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GFT Writes will provide a support system and soundboard for Austin-based playwrights as each works on a new play. The program looks to foster plays that center around historically underrepresented communities.

During the yearlong intensive, each playwright will work on a new play culminating in a workshop and public reading at Ground Floor Theatre. Throughout the process, the four playwrights will meet twice monthly to read and respond to one another’s work.

Current Cohort

Maxine Dillon
Kairos Looney
Eliya Smith
Jessica Peña Torres

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Photo by Cindy Elizabeth

Maxine Dillon (she/her) is a playwright and performer based in Austin. Fascinated by the language and relationships we invent and construct to make sense of ourselves, her work includes It Do Be Like That Sometimes And Sometimes Like That It Do Be (24 Hour Plays: Viral Monologues), DOGGO (24 Hour Plays: Nationals), and Strange Flesh (Yale University). She received a degree in English from Yale University, where she was a Eugene O'Neill Fellow, working closely with New Haven high school students under the mentorship of playwrights at the David Geffen School of Drama. As a performer, Maxine is part of the comedy community at Fallout Theater, where she is a member of improv troupe Barf Gang.


Maxine's Project

The Negros Have Risen

a revolt

Kairos Looney (they/them) is a theatremaker and cultural organizer living on unceded Lipan Apache, Coahuiltecan, Comanche and Tonkawa lands. They write big, fantastical webs of relationships in order to lovingly investigate how our macrocosmic wounds fester in the interpersonal. They find comfort in deep time. Kairos is alumnus of the Pipeline Theatre 2021-2022 PlayLab, Southern Rep 2018-2019 Cohort, Pipeline Theatre 2017-2018 Playlab, and The Civilians 2016-2017 Field Research Team. They have loved playing with and picking apart works-in-progress at RudeFusion@Crashbox, Judson Memorial Church, and Barn Arts Collective artist residencies. While they are allergic to social media, more can be found at 


Kairos' Project

Codex Berserkir

a folkloric on white masculinity

Eliya Smith (she/her) is a writer from Ohio. Her plays have appeared at Ice Factory, HERE Arts Center, the American Repertory Theater, the Harvard Playwrights’ Festival, the Cohen New Works Festival, and the MadLab Young Writers’ Festival. Her work has received support from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and the Phyllis Anderson Foundation, which awarded her its prize for the best play by an undergraduate or graduate student at Harvard. She is currently pursuing her Playwriting MFA as a Michener Fellow at UT Austin.


Eliya's Project


a play about consumption

Jessica L. Peña Torres (she/her) is a dance/theatre artist focused on Mexican identity and performance. In 2014, she graduated from The University of Texas—Pan American with a B.A. in Dance and a B.A. in Theatre. At UTPA, Peña Torres performed with the Latino Theatre Initiatives and the UTPA Ballet Folklórico. In 2020, Peña Torres obtained an M.A. in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin, where she is now pursuing a Ph.D. In both Mexico and the U.S, Jessica has had a chance to work and perform for big and small arts organizations, such as Maru Montero Dance Company, Academia de Danza Condesa, and the Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México de Silvia Lozano. With her company, Coctel Explosivo, Peña Torres produces dance- theatre works that explore the intersection between nationalism and the performing arts in postrevolutionary México. 

Jessica's Project

Emilliana: A Revolutionary Play

Emiliana is an upper-middle class, 30-something-year-old queer woman who lives a double life. By day, she is Silvia Ibarra, who takes French and vocal lessons and is the daughter of a renowned, Spanish-descendant doctor. By night, she transforms to a different persona: Emiliana, a cabaretera (dancer/sex worker) who worships Emiliano Zapata and fantasizes about giving her grandfather’s hacienda to the local farmworkers to fulfill the revolutionary hero's mission. Inspired by the prostitute melodramas of the Mexican golden age of film (1935-1955) and the politics of the post-revolutionary period in Mexico, Emiliana recreates the atmosphere of the dance halls and cabarets in 1940's Mexico City while reimagining the genre to address issues of social justice for Indigenous, femme and queer folks.

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