High Desert Play Development was founded in 2005 to support playwrights’ works-in-progress, and to introduce students to the play development process.

Playwrights in Residence

Bi-annually, we solicit plays for the program from 15-20 nationally renowned and emerging playwrights. Two of those plays are selected for a developmental workshop and reading. The playwrights each spend a week in residence in Las Cruces, workshopping their play with a director, actors, and at times a dramaturg. Most of the collaborators are NMSU students, faculty and staff. The workshop culminates in a public staged reading.

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

The program is unique in that it exists entirely to serve the needs of the playwright, and the experience of the students involved. 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.

Local Writers

In recent years, we’ve launched a new component of High Desert featuring short plays and excerpts from full length plays by students and writers local to the Las Cruces area.  We look forward to meeting more local writers and helping to cultivate new plays in our community.


The 2023-24 Season

The 2024 readings will take place February 16th and 17th.


The current High Desert committee consists of: Diana Dávila, Lisa Hermanson, Aaron Krohn, Larissa Lury (Chair), and Bobbi Masters.

Although none of these are requirements, we are particularly excited about plays that feature:

  • characters close to the ages of most of our students, or characters who could be realistically portrayed by our undergraduate actors (age range 15-30). (Though we do have professional actors on faculty and in the Las Cruces community as well as some older students, who can be cast outside that range.)
  • Hispanic and/or Latino/a/x characters
  • Indigenous characters
  • our Southwest region

Playwrights will be invited to submit plays for consideration from mid-September through mid-October, 2023.  Due to our small pool of readers and limited time, we cannot accept unsolicited submissions.  However, if you are reading this during that timeline and have a play you would like considered (or would like to be considered in future years), please reach out to Professor Larissa Lury at llury@nmsu.edu.

Local writers may submit without an invitation.  Short plays (ten minutes or under), as well as short excerpts from full-length plays may be sent to Professor Larissa Lury at llury@nmsu.edu by December 15, 2023 for full consideration.  One submission per writer, please.


Past Seasons

In Fall 2022, NMSU Theatre Arts produced Big Frog by Dylan Guerra, which originally came to the department as a submission for High Desert.

In Spring 2021, High Desert produced a staged reading of Deal Me Out by MJ Halberstadt, as well as readings of ten-minute plays and excerpts from plays by: Bob Diven, Jeffrey P. Colin, Dominique Gomez, Riley Samuel Merritt, Tristan Mitchell, Elia Vasquez, and Peyton Womble. 

2019’s High Desert featured readings of Intelligence by Helen Banner, as well as End of the Exodus by Hannah Benitez.  While the pandemic left the department unable to produce one of the plays in the following season, NMSU Theatre Arts and American Southwest Theatre Company commissioned Hannah Benitez to create a virtual work, Tracer, which was produced in the 2020-21 season.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.