World Builders NYC

World Builders

a love story

Written by Johnna Adams
Directed by Kelly O’Donnell

(Previews April 28)
Opening Night: April 29, 7:30pm
Final Performance: May 13

@ West End Theatre
263 W 86th St, New York, NY 10024


What’s a Living Ticket? This production continues our Living Ticket initiative, which makes Flux’s shows free for all to attend. Well, not exactly free: it costs a lot to create these productions, and we want to provide our team a living wage. So while you don’t have to pay anything, we encourage you to support Flux with a donation when you reserve your Living Ticket. To learn what it would take for us to pay a living wage, check out our Open Book program, which shares our production budget and suggests levels of giving.


The Story

In Johnna Adams’ World Builders, Whitney and Max live deep within their own imagined realities – one expansive and fanciful, the other dark and brutal. To break free of these visions and become functional members of society, they embark upon a clinical drug trial that might erase these worlds forever. But are they truly able to leave their fantasies behind? In a medicated age where our imaginations are colonized by mass media, how do we know when happiness and love are real?

World Builders is Flux’s fifth production of a Johnna Adams play. Past productions: Angel Eaters, Rattlers, 8 Little Antichrists, and Sans Merci.


Read about the cast and creative team HERE.


Check out production photos from Isaiah Tanenbaum Theatrical Photography.


Read review and more HERE.

The Cast

August Schulenburg is Max

August Schulenburg is a founding Creative Partner of Flux where he has directed Ajax in Iraq (NYITA nomination), A Midsummer Nights Dream, and the Food:Souls Goldsboro and Volleygirls.  As an actor with Flux, he has played Dr. X in Hearts Like Fists, Ezekiel in 8 Little Antichrists (NYITA nomination), and the Professor in Rue. As a playwright, his work with Flux includes Riding the Bull, Rue, Other Bodies, The Lesser Seductions of History, Jacob’s House, DEINDEHoney Fist, and Salvage.

Alisha Spielmann is Whitney

Alisha Spielmann is a Creative Partner of Flux where her roles include Mica in Rizing, Jane in Jane the Plain, Tracy in Sans Merci by Johnna Adams, and Mrs. John Grey in Flux’s upcoming production of AM I DEAD?.  Her theatre credits include: The Runner Stumbles, Dear Ruth, The Desk Set (The Bleecker Company/Retro Productions); Blast Radius (Gideon Productions); Killer High, Hack! (Vampire Cowboys); Ten Year Twilight (Nosedive Productions); Hack! (Impetuous Theater); Native Speech, All’s Well That Ends Well, Love In The Insecurity Zone (Boomerang Theatre Company); Bus Stop, The Learned Ladies, As You Like It (The Gallery Players); As You Like It, The Christmas Carol (The Guthrie Theater); The Last Train To Nibroc (Paul Bunyan Playhouse). Her film, television and web credits include Producing Juliet, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Sigma, Exorcists Local 667, and Dates Like This. A native Minnesotan, Alisha received her BA in Music and Theater from St. Olaf College.


 The Creative Team

Johnna Adams, Playwright

Johnna received a Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association Citation in 2013 for her play Gidion’s Knot. She is the 2011 recipient of the Princess Grace Award and a 2012 Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. Gidion’s Knot was published in the December 2012 edition of American Theatre magazine. The Contemporary American Theater Festival premiered Gidion’s Knot in 2012 and twelve regional productions were planned around the country in the following 2013-14 season. Flux Theatre Ensemble (New York) produced her play Sans Merci in 2013 and was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for best play. Gidion’s Knot and Sans Merci are published by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. Johnna received a 2012 MFA in Playwriting from Hunter College with Tina Howe.


Kelly O’Donnell, Director

Kelly O’Donnell is a Flux Creative Partner and co-founder. Directing work includes Tiny Houses by Stephanie Zadravec (New Dramatists Playtime LAB), Colchester by Adam Szymkowicz (Portland Center Stage, JAW), Marian and Hearts Like Fists by Adam Szymkowicz, Jane the Plain by August Schulenburg, Dog Act by Liz Duffy Adams, Honey Fist, and Riding the Bull by August Schulenburg (Flux Theatre Ensemble), 3Christs (Peculiar Works Project), A Flea in Her Ear (NYU Tisch Undergraduate/Lee Strasberg School), Tartuffe (Lafayette College), Our Lady of 121st Street (The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute). A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet (Stages on the Sound). She has been nominated twice for Outstanding Director by the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. Plays that she has directed have been named “Critics’ Picks” by the New York Times, Backstage, and Theatre is Easy; and “Audience Favorite” by the Village Voice.

Producing Director: Heather Cohn
Production Stage Manager: Ben Shipley
Assistant Director: Nina Fry
Scenic Designer: Will Lowry
Lighting Designer: Kia Rogers
Costume Designer: Stephanie Levin
Sound Designer: Kelly O’Donnell
Props Coordinator: Lori E. Parquet
Marketing Director / Photography: Isaiah Tanenbaum
Communications: Emily Hartford
Postcard Illustration: Kristy Caldwell
Flux Theatre Ensemble Creative Partners (not already listed above): Becky Byers, Sol Crespo, Rachael Hip-Flores, Chinaza Uche

Humorous, heartfelt, and philosophical of its own accord, Johnna Adams’ script shines under the actors’ chemistry and realism. Spielmann’s Whitney is as multifaceted as the universes she invents, balancing charming self-absorption with deeper feelings of shame and inadequacy, and zeal for her world with fear of the hollowness beneath it. As his cagey agitation morphs into trust, Schulenburg reveals in Max an unexpected tenderness and selfless commitment to those he loves.

-Emily Cordes, Theatre is Easy (read full review)

But back to World Builders, by the ever-talented Johnna Adams, directed and featuring stellar sound design by Kelly O’Donnell, starring Gus & Alisha Spielmann. World Builders neatly captures the Flux aesthetic: a company with a social conscience, comprised of people who remind you why you felt so comfortable with the theater kids in high school — passionate, genuine creators with big imaginations and even bigger hearts.

-Amelia Parenteau, Culturebot (read full review)

During the show’s intermissionless 90 minutes, Spielmann uses her character’s words to extends her world around the set and into the audience. Schulenberg keeps up artfully awkward attempts to maintain his character’s boundaries. Together, these actors create a joyous, revelatory experience akin to a happy version of the film Cocoon. O’Donnell, as director, regulates the pace of this mind-opening tale better than certain medications.

-Ed Malin, Clyde Fitch Report (read full review)

World Builders taps into both the visceral thrill of diving into a lush, densely plotted universe different from our own, and the fascinating quasi-voyeurism of watching two people strip away all artifices and lay themselves bare.

-Natalie Zutter, The Mary Sue (read full review)

There’s something really special when you see multiple productions from a single company, and you start to get a sense of their essential values.  With Flux Theatre Ensemble, the overwhelming quality that seems to shine through in all of their productions, regardless of genre or style, is a sense of generosity. World Builders: A Love Story by Johnna Adams continues that trajectory with an empathetic, whimsical portrait of two people finding comfort in each other’s fantastic delusions.

-Lisa Huberman, New York Theatre Review (read full review)

Flux Theatre Ensemble’s new production of this intriguing play stars Alisha Spielmann (Flux’s Jane the Plain and Rizing) and August Schulenburg, the company’s co-founder and a gifted playwright himself. Both give muscular, all-out performances over what must be an exhausting 95 minutes without intermission. The dialogue is artfully crafted, Kelly O’Donnell directs with a sure hand…

-Jon Sobel, blogcritics (read full review)

LISTEN to Alisha Spielmann, August Schulenburg, and Nina Fry on the Go See A Show podcast

LISTEN to World Builders discussed as part of the Maxamoo podcast