Riverside Playmaker Project

Get your tickets to Iowa City’s newest plays – all revolving somehow around the prompt of “fall.” Playwrights who have participated in Riverside’s Playmaker Project have finished their plays and have now handed them off to adult professional actors and directors to bring to life on Riverside’s stage. We hope you’ll join us!


Riverside’s Playmaking Project is inspired by the 52nd Street Project from Hell’s Kitchen in NYC. Founded in 1981, The Project brings children together with adult theatre-makers and is designed (in fact, it is encouraged) to be replicated in other communities across the country. The goal of our project is best summed up by the original founders:

“the project is about making children proud of themselves. The project is not about teaching children to act, although they will learn to. It is not about teaching them to write plays, although they will learn that as well. What it is about is giving a kid an experience of success. It is about giving a kid an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within that they alone possess, something that cannot be taken away.”

Playmaking Class Description

Riverside Theatre will offer a four week playwriting experience (partnering with Horace Mann Elementary for classroom space). Early on these students will form groups of 3 students and these groups will be paired 2 groups-to-1 dramaturg/director (local playwrights, actors wanting to work in this capacity, or teaching artists with experience in play development/writing) to help develop their plays. As the program progresses, the students will learn how to and then write a play. They will then have the opportunity to meet with and “interview” actors who will inspire their own official 10 minute, two character, play. After writing these plays, each group will work with their partner dramaturg/director to bring this play to life with professional actors, directors, and set/stage crew. The finished plays will enjoy a two-day run on the Riverside Theatre mainstage. 


Calendar – Fall 2023

  • Class Start Date: October 4th
  • Tech Dates: November 8th & 9th 
  • Performance Dates: 
  • Friday, November 10th, 6:30-8:00pm & 
  • Saturday, November 11th, 10-11:30am 



  • Location: Horace Mann Elementary
  • Time: 3:00-4:45, twice a week 
  • Days: Monday/Wednesday (10/4, 10/9, 10/11, 10/18, 10/23, 10/25, 10/30, 11/1)
    • Students: The program will be open to students in grades 4th-6th and will be capped at 30 students. While we anticipate many students will be from Mann, this program will not be exclusively for Horace Mann students. 
  • Snack: A snack will be provided to all students attending  
  • Cost: Tuition will be $250 and each student will receive 2 complimentary tickets. *Riverside is committed to making opportunities available to all students – if the cost is a barrier, please contact Kathleen@riversidetheatre.org to discuss scholarship options before registering. 



    • 1 Lead Teacher/Curriculum Coordinator – Kathleen Johnson
    • 5 Dramaturg/Directors – present at each workshop to assist in teaching and working with students on their playwriting
    • 10 Actors – performing the various roles established in the students’ 10-mintue plays


  • Mobility: Elevator access to 3rd Floor
  • Transportation: Students who attend Horace Mann, don’t participate in BASP AND don;t have a ride home besides the bus…we will request this information upon registration and determine a transportation plan at that time. 
  • ELL: If we have a student enrolled who could benefit from ELL services, we will make lesson plan information available to ELL classroom teachers in advance and will welcome any ELL teachers, pre-service teachers, or support staff into the program classrooms who wish to attend.  

About the Lead Instructor

Kathleen Johnson is Riverside’s Director of Outreach & Education. She has been teaching improv, theatre arts, and communication throughout the midwest for the past 15 years. She attended Notre Dame University and earned her BA in Theatre and English. She went on to earn her Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of Iowa. She studied improv from performers at Second City Improv, Improv Olympic, and Huge Improv Theatre, has performed on short form and long form improv troupes, coached adult improv teams, and has led dozens of improv classes and corporate improv workshops.