The Mission of Playwrights Project is to advance literacy, creativity, and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting programs and theatre productions.

Playwrights Project is a nonprofit organization devoted to arts education. Founded in 1985, Playwrights Project reaches up to 10,000 people annually through programs proven to:

  • Teach the power of spoken and written language
  • Nurture promising young writers
  • Develop theatre artists and audiences
  • Honor older individuals by dramatizing their life stories

Along with classroom programs, Playwrights Project conducts the annual California Young Playwrights Contest for writers under the age of 19, and professionally produces the winning scripts. Programs also dramatize stories from the lives of seniors, foster youth, and underserved populations and support the development of emerging playwrights.

Playwrights Project collaborates with many organizations in San Diego County. We have created major programs with Anaheim Union High School District; Escondido Union High School District; San Diego City Library; San Diego Unified School District; San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services; San Diego Youth and Community Services; and Sweetwater Union School District.

Board of Directors
Mary F. Harrison
Gene Summ
Vice President
Teofla Rich
Ishita Dayal





Jason Bailow

Rebecca Benner
Suzi Finkelstein
Anna Lillian
Vaishnav Srinivas
Todd Stone
Ann von Gal
Karen Ladner

Sheila Lipinsky

Ernie McCray
Craig Noel (1915-2010)

Founder Deborah Salzer with
Artistic Advisor Edward Albee, 1985

"We have to begin the creative education of young people very, very young, far younger than most people think and that's why an organization such as this one is so terribly important."
~Edward Albee


Staff Consultants
Teaching Artists
Cecelia Kouma
Executive Director
Laurel Withers
Development Director
Erika Phillips

Program Manager, Teaching
Derek Livingston
Program Manager, Production
Lizzie Silverman
Office Manager

Deborah Salzer

Edward Albee
Artistic Advisor

Dr. Barbara Broderick
Fundraising Consultant

Dr. Alexander Chizhik
Evaluation Consultant

Aurrora Arnold
Aleta Barthell
Mark Broadnax
Veronica Burgess
Kaja Dunn
Rachel Hoey
Steve Hohman
Jenny Lane

Steven Lone
Erika Phillips
James Pillar
Mabelle Reynoso
Deborah Salzer
Steve Smith
Wendy Wadell
Kim Walsh

Edward Albee, Artistic Advisor, is one of the greatest American playwrights. Among his 32 plays are The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance and the groundbreaking Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, almost always in production somewhere in the world. His numerous awards include three Pulitzer Prizes, a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the National Medal of Arts.

Deborah Salzer, Founder, is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Bank Street College of Education. Before moving to California from New York, Ms. Salzer taught elementary school, trained teachers, and directed an inner-city arts program in Harlem. Ms. Salzer founded Playwrights Project in 1985. In addition to creating curriculum and training teaching artists for Playwrights Project, Ms. Salzer has produced the premieres of over 100 plays, along with the award-winning television production of Simply Maria, or the American Dream by Josefina López. Ms. Salzer is the author of Stage Write a curriculum unit which introduces playwriting to middle and high school students.

Cecelia Kouma, Executive Director, has a BFA in Theatre Arts, from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She was hired as Playwrights Project’s Managing Director in 2000, to direct education programs and oversee the general operation of Playwrights Project.  Ms. Kouma now serves as Playwrights Project’s Executive Director, after working with the Founder and Board of Directors to prepare the organization for the Founder’s transition from leadership in 2007.  Ms. Kouma has worked as an arts administrator since 1987, including 11 years as the Associate Director of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. She has taught theatre and playwriting to students and teachers in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties and has presented at conferences on the topics of arts education strategies, evaluation techniques, and best practices for nonprofit management and accounting.  




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