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Hunter MFA Playwrights Festival Concludes Season With “This House is for Laughing” By Sam Walsh

The Playwrights Festival, which serves as the capstone for graduating students in Hunter College’s MFA in Playwriting Program, concluded on May 10, in the Frederick Loewe Theater, with a standing ovation for playwright Sam Walsh.

The festival, in its seventh year, gives students the experience of a 29-hour professional workshop leading up to the performances, according to Program Director and Producer Christine Scarfuto.

“It’s a showcase of our students’ work, but also an opportunity for them to get more work, as we invite agents, artistic directors, and literary managers to attend,” she said.

The MFA program uses the festival to provide a platform for students’ work, and a jumping-off point for entry into the professional world.

“Our biggest hope for the future is to continue to build relationships with people in the industry to give our students the largest network possible,” she said. “I really want this to become known as a pipeline of new work for the American theater.”

Walsh’s play, This House is for Laughing, was the fifth and final performance of the week. Other performances included Corridor, by Guelan Varela-Luarca; The Morbs, by Jen Diamond; Last Gold, by Minna Lee; and The Mailroom, by Davis Alianello.

Each play is an original piece written by the students in the program. They work with program directors and administrators to select and secure professional actors and directors for the showcase, which is well connected to the theater world of New York City.

This House is for Laughing, for example, was directed by Knud Adams, an Obie-winning director whose most recent work, English, will appear on Broadway next December. The cast included actors Patrick Dunning, Rory Kulz, Claire Siebers, Frank Wood, and Connie Shulman, a cast member in the TV show Orange is the New Black.

Walsh, who is an actor-turned-playwright, wrote this play in January and has been workshopping it since.

“It’s been really great seeing it come to life,” said Walsh, after the performance. “Having a live audience is such a good opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn’t.”

She went on to attest to the quality and convenience of Hunter’s MFA in Playwriting, which not only allows students to work while completing the program, but also provides significant funding: “We had amazing teachers, and I was able to connect with so many industry people, a lot of whom came today… being able to work while also studying in the program was really important for me.”

This House is for Laughing follows the lives of a seemingly perfect all-American family. It quickly becomes clear that just below the surface of their quintessential familial relationships is deep vulnerability and loneliness – stemming from what Walsh classifies as the human condition of vacillating between adamant self assurance and the sense of being totally lost.

According to her bio, Walsh is particularly interested in writing plays about the “form of loneliness perpetuated by American individualism.” She plans to submit This House is for Laughing to various publishers and festivals, and “see where it lands.”

Hunter’s MFA in Playwriting class of 2024 totals five students, each of whom, said Scarfuto, has a distinct writing style that makes them unique to the program.

The most distinguishing quality of this cohort is their commitment to supporting one another, Scarfuto said.

“They really want each other to succeed,” she said.

For more information on the program, visit

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