Directed by Ali Shields and Gus Schlanbusch

November 8 - 11

The Playground is one of Mudlark’s most exciting concepts yet. Five brilliant Chicago-area playwrights (and one poet) were each commissioned to write a play. The rules? It has to take place on a playground, it has to be ten minutes long, and all the characters are middle schoolers. The results are as varied as the writers themselves. Check out details on the plays and playwrights below!

The Plays 

A Return to Adventure
by Kenya Hall
When the night grows dark and the children have long gone home the spirits of the playground awaken to an unexpected visitor. 


The Ritual
by John Taflan
A group of friends is falling apart and only an ancient and mysterious ritual can save them.


The Prank
by Darren Angle
Three friends play a cruel joke by ignoring their classmates one by one. But then the ignored students start to disappear… and no one can remember that they even existed…


Super Space Explorers Club
by Emily Dendinger
It's the last day of summer and the last chance to witness a long-awaited meteor shower, but personal differences amongst the founding members of the Super Space Explorers Club threaten to ruin the evening. 


Natural Order
by Bilal Dardai
Every school has its bully, but have you ever wondered how that bully came to be?


Five Days of Being Cool
by Andrew Biliter 
They’re cool. Super cool. So cool that their coolness defies the laws of physics. Robert has a chance to be one of them. But can he keep up? And how far is he willing to go?





Kenya Ann Hall is a Chicago-based playwright, actress, and dramaturg. Her writing has been featured at Victory Gardens as part of the Each & Her Performance showcase, the inaugural Ain’t I a Woman Festival, the 2015 Northwestern Senior Writing Showcase, and received honorable mention for the Dr. Floyd Gaffney Playwriting Award. Her dramaturgy credits include Saint Joan (Poetic Forum Collective), The Good Fight and The Lady Demands Satisfaction (Babes with Blades). She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she completed the Playwriting Module and the Advanced Playwriting Sequence. 


John Taflan is extremely happy to be making plays with Mudlark Theater. Last spring, John co-directed Mudpie with Krista D’Agostino. John has written many plays for Mudlark including Aesop’s FablesPandora’s BoxFairly Grimm Tales, and adaptations of The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, and Cymbeline.  An actor as well, he appeared in Mudlark’s production of Pinocchio and has worked extensively throughout the Chicagoland area with The Goodman Theatre, The Hypocrites, Strawdog Theatre Company, Steep Theatre, 16th Street Theater, Theo Ubique, BoHo, The House, Wildclaw, and many others. John lives in Chicago with his wife, Krista, and their two cats.


Darren Angle is a poet, career coach, software engineer, and now, playwright. He is an associate editor at RHINO poetry magazine. He has an M.F.A. in Poetry from Brown University, where he received the Weston Fine Arts Award for outstanding achievements in the arts. Darren also has a B.A. from Macalester College and a dog named Parker.


Bilal Dardai has been working within the Chicago area's vibrant theatrical community for over 18 years as a playwright, performer, educator, and creative collaborator. He is an ensemble member with Lifeline Theatre and an alumnus ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists, as well as a contributing writer to the audio dramas PleasureTown and Unwell. Bilal has been an Evanston resident since 2015, and is excited to work with Mudlark and its group of young artists for the first time.

Emily Dendinger is a Chicago/Brooklyn-based writer. Her plays include Hideous Progeny (LiveWire, Holland Productions, and North Park College), No Home for Bees (2017 Source Festival Finalist, 20% Theatre), #GodHatesYou, Little House in the Big City (2017 NNPN Showcase Finalist)and Pocketful of Sand (winner of the 2016 Activate Midwest New Play Festival and 2015 Alliance/Kendeda finalist). She is a two-time winner of Theater Masters National Play Competition and has been a finalist for the City Theatre National Award, 2017 Emerald Prize, and Heideman Award. Emily has worked around the country with companies including Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Lark, Route 66, Mudlark Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, The Alliance, NNPN, Filament Theatre, Curious Theatre Company, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, NJ Rep, and TimeLine Theatre. Her work has been developed at The Perry Mansfield Festival of New Work, Durango New Playfest, and Tofte Lake Residency. Emily was the 2015-2016 NNPN Playwright-in-Residence with Curious Theatre and is an alumni member of TimeLine’s Writers Collective. Emily is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s Playwright’s Workshop.


Andrew Biliter has been Mudlark’s Artistic Director since 2009. With every plays he writes, directs, edits, or produces, he aims to change the way people view and experience youth theater. Under Andrew’s leadership, Mudlark has focused on telling old stories in new ways, and new stories that only a youth company can tell. In 2010, he co-created Mudpie, Mudlark’s annual showcase based on the creative writing of Evanston kids. Favorite Mudlark shows he’s written and directed include The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (2010, 2016), Frankenstein (2012), The Odyssey (2014), Alice in Wonderland (2011, 2017), and The Snow Queen (2017). Before becoming Mudlark's Artistic Director in 2009, he received a B.A. in Russian Studies from Carleton College, studying direction and dramaturgy under theater scholar Anna Dotlibova, and spent three years in Moscow working for an art magazine. Andrew is a lifelong Evanstonian and a graduate of Evanston High School, and is now a dad!