Playwrights Festival set to open July 7

Howard theater to hold two one-act plays for event's 19th season

June 25, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The play's the thing in Howard County.

The Baltimore Playwrights Festival is scheduled to begin its 19th season next month. In Howard County, that means two one-act plays to be presented by the Director's Choice Theater beginning July 7 and running through July 23 at the Howard County Center for the Arts.

John Sadowsky, a co-founder of Director's Choice, said it has grown since it began two years ago and that there are plans to do three other plays, including "The Fantasticks" and "Muldoon."

"The company is now around about 20 people with cast, directors and technical people," Sadowsky said. "We are doubling the season this year, and it looks like we might be doing the United States premiere of a Canadian musical, but we can't really discuss that yet."

Sadowsky said the company was founded with the idea to present work by local writers and to stage plays for the festival. Next month, the group will present "Up on the Roof" by Sheilah Kleiman and "No Riders" by Mark Scharf.

Both plays are being directed by Gareth Kelly. Kleiman said she is pleased with the way rehearsals for her play have been progressing.

"I'm very impressed with the talent," she said. "It's a growing thing and Gareth has being doing a wonderful job directing."

Even more exciting is the opportunity to see her words come to life, Kleiman said.

"This is the first time one of my plays is being staged," Kleiman said. "It's a step above readings and a step below Broadway. This is a wonderful place in Howard County for people to be able to come and not have to drag downtown to see real theater."

Rodney Bonds, chairman of the festival said it was founded to fulfill the dreams of writers like Kleiman. "It's really to promote new works by Maryland writers and to offer them the opportunity to have their works performed with full productions on community theaters," Bonds said. "To actually bring to life the characters that have been walking around in their heads."

Bonds said this year the festival will feature seven plays by five playwrights. Plays are submitted to the festival and are then voted on by volunteer readers before finalists are given public readings.

The plays will be staged by six theater companies in the Baltimore region, he said.

At a recent rehearsal for "Up on the Roof," actors Lauren Ciarpella and Stanley I. Morstein acted out a scene. Ciarpella, 14, plays 12-year-old Molly, who befriends Benjamin, an elderly man played by Morstein.

"You love your daughter, she loves you and she wants you to be near your grandkids," Ciarpella said, as she pantomimed looking through a telescope just as she forgot the next sentence. "Umm, line please."

Ciarpella said she enjoys playing the emotionally challenging role of Molly. "Molly is very sarcastic and she fronts as being tough, but she's really very vulnerable," Ciarpella said. "She always has walls up, but she lets Benjamin in a bit.

Morstein, a lawyer who acts in his spare time, said he considered passing up performing in the festival this year but changed his mind after being drawn to the character of Benjamin.

"Benjamin is a very real character," Morstein said. "The play is a very tender story about the relationship between this man and this young lady, and it deals with the very real issue of growing old alone."

Maria Lakkala, a co-founder of the Director's Choice, said that she and Sadowsky are planning to form another troupe. "We're expanding to include an improv company," she said. "We are thinking of calling it the No Director's Improv Company.

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