Arts and Entertainment

Award-winning young alumna's play ready for its off-Broadway debut

Ellis Stump's play, "The Only Coffee Shop in the City," will make its off-Broadway debut Oct. 1. Credit: Emily HulbertAll Rights Reserved.

When Ellis Stump was preparing for life after graduation in May, her play, “The Only Coffee Shop in the City,” was enduring some changes as well. 

After undergoing the first stages of workshopping, stage reading and production while Stump was a student at Penn State, the full-length piece will debut Oct. 1 as part of the NY Theatre Festival, Summerfest 2019 in New York City.

“The play evolved and developed in preparation to embark into the real world, into New York City, right in time with me,” Stump said. “That’s been a very personal experience.”

A Schreyer Honors Scholar and inaugural Donald P. Bellisario Fellow, Stump graduated from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and the College of the Liberal Arts. She completed a double major in media studies and English, and added minors in psychology, gender studies, and theater. Stump sees the play as a culmination of her academic endeavors at Penn State.

The idea for “The Only Coffee Shop in the City first came to Stump upon returning from a semester abroad and discovering a common theme between her experiences and those of her friends. A pressure to present their best selves on social media, while masking real life problems from others, had created a feeling of disconnect despite their constant connection online. Combining the struggle to present one’s real self to the world and her academic interests, Stump brought the play to life in her last year and a half at Penn State.

Stump said she had fun writing and experimenting with the piece as more of a TV script than a theater script. Her use of multiple protagonists, background music and spatial awareness have created what she calls “binge-worthy theater.”

“Quick snippets, fast-paced, switching back and forth between plots and characters, like you would see in something on Netflix,” Stump explained. “I really like the idea of making theater more accessible, interesting and engaging for a younger audience.”

“The Only Coffee Shop in the City” is a show about finding and revealing a person’s true, authentic self — something Stump had to find the courage to do herself before sharing this personal piece with the world. Although this kind of vulnerability can be intimidating, she said it has been inspiring to see her audiences’ willingness to share their stories after hearing hers. 

“Everyone can relate to these experiences of healing and finding yourself,” Stump said. “Overall, I’m just very grateful that I did decide to put it out into the world.”

If writing, directing and producing her own off-off Broadway play were not enough, Stump also works as a full-time screenwriter for a Berlin-based production company and will start her studies as a dramatic writing master of fine arts candidate with The Actors Studio at Pace University in January 2020.

Stump will also spend the month of November in Prague celebrating “The People’s Toast,” her play that was the U.S. winner for Best Mini Drama in the 2019 Václav Havel Library Foundation’s Playwriting Competition. With that honor, she will receive a two-week residency in Prague and get to witness her play’s international debut. 

Stump said the support and creative liberty she was given at Penn State prepared her for all she has achieved after graduation. Her hands-on experience and encouraging professors are what inspired her confidence to bring “The Only Coffee Shop in the City from Happy Valley to the Big Apple. 

“The Only Coffee Shop in the City” will premiere at the Hudson Guild Theater, located at 441 W. 26th St., with three shows between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6. More information and showtimes may be found on the play’s Facebook page and Instagram (@theonlycoffeeshop) account. In addition, supporters may contribute to Stump’s project, as well as an initiative to bus Penn State students to New York for the premiere.




Ellis Stump Credit: Emily HulbertAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated June 14, 2021