Out of the 54 scripts submitted to the ninth annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival competition, nine full-length plays and two one-acts were chosen for production this year at six local theater venues.
This year's crop of new works written by residents of Maryland or former residents of the Free State varied again, as in previous years, in quality and originality.
Themes covered: personal odysseys into the dark regions of the psyche, the possible discovery of immortality, troubles in darkest Africa, reflections on life and death, a musical spoof of the Moses story and zany antics in an old-age home.
Two scripts dealt with the motif of over-dependency on parents and another with parenthood found too late.
Beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday, the second Baltimore Playwrights Festival Awards ceremony will be held at the Harborlights Dinner Theatre. The six festival judges will cast their votes for best play and best production. All who have participated in any capacity in 1990 Festival activities are invited to attend.
Although some of the plays were exceptional there were few exceptional performances or outstanding artistic direction this summer. Still there were, as was the case last year, some splendid and touching moments and we would like to acknowledge those we consider the finest playwrights (and artists) of the 1990 season.
Scripts mentioned in this column are judged on the professional standards of good writing technique and play structure, content, dialogue, character development, interaction between the characters, the elements of conflict and suspense and the intelligent incorporation of the overall theme.
Best of the fest:
The best script was "Wazari." Author Raymond W. Baker's brilliant work is set in West Africa and chronicles the friendship between two men, one white and one black, who despite different ideologies, come to know and love each other. Produced by the Spotlighters Theater. Nice performance by Eddie Smith in the title role.
William Stanley III, author of "Absurd Person Plural," offered an ironically funny yet poignant and perceptive commentary on the absurdity of life and death. Produced by Harbour Theatre. Delightful performance by John Howell.
Christopher Graybill, author of "The Deep End," presented a gripping one-act drama (with surprising humor) about a mentally ill man and the family he abuses. Produced by the Avalon Theatre Company.
Vince LiCata, author of "The Fountain of Youth," used comedy-drama to pose the possibility of immortality. Produced by The Vagabond Players. Good performances by J. Martin McDonogh and Rodney F. Bonds.
Arthur and Ellen Laupus, authors of "The Gathering Room," presented a very funny play about shenanigans and murder in an old peoples' home. Produced by the Spotlighters Theater.
Honorable mention goes to Paul Graves for an interesting perspective on actor John Wilkes Booth in his play, "John Wilkes Booth: I Am Myself Alone," produced by The Vagabond Players.
Best mounted production was "Circles in the Sand," an original musical by Philip and Robert Macht. This epic production with a cast of 40 featured a full professional orchestra, special effects and original choreography by Philip Carman performed by the Maryland Ballet Company. A spoof of the Bible with nice music and lyrics. Impressive to look at but boring in its non-musical content.
Tim Munn, who turned in a terrific performance as a tormented sailor returned from the sea in Bob Bowie's original play, "A Sunset for a Seagull," gets best actor. The play was produced by the Fells Point Corner Theatre and directed by Richard Jackson.
New plays for the 10th annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival are being accepted until Dec. 31, 1990. For detailed information, call The Vagabond Players at 563-9135.