Little Festival of the Unexpected

Little Festival of the Unexpected is an annual event dedicated to public readings of new works. Three playwrights are in residence each year at the festival as they continue to develop their scripts with input from actors, directors, dramaturgs, and audience members.

2018 Little Festival of the Unexpected Plays

The Absentee by Julia Doolittle

Far out in the Milky Way, “Beacons” serve as lighthouses for warping spaceships around the galaxy. When a U.S. Space Forces ship explodes near Beacon 44.AR.90, its Operator finds herself alone in deep space with only her ship’s A.I. for companionship. That is, until a persistent canvasser calls, desperate to convince her to vote absentee in the 2088 election.

The Half-Light by Monica Wood

Join us for the first look at playwright and novelist Monica Wood’s latest play. Can anyone be trained to see the dead? A college secretary’s dogged pursuit of an answer leads to more earthly challenges when a colleague is felled by grief. This heartwarming drama about love and purpose that examines the ghosts that live within us all.

Things That Are Round by Callie Kimball

Tetherly, a dentist specializing in existential terror, and Nina, an opera singer who just might be the worst babysitter ever, square off in a strange ballet of truth or dare. But is this a game anyone can even win? Thelma and Louise meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? On steroids.

2018 Little Festival of the Unexpected Schedule: 

Tuesday May 8, 7:00 pm
The Absentee by Julia Doolittle | Directed by Todd Brian Backus

Wednesday May 9, 7:00 pm
Things That Are Round by Callie Kimball | Directed by Daniel Burson

Thursday May 10, 7:00 pm
The Half-Light by Monica Wood | Directed by Sally Wood

Saturday May 12, 12:30 pm
The Absentee by Julia Doolittle | Directed by Todd Brian Backus

Saturday May 12, 3:30 pm
Things That Are Round by Callie Kimball | Directed by Daniel Burson

Saturday May 12, 7:30 pm
The Half-Light by Monica Wood | Directed by Sally Wood

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New Play Development at the Little Festival

Since its debut in 1990, the Little Festival of the Unexpected has established a tradition of nurturing artists, invigorating audiences, and exploring new voices, new visions and new forms of theater. The festival furnishes a supportive environment for playwrights to develop their work, as well as a unique opportunity for audiences to catch a firsthand look at the creative process that brings scripts to the stage. Little Festival readings are performed by a company of professional actors, and are followed by an open discussion among the audience, director, and playwright.

Each playwright in residence receives a stipend as well as housing during the festival. Limited support for travel is also available.

Past Little Festival of the Unexpected scripts have a successful track record of full productions both here at Portland Stage and at other professional theaters around the country. Both Almost, Maine, which was developed at the 2003 Little Festival, and Papermaker, 2014 Little Festival, went on to become the most commercially successful Mainstage productions in Portland Stage’s history. Many other Little Festival works have gone on to productions elsewhere, including successful Off-Broadway runs and television filming.


For listings of past Little Festival of the Unexpected plays, click here to visit Portland Stage’s production history page.

Sponsored by Coffee By Design and The Flatbread Company.


Little Festival of the Unexpected Submissions

Submissions for the upcoming Little Festival of the Unexpected are accepted September 1st through December 31st for consideration the following May. Only scripts and samples of full-length plays are considered for the Festival.

  • Literary agents may submit complete scripts on behalf of their clients.
  • Playwrights who do not have agents may submit 10-page dialogue samples for consideration. Dialogue samples must be accompanied by a synopsis, production history, and character breakdown.
  • Plays are eligible for development at the Little Festival of the Unexpected only if they have not previously been professionally produced or workshopped with Equity actors. This restriction includes Actors Equity showcase and waiver productions. Plays that have had readings or non-AEA productions are still eligible.

Only one submission is accepted per playwright in a given year.
Submissions of 10-page samples (from playwrights) must be sent by U.S. Mail only – no e-mails, faxes, etc.
Portland Stage rarely produces scripts with more than 8 characters. When doubling occurs, a full character track breakdown should be included.

Submit by mail to:
Portland Stage Company
Attn: Literary Manager
P.O. Box 1458
Portland, ME 04104


Playwright Monica Wood on her Little Festival experience.