Steven Fechter is a playwright, screenwriter, and librettist. Most of all, he is a storyteller. He may run with naturalism or veer into expressionism, fantasy, even horror. His themes and issues are often political yet deeply psychological. But his aim always is to write daring stories that take audiences into unfamiliar emotional spaces.
In 2000, Fechter’s reputation as a groundbreaking writer was established when the Actors Studio at Raw Space staged his play The Woodsman, about the redemption of a convicted child molester. Soon after, Fechter wrote a screen version with filmmaker Nicole Kassell. Their screenplay won 1st prize in the 2001 Slamdance Screenwriting Competition. Lee Daniels (Monster’s Ball, Precious) produced and Kassell directed The Woodsman film (2004), starring Kevin Bacon. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, it received critical acclaim in the U.S. and abroad. The Woodsman play has since been staged throughout North America, Europe, and Australia.
Fechter has had two plays staged in The New International Fringe Festival. In 2007, The Commission, set during the aftermath of a bloody civil war in Central Europe, reveals how love, betrayal, and the fates of four people are intertwined. The Golden Aurora opened the following year, a fable about the power and mystery of love.
In 2011, Resonance Ensemble commissioned Fechter to write a play to run in repertoire with Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays. His play, Shakespeare’s Slave, opened at the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York. The play imagines a critical turning point in William Shakespeare’s life and career when he falls in love with an enslaved African woman in London.
Fechter’s work has drawn strong interest in Germany. The highly regarded Theater Bielefeld in Bielefeld, Germany produced three of his plays: The Commission (Die Kommission, 2008), The Woodsman (2010), and the world premiere of Serpent’s Tooth (Schlangenbrut, 2015-2016). All three productions were critical successes, aided by the excellent German translator Christine Richter-Nilsson, who worked closely with Fechter.
Beginning in 2012, he worked extensively with director, Thom Fogarty. In three years Fogarty directed three world premiere productions of Fechter’s work: The Artifacts and The Mentee (Other Side Productions at The Bridge Theatre, NYC) and Lancelot (360repco at The Gym at Judson, NYC). Fechter was drawn to the detailed physicality of Fogarty’s directing and his background as a notable dancer-choreographer. Fogarty was attracted to the powerful female roles in his work.
After the Lancelot production, Fechter wrote a screenplay version of the play. This is the story of how a young man’s quiet life in Oklahoma is upended by the arrival of his former middle-school art teacher and lover. A film project is in development.
In 2015, Fechter began an artistic collaboration with Vernice Miller. She directed three of his plays at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she teaches theatre. She first directed Fechter’s The Execution of Saint Luke, which questions the morality of lethal injection in state executions and the physicians who perform them. Next came Ass Plays (2018) that addresses the intersection of sex, power, and dignity in our post #MeToo/#Times Up world. Most recently, Miller directed Rehearsing the Wannsee Conference, which follows a college professor and six students of color rehearsing a play about the Wannsee Conference. At that conference, Nazi leaders gathered to plan the annihilation of eleven million Jews in Europe.
Inspired by an extensive trip to Norway in 2017, Fechter wrote Bergen, a play with music. Premiering at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival, Bergen takes a satiric look at the formation of a Norwegian rock band during America’s collapse. Fechter made the unusual decision to write lyrics of the play’s rock songs and encouraged the actor-musicians to compose the music for their character’s songs. The result was a cast that sounded like a real rock band.
Recent & Current
In 2019, Fechter wrote the script and co-produced with Nancy Nagrant the short film Miracle Baby. It stars Stephen Kunken (Billions) and Nagrant. Since 2020 the film has been selected in many film festivals, including L.A. Shorts, USA Film Festival, Deep in the Heart, and winning awards for screenwriting, directing, and acting.
During the pandemic lockdown, Oberon Theatre Ensemble asked Fechter and other writers to write scripts for very short films (3 minutes) that would be shot and edited on iPhones for a cast of three. Fechter wrote three scripts – Morph, Alone, Audition. Morph has been an official selection in over half a dozen film festivals around the world, such as in London, Prague, and Berlin.
As a librettist, American Opera Projects, in 2020, commissioned Fechter and Pulitzer Prize winning composer Anthony Davis (The Central Park Five) to create a short opera. For that project, Fechter wrote a libretto titled The Hare and the Hawk, an allegorical story about gluttony and greed set in a forest of talking animals and trees.
Presently, Fechter is working on a novel titled, The Big Breeze. It is a story about baseball, loss, grief, rebirth, art, and fatherhood.
September 2022 saw the world premiere of Oberon Theatre Ensemble’s production of his play The Memory Exam at 59E59 Theatre, New York City. The entire run was sold out and the New York Times called it a “dystopian thriller.”
Fechter is a member of Oberon Theatre Ensemble and the Dramatists Guild.
Prizes and honors include
1st prize in Slamdance Screenwriting Competition, Humanitas Prize finalist in screenwriting, twice a winner in the Samuel French Short Play Festival, four playwriting fellowships at Yaddo, guest artist at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London.