Sky's the limit for Director's Choice, `Grace'

Company vows to bring theater to newcomers with new play, more

August 05, 1999|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For a performing arts organization about to enter only its second year of existence, the Director's Choice Theater Company of Howard County is causing quite a stir.

Pleased and proud to have received its first grant from the Howard County Arts Council, the Director's Choice leadership is making plans to bring theater to the people of Howard County in the season to come.

"We want to bring theater not only to the general public," says Maria Lakkala, the ensemble's co-founder and artistic director, "but to people who haven't been exposed to it in the past or have a hard time getting to it in the present."

Beginning in September, Director's Choice plans to turn the Border's bookstore on Dobbin Road in Columbia into a theatrical venue by offering staged readings of new plays with the playwrights in attendance to lead discussions and accept feedback.

Lakkala and the company's other founder, John Sadowski, are also hoping to mount a production of the Broadway musical "Carnival" that will be offered as family entertainment between Christmas and the new year.

In the meantime, the company is set to present "Falling Grace," a new play by Maryland author Mark Scharf. Opening tomorrow, the play will be presented at the black box theater of River Hill High School on Route 108, near Route 32, in Clarksville. Performances will run Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 2 through Aug. 22.

"Falling Grace" is a thoughtful play about Grace Williams, a woman who inexplicably survives a chute malfunction on her first parachute jump.

By all accounts she should be dead, yet she lives. Has a miracle occurred? Is Grace divinely blessed? How will Grace react to those who view her as a modern-day saint who can heal by her very touch?

"In an age when miracles must be explained to be believed, what do we say when something miraculous does touch the ordinary?" asks Lakkala, director of the play.

"The older I get, the more questions of faith, God and miracles cross my mind," says playwright Scharf. "What are we to make of it when catastrophic events happen, yet some people walk away unscathed? Why do such things happen? Can we know the mind of God?"

Scharf is quick to point out that his play is not a religious tract or dispassionate Socratic dialogue, but a theatrical piece possessed not only of momentous questioning but of humor and wit there to engender serious thought.

"I like it when people can have a discussion, or even an argument, in the car on the way home," he says.

"Falling Grace" showcases Columbia actors Deborah Elizabeth Striegler, Gareth Kelly, Donna De Vilbiss, Steven Namie and Phyllis Stanley, all veterans of local community theater.

Information and reservations: 410-419-5247.

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