter College. www.freddieashley.com


Ebony L. Jerry is a former 2017-2018 Actor’s Express Intern. She received her BFA in Performing Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her credits include Suzi Award Winning for Best Ensemble The Wolves playing #8 at Horizon Theater, and Synchronicity Theater’s The Bluest Eye as the swing. She is very excited to be back at Actors Express, where it all began.


Actor’s Express: 2016-2017 Intern Company. Stage Manager: Blackpool and Parrish (Out of Box Theatre). Director: Shadow Cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Next Fall (Georgia College). Irene Ryan and SDI nominations from KCACTF Region 4. BA in Theatre from Georgia College and State University. So thankful and excited for the opportunity to work with the artists and fellow interns at AE!


Actor’s Express: Sheila has been involved with Actor’s Express off and on since 1992 serving as Casting Assistant, Assistant Director, Props, Stage Manager, House Manager, Dramaturg and Fund Raising Coordinator. Other: She has served in many capacities at many theatres in Atlanta as well as Directing. She joined Chris Coleman at Portland Center Stage where she was Manager of Corporate Giving. Education: Sheila majored in theatre at the University of Texas. Email Sheila at [email protected].


Alex Scollon received his BFA from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama with a concentration in Production and Technical Management, and in 2005 received his Master of Arts Management degree from the Heinz School of Public Policy also at Carnegie Mellon. During the early phase of his career Alex has specialized in leading small theatres and multidisciplinary arts organizations to grow into important cultural centers in their communities while maximizing earned revenue, developing strong boards of directors, and creating partnerships with local government and community organizations. Passionate about community development and engaging the next generation of leaders, Alex has been involved in numerous boards and committees including, downtown associations, chambers of commerce and NEA sponsored emerging arts leadership networks. He is thrilled to join the team at Actor’s Express and looks forward to building on the theatre’s already amazing reputation. When not at the theatre you will likely find him trying a newly opened restaurant, at a terrible movie, or reading about space exploration.