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:

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

Gene Summ
Anna Lillian
Vice President
Teofla Rich
Ishita Dayal
Jason Bailow
David A. Carr
Suzi Finkelstein
Mary F. Harrison
Ann Hornby
Holly Smith Jones
Kathy Krevat
Vaishnav Srinivas
Todd Stone

Karen Ladner
Sheila Lipinsky
Ernie McCray
Craig Noel

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



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

Teaching Artists

Aurrora Arnold
Aleta Barthell
Rhianna Basore
Mark Broadnax
Veronica Burgess
Rachel Hoey
Jenny Lane
Patrick McBride


Erika Phillips
James Pillar
Mabelle Reynoso
Lydia Real
Tori Rice
Deborah Salzer
Steve Smith
Wendy Waddell



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.