• Players by the Sea

Meet the Playwrights of New Voices 2020!

Players by the Sea’s annual new play development program, New Voices, returns — reimagined!  Created in 2016 and inspired by new play development programs across the country, New Voices aims to develop the next wave of American voices right here in Jacksonville. In previous years, the program selects 1-2 established OR aspiring playwrights to embark on a yearlong developmental journey and pairs them with mentors who help guide the process from conception to final draft. The program culminates in a fully mounted production of their new play.  As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take center stage, we’re reimagining New Voices! To continue this program, we are pivoting to a virtual process.  The first installment in this reimagined program is New Voices: Voices Unheard. We’ll select 3 established or aspiring playwrights through a blind submission process to begin a 12 week development and writing journey. Through mentorship, workshopping, and writing sessions, our selected playwrights will be ready to rehearse and showcase their 15-20 minute short play that uplifts and highlights the voices of the unheard — whatever that may look like. 


We're thrilled to announce the 3 playwrights selected for New Voices 2020!

Matt Mercurio

Matt Mercurio is a classically trained actor with a deep passion for acting and a love of all things film + theatre. His recent TV credits include: recurring roles on Black Lightning (CW), The Resident (FOX), Life Sentence (CW), Sleepy Hollow (FOX), Powers (SONY), MacGyver (CBS), RePlay (Go90), the upcoming seasons of Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots” and the upcoming WWII series, The Liberator on NETFLIX. Matt's recent films include playing Asher in Hell Fest (Lionsgate & CBS Films), Disney's live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp and Mile High Escorts (Lifetime). Matt has shared the screen alongside the likes of Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jamie Foxx, Helen Mirren, Paul Rudd, & Jennifer Garner. Theatre credits include Tony Award-winning theatres such as the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Alliance Theatre, as well as the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Matt is a national finalist of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship and recipient of the American College Theatre Festival's Marvin Sims Diversity Award in Acting

A first-generation American and the son of two military parents, Matt spent most of his formative years in Jacksonville, (Duval County) Florida. Coming from a hard working immigrant family, meant a strong emphasis was placed on Matt's education and an unrelenting insistence of a more traditional career path. Having spent a portion of his childhood aspiring to be a professional wrestler, and the rest of it dreaming to be an actor, Matt always possessed an inherent theatricality and the playful spirit required to chase his inevitable artistic ambitions. In middle school, his class-clown antics and knack for mischief made sure Matt was a consistent visitor of the school's administrative offices where faculty surmised his energies best be put to use in drama classes. From there he began excelling in acting and theatre, which became the passions that would consume his pursuits and paint his dreams.

Matt first studied acting at Florida State College Jacksonville's Theatre Performance program on a full-time performance talent scholarship and at the BFA Acting program at the University of Florida's School of Theatre and Dance, where Matt was a proud member of the hip-hop theatre troupe, Signs of Life, as a performer, writer, director, and producer. His training also includes a full scholarship as an Acting Apprentice and company member at the Tony Award-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival, where he studied comedy with The Upright Citizens Brigade as well as stand-up with comedian Lewis Black.



Chelsea Black

Chelsea is thrilled to be selected as a finalist for the New Voices program at Players by the Sea. She has been fascinated with telling stories ever since she could talk, and she is excited to have the chance to present a story on stage for the first time. A native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Chelsea has a Bachelor’s in Voice Performance from Appalachian State University and a Master’s in German from Bowling Green State University. You may have seen her on stage before, her previous roles include Greek Chorus in How I Learned To Drive at the 5 & Dime, Mrs. Claus/Ennis in Dashing Through The Snow at ABET, Tom/Leslie in Sylvia and Gymnasia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Players by the Sea.



Ken Pedersen

Ken Pedersen is a native of the Chicago area and now resides in Saint Augustine, FL with his wife Adrilia. Ken’s theatre background is as a composer. He was a member of the Chicago New Tuner’s Writer’s Workshop form 1995 - 1998. He co-wrote the full-length musical Rock That Town that had a staged reading at the Stages 1996 new musical festival. His 10-minute musical Yes, No, Maybe, Ommm, a musical of four words, had a staged production at the ‘Stages 2000’ festival in Chicago and had a subsequent production at the Chicago Cultural Center. Ken also published two nationally distributed CDs, “Walden” and ‘Deja Views” in the late 1990’s. Ken is CEO of Zenylitics, LLC and has been an executive in the technology industry for most of his career. He has written three books on various technology subjects. Ken has two sons Soren and Eric. He enjoys playing pickleball and has medaled at three Florida state championships as well as at the USAPA Nationals and the US Open.


We can't wait to share what these amazing writers are creating over the course of the program! Stay tuned!

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