High Desert Play Development was founded in 2005 as a bi-annual program that solicits new plays from 15-20 nationally renowned emerging playwrights. Two playwrights’ plays are selected to participate in a week-long developmental reading program in which a director, a dramaturg, and actors prepare the script for a public staged reading. The workshop is currently managed by Dr. William Storm and Professor Larissa Lury.

Following the reading series, one of the two scripts is selected for a fully-mounted production the next season. The playwright is in-residence for one or two weeks of the rehearsal or performance process.

The program is unique in that it exists entirely to serve the needs of the playwright. As such, the workshop does not require submission fees; NMSU/High Desert does not claim ownership or a future in the play; feedback is offered to the playwright only as requested; and the playwright is allowed to classify the play as either a workshop production or as a world premiere as they see fit.

High Desert was featured in an article in The Dramatist, the national magazine for playwrights, as well as articles in several other magazines, journals and at national theatre conferences. In 2015, the program celebrated its 10th anniversary.


High Desert Play Development 2022

Two Staged Play Readings 

March 4th at 7:30pm - Deal Me Out by MJ Halberstadt, directed by Nichole Hamilton

Deal Me Out by MJ Halberstadt takes place in November 2016, shortly after an important election. A group of close friends, bound by their love for game nights, have gathered for a fateful roll of the dice. This comic drama takes a closer look at the collision of privilege and politics. 

MJ is a playwright and teacher living in Portland, Oregon whose work examines the nature of community, "safe spaces", and queerness. An avid knitter and alumnus of Boston University and Emerson College, MJ has taught classes in dramatic writing at Emerson College and elsewhere, served as a Founding Playmaker Emeritus of Bridge Repertory Theatre, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc. To learn more visit MJHalberstadt.com

March 5th at 7:30pm - Evening of Excerpts by Local Playwrights, directed by Larissa Lury


*included in season ticket


Dear Las Cruces Writers,


NMSU Theatre and ASTC would like to invite you to submit short excerpts of your plays for consideration as a part of our High Desert Play Development workshop.   

On Saturday, March 5 at 7:30pm, we will host a public reading of selections from plays by local writers.  Excerpts may be anywhere from one minute up to ten minutes long.  Playwrights will be given the option to read from their own work, or to have their work read by an ensemble of actors cast through our department. When you submit, you will be asked for your preference. (Please keep in mind that the ensemble may not include someone who would traditionally be cast in a given role in your play.)  Selected pieces will be rehearsed twice during the week of February 27-March 5: once individually, and once when we run through the evening of selections all together. 

Please submit your excerpt for consideration by Friday, February 11th by clicking on this link and following the instructions on the form. Feel free to reach out to Larissa Lury with any questions at llury@nmsu.edu

And save the date of Friday, March 4 at 7:30pm for the staged reading of DEAL ME OUT by our High Desert playwright in residence, MJ Halberstadt! Looking forward to reading your work!


-Larissa & the High Desert Committee (Lisa, Nichole and Jim B.)


Past Seasons

Now under the direction of Professors Larissa Lury and Dr. William Storm, in 2018 High Desert workshopped two plays: three girls never learnt the way home by Matthew Paul Olmos and The Uses of Enchantment by Gregory S. Moss. Both plays were presented as staged readings in March, 2018.

The 2006-2007 inaugural season included Penny Penniston’s Spin and John Walch’s The Nature of Mutation. The Nature of Mutation was fully-produced by New Mexico State University Theatre Arts in March, 2007.  In 2008 there were staged readings of Lydia Stryk’s On Clarion and Matt Casarino’s Pixie. Pixie was chosen for full production in 2009.

In Spring 2010, High Desert produced a reading of Balls, by Jonathan Yukich, and produced Carol Carpenter’s Good Lonely People in Fall 2011. In Spring 2012, Carol Carpenter’s Sweet, Sweet Spirit and Andrea Stolowitz’s Antarktikos were workshopped; Sweet, Sweet Spirit was fully produced in Fall 2012.

In January, 2014, the workshop produced readings of For the Falls, by Emily Dendinger and West Highland Way by Meridith Friedman. The NMSU Theatre 2014-2015 season opened with West Highland Way.

In spring of 2016 readings of both In Loco Parentis, by Adam Kraar, and Tori Keenan-Zelt’s Truth Dare… were produced and in spring of 2017 NMSU Theatre fully produced Truth Dare… as a fully staged production.

Although High Desert does not accept unsolicited scripts, if you are a playwright and are interested in being considered for the program, please get in touch.