Jack Heifner, John Cariani and Chiori Miyagawa

From left to right: Jack Heifner, John Cariani and Chiori Miyagawa

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - East Texans can be among the first to hear the newest works by three acclaimed playwrights during the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre's 2016 Festival of New American Plays scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday, April 26 through 30, on the SFA campus.

This biennial event showcases the work of some of the best playwrights in the nation in a five-day festival during which each selected play is presented twice in staged readings by SFA theatre students, according to Jack Heifner, SFA School of Theatre's playwright-in-residence, director of the festival and one of the featured authors.

"Since 1998, we have brought playwrights to our campus to see their new works," Heifner said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for our audiences to view 'theatre in the making.'"

This year's festival features Heifner's play "Bury Me In This," along with "cul-de-sac" by John Cariani and "Julia & Ellie" by Chiori Miyagawa.

"The Festival of New American Plays is one of the most distinctive and exciting aspects of our programming, and we're so grateful to Jack Heifner for creating it at SFA," said Scott Shattuck, director of the School of Theatre. "We always look forward to welcoming world-renowned writers and seeing our students participate in the development of their next major plays."

The festival will open with Heifner's play "Bury Me In This," which will be read at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30. Cariani's "cul-de-sac" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, and Saturday, April 30. Miyagawa's "Julia & Ellie" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, and Friday, April 29. These plays are recommended for mature audiences.

Heifner is best known for his play "Vanities," which ran for five years in New York and became one of the longest running plays in off-Broadway history. He is also the author of "Patio/Porch," "Natural Disasters," "Running on Empty," "Bargains," "Boys' Play," "Home Fires," "Heartbreak," "Comfort and Joy" and more than 30 other plays produced in New York, Los Angeles and theatres around the world. Heifner has written the book to six musicals, including "Leader of the Pack" on Broadway and "Vanities - A New Musical," which opened in New York in 2009. He has also written for television and film.

Since 1997, Heifner has been playwright-in-residence at SFA where he teaches play, screen and television writing one semester each academic year. At SFA, he has directed "Home Fires," "The Seagull," "The Member of the Wedding," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," "Stage Door" and "The Importance of Being Earnest."

An actor and a playwright, Cariani has appeared on and off Broadway and in several films and television shows. He won an Outer Critics Circle Award and earned a Tony Award nomination his performance as Motel the Tailor in the 2004 revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" starring Alfred Molina. He received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for his work in "Something Rotten!" He's been in movies with Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Ed Asner. He's probably best known for his role as CSU Tech Julian Beck on NBC's long-running drama, "Law & Order." He played Professor Otto Bahnoff in the final season of CBS' "Numbers," and many people know him as reporter Michael Falk on IFC's "The Onion News Network." He's guest-starred in many TV shows, including "Homeland," "The Good Wife" and "The Blacklist."

As a playwright, Cariani is best known for his first play, "Almost, Maine," which premiered at Portland (Maine) Stage Company in 2004 and opened off Broadway in 2006. It has since become one of the most frequently produced plays in the United States and has been translated into nearly 20 languages. Other plays include soon- to-be published "Last Gas" and "LOVE/SICK."

Miyagawa is a New York City-based playwright. Her plays have been produced by off-Broadway theaters, at renowned performance spaces in New York City and regionally. Twelve of her plays are collected in two books: "Thousand Years Waiting and Other Plays" and "America Dreaming and Other Plays." She is a recipient of many fellowships, including a McKnight Playwriting Fellowship, a Van Lier Playwriting Fellowship, a Rockefeller Bellagio Fellowship in Italy, and a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, American Theater Magazine, Huffington Post and other publications.

Among her plays and productions are "This Lingering Life," "I Came to Look for You on Tuesday," "Dream Acts," "I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour," "Thousand Years Waiting" and "Leaving Eden."

All performances of the festival will be in the Downstage Theatre of the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive. The festival is sponsored in part by Tipton-Ford-Lincoln. For more information, visit theatre.sfasu.edu.

The festival is part of the SFA School of Theatre's Mainstage Series. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for students and youth. For tickets, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit http://www.finearts.sfasu.edu/.