Community Blog

By Leah S. Abrams

Welcome to our Undiscovered Works blog! What’s it all about? We want to create a new communication medium by which we can support and grow our community – an extension of our mission to share stories, to promote work that we think should have the chance to grow, to develop, to find a voice and an audience.

As we launch this newest program, I’d like to offer up a bit of an origin story…

Where it All Began

According to friends from elementary school, I have been producing theatre since the second grade, when my mother and I moved in with my grandparents. There were earlier theatrical projects – always singing for folks and a poem recitation about a turtle who lived in a box (he swam in the puddle and climbed on the rocks) at kindergarten graduation, but the bug really hit when we moved and I began spending every day with my grandfather who had been an entertainer himself, who gave me my first public speaking lessons because the new school required weekly show-and-tell presentations.

An old classmate pointed out to me that I’d started pitching a production of “Annie” for us that same year I arrived in town. Eight-year old me even approached the manager of an old local movie theatre (it had a stage!) to pitch a variety show featuring local talent, representing people of all backgrounds and ages.

 In the fifth grade, I penned a terrible play for my friends to perform called “Broadway Dreamers,” full of song and dance numbers reflective of my bizarrely eclectic tastes at the time – ranging from Fred Astaire to George Benson. Call me an early adopter of the jukebox musical.

Alas, none of my crazy childhood production ventures came to fruition. Still, the desire to make stories come to life did not dissipate, even when I pretended an intention to drop it.

My dad was a driving force behind my ultimately pursuing a life in the theatre. When I was heading to college, intent on focusing all energy on pre-law endeavors, he was adamant that I choose a school with a strong theatre department and opportunities for student productions. When I graduated college, he was the one who helped me set up the non-profit theatre company I’d go on to manage for two decades, first in Boston and then in San Francisco. In the final years of that endeavor, for multiple complicated reasons, running a company had worn me down, had made believe I’d grown to hate my passion.

A New Start

New York changed all that. A theatre person arriving here cannot help but fall madly in love with the thing all over again. From the moment I arrived in the city nearly a decade ago, I picked back up with a small group of producer and artist friends with whom I’d collaborated in my previous life across the country and, through them, was reminded that the whole point of theatre was to inspire, to collaborate, to discover voices – in short, to be a community.

I’ve been truly blessed by this city, the theatrical hub that I’d spent my whole life longing for. From the moment I decided I wanted to get involved, people gifted me the opportunity.

Kira Simring, whom I’d known for a single show in the early 2000’s, brought me into the cell where she’s long been its artistic director – there, she helped me launch what has become the Undiscovered Works monthly storytelling series, co-produced with me a piece I’d longed to do since college, and got me my first G.M. gig on a show that introduced me to Marianne Driscoll who is the kind of person that makes you think there are indeed angels walking among us.

When the cell’s programming got so full that we needed a new home for the reading season, the seemingly unlikeliest of places took us in – Ryan’s Daughter, an upper east side bar where, at the time, one of The Irish Rep Theatre’s most beloved artists, Mick Mellamphy, was involved before he took to full-time acting. He and partner Jim Gerding gave us a home for five years, until we accepted an invitation from Dixon Place to move the series to their lounge.

With that last move (prior to our current reality of online programming) came the full realization of the potential of Undiscovered Works. Our focus is on community – on giving life to stories, often in their infancy, in the belief that we learn and grow and empathize not through facts and statistics but through listening to someone else’s experience. Where do our differences converge?

What I essentially wanted was to invite people to my parlor to share and support one another as we find our voices. I wanted a place where I could welcome the people who care for our neighbors to share their work and so we have our non-profit partners. As for those full-scale productions that were my focus for so long, there is still space for them. If a writer has something to say, something our society needs to hear, then I want to help it be heard. Productions will happen – they are already planned. They are the kinds of pieces I used to be proud and excited to let loose on the world, and the kind I am passionate about supporting. 

At Undiscovered Works, we believe, at the end of the day, that theatre should be about bettering our shared world. And we’re proud to play our small part.

Our Blog Endeavor

Moving forward, we’ll be featuring a wide variety of content here on the Undiscovered Works blog, including new work, interviews with creators, opinion pieces, information about artistic happenings, and just about anything else our community can come up with.

We’re excited for this new launch and we believe it will provide more opportunities to connect, to share, to learn, to develop ideas. Many of you will be hearing from our team directly to solicit your contributions, but please feel to contact us at with ideas, suggestions, or proposed topics at info@undiscoveredworks.org.

March 29th: Community Spirit Abounds

In these trying times, community is, as always, our foremost thought.

As I sit down for my fifth attempt to write to you, it is a positively beautiful Friday afternoon here in New York – clear, blue skies; birds orchestrating; flowers and buds emerging from slumber. You’d hardly think we were in the middle of a national emergency. And yet, here we are – quarantined for a fast-spreading pandemic that, this time at least, is receiving some government response. In fact, between this morning’s draft and this moment’s editing, I received notice that Congress has passed the CARES Act, offering real financial support for our colleagues, including unemployment insurance for the countless numbers of us who would not normally be eligible. 

Here at Undiscovered Works, we are dedicated to keeping the stories going and staying connected with all of you. We’ve been busy navigating technology to bring you our monthly storytelling series and, this past week, we’ve been focused on… auditions! We managed to hold over 70 “live” auditions with actors who not only entertained us in these trying times, but who were an absolute inspiration in kindness. We would especially like to thank those who had to move things around based on their work in emergency rooms, paramedic teams, and other critical positions taking care of our neighbors.

I have stalled in sending this communication, in part, because I’ve been somewhat at a loss for what to say. We have had many conversations on our end about the importance of the arts to be a source of light and support, recalling what NYC’s entertainment industry was able to do for our collective spirit after the Sept. 11th attacks, but we find ourselves in a scenario more closely aligned with the days of The Plague as we’re wisely forced to socially distance ourselves.

We are watching our friends and colleagues, including some of Undiscovered Works own team members and presenting artists lose their livelihoods. Many of our non-profit partners and the city’s vibrant non-commercial theatres face uncertain futures. All of this is in the midst of people falling sick and even dying at alarming rates. We are humbled by our own sense of helplessness. BUT we must soldier on – that is what artists of every age have been asked to do and we are determined to do our part in continuing that tradition!

On Monday, April 11th, at 7:30pm (east coast), we will be virtually hosting our monthly event – details coming next week! This will, naturally, not be a paid-ticketed event, but we will share info. on how to support our friends and colleagues throughout the arts and hospitality industries. 

Please know that you are in our thoughts – ’til we gather together once more, may you be healthy and well and able to lose yourself in stories of all kinds!

With much gratitude,
Leah and Team Undiscovered Works

March, 2019: Kicking off a new Storytelling Series

March Films & Filmmakers

306 HOLLYWOOD

On March 10th, we gathered at Ryan’s Daughter for a pre-screening of Elan and Jonathan Bogarin’s 306 HOLLYWOOD, an official Sundance Selection now available on iTunes, along with Heather Pirnak’s animated short THE COLORS OF LIFE.

We followed the viewings with a discussion with Elan and Heather who both shared experiences of creating their films and answered thoughtful questions from our audience.

I was particularly struck by an inspiration shared by Heather Pirnak, the animator and director of the short film THE COLORS OF LIFE. She spoke about coming to New York as an artist and living on the lower east side and so she went to The Tenement Museum – one of my personal favorite places – and was inspired by what it must have been like to have come here during that time. The journey she created as a result is poetic and musical and perfectly captures the era and ever-changing city that sparked the film’s creation.

Elan shared a driving thought behind the evolution of 306 HOLLYWOOD that will always stay with me – she said they started from a place of the idea that the ordinary could be extraordinary, giving us a way to look at all of our histories. She also spoke of the inspiration of her Venezuelan roots, of magic being a part of the language and the culture – the same is absolutely true of this extraordinary film.

On Making Their Films:

It’s like driving at night with your lights on and you can only see just ahead of you where the lights shine and you just keep going knowing you’ll get there.

Elan Bogarin

You take a chance – journey to a new place.

Heather Pirnak