ST. PETERSBURG — American Stage will present its fifth annual 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival, which will put a spotlight on mental illness, wellness and resilience.

This year’s virtual festival will feature inspiring new plays performed with live streaming on American Stage’s Virtual Stage across two weekends, Jan. 15-17 and Jan. 22-24. The festival will feature four play readings, each including a post-show discussion with the playwright and a mental health clinician, as well as panel discussions, wellness workshops, a community mental health conversation and more. The plays will explore topics related to mental illness.

“Our hope is that this festival will not only continue our commitment to the development of vital and relevant new works for the stage,” said Stephanie Gularte, chief executive and producing artistic director, “but will also create an open space to allow people to talk about mental health as a way of opening up pathways for support and destigmatizing mental illness.”

After receiving over 200 submissions from all over the world, a new play committee of over 30 members read, evaluated and discussed each play. Four of these plays have been selected to receive professional, digital staged readings in the annual festival. Topics covered in selected plays include dementia, PTSD, trauma, depression, anxiety and suicide.

“This festival is a fitting space to have honest conversations about mental health, inspired by plays featuring themes of mental illness and mental resilience,” said Kristin Clippard, associate artistic director. “The playwrights have crafted compelling stories and characters that bring attention to mental health and invite audiences to contemplate the implications of isolation, anxiety, depression and traumas.”

The festival will include a partnership with clinicians and mental health experts. Post-show discussions will include mental health professionals helping to guide discussions, answering questions and opening up a dialogue among audiences and artists. The festival will also feature a community conversation featuring April Lott, chief executive of Directions for Living, along with other mental health clinicians addressing issues surrounding mental health and our community.

Workshops supporting mental health and well-being will be featured during both weekends of the festival. Additionally, throughout 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival, American Stage will provide resources to audiences and creative team members, helping to link those in need with support offered throughout our community.

“We’re grateful to American Stage for creating a unique platform that enables our community to share in conversations about mental health,” said Bill Goede, Tampa Bay market president for Bank of America. “Supporting the physical, financial and emotional wellbeing of individuals and employees is more important now than ever, and the arts’ ability to help translate these stories is a valuable connection.”

American Stage memberships include an all-access pass for both weekends. Memberships can be purchased individually or by household. Patrons can learn more about memberships, including the benefits of being a member and the three different types of memberships, at americanstage.org/membership.

All-access festival passes are available and include each of the four play readings and post-show discussions with playwrights and mental health clinicians, as well as panel discussions, wellness workshops and more. An all-access pass for the whole festival costs $55. A weekend pass costs $30. Cost for individual play readings and workshops is $15. Post-show discussions are free to ticket holders. Cost for individual panels is $10. Community conversations are free and open to the public.

American Stage Theatre operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) in the heart of St. Petersburg, providing live theatrical productions as a professional regional equity theatre since 1977. For information, visit Americanstage.org, call 727-823-7529 or email BoxOffice@americanstage.org.