Riley Elton McCarthy (they/them) is an internationally produced playwright and screenwriter, as well as an independent producer, dramaturg, and nonbinary jack of all trades. Riley’s plays have been developed and produced at House of International Theatre in Denmark (Southern Bedfellows), WorldPride Copenhagen, Bøssehuset, The Tank, Scawwy Howwow Theatre, The Hudson Guild Theatre, Student Theatre at Marymount (Ivories and The Lesbian Play), and Marymount Manhattan College (a peach grows in brooklyn). They were a founding member and playwright in the inaugural CPH HOTMEAT residency with Glad Teater and House of International Theatre in Copenhagen, sponsored by International WorldPride, and a resident playwright with Scawwy Howwow Theatre in New York to develop Ivories. They graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA Theatre Arts with a double concentration in Theatre Performance and Writing for the Stage. They are a self-proclaimed New York transplant living with their little dog and three cats, and founded Basement Light Productions where they serve as the artistic director, producing new, dynamic political and horror theatre in New York City. 

photos by Joseph Sherlock.

Artistic Statement

My name is Riley.

I am a playwright. I am also a screenwriter.

I am also an actor mostly sometimes.

In my work I tend to explore the definition of gender.

That sounds vague on paper, but when you truly sit with that idea, how can one define gender?


Gender is a spectrum and the definition of gender is ever-changing and fluid. As such, I'm interested in what makes a man and what makes a woman, I'm interested in what makes everything in-between and exists outside the boxes we put ourselves in, and I'm very interested in how we as a society define these outliers and why we cannot seem to settle on gender beyond a binary.

I tend to write about odd people in odd situations. I tend to write both intentionally gendered and intentionally gender-less characters, as characters who can be played by anyone, and relationships that exist beyond these boundaries. I love to dig under the surface and uncover the notions of what makes people tick. A major thematic element that is a trademark of my work is the exploration of the frustrations of the LGBTQ community within its own discourse: what tears the community apart and what conversely brings it together? What happens when subdivisions fight within themselves and how do we solve internal micro-aggressions towards each other?

I tell stories with more questions than answers. I tell stories that highlight contradictions and embrace the various inexplicable fragments of life, both painful and joyous, that exist outside of any box that we can imagine for them.

I believe in a future where we do not have to define ourselves to justify our existence to the world.

Conversely, I also believe in the empowerment of self-definition, whether it be through defining your own identity, your livelihood, and whom you love.   

I am an odd bird who tells odd stories. 

I cannot wait for you to join me on these journeys.