Scharf to run Playwrights Festival

THEATER

Theater vet says he's pleased to give back

December 25, 2003|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Baltimore Playwrights Festival lost one of its most dedicated leaders earlier this month when Rodney S. Bonds, who served as chairman for six years, moved to South Carolina. But it found a new leader in an old friend. Last week, playwright Mark Scharf was named festival chairman.

One of the event's most produced playwrights, Scharf has had six full-length plays and four one-acts staged by the community theater festival since 1994. Several of those plays have had subsequent productions or staged readings at theaters as far away as Singapore and Australia.

The festival, now gearing up for its 23rd season, "has been a great opportunity for me," said Scharf, who has submitted a script for 2004, a move he said the board approved because the selection process is blind. "I'm pleased to have the opportunity to give something back."

Since 1985, Scharf's predecessor, an avid supporter of community theater, worked with various groups on more than 75 productions as an actor, director, producer or stage manager. "It's just really sad to see him go," Scharf said. In particular, he praised Bonds' role in developing programs such as the Carol Weinberg New Voices project, which gives undergraduate playwrights a chance to create scripts under the tutelage of more experienced playwrights, directors and teachers.

Looking ahead, Scharf hopes to expand New Voices to include even younger participants and is considering adding a musical to each festival season.

Speaking of Scharf's appointment, Miriam Bazensky, an executive board member, said, "He knows the inner workings of the festival. He's very well-organized, he has good ideas and he has ways of making things happen."

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival is looking for volunteers: to serve as board and advisory committee members, script readers, directors and actors for staged readings, and student technical interns; and to help with long-range planning for the 25th anniversary. Those interested should email chairman@baltplay fest.org.

Tales of Tennessee

The stars are beginning to align for "Tennessee Williams Explored," the Kennedy Center's spring and summer celebration of the great American playwright. Sally Field has been cast as matriarch Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie (July 20-Aug. 8), to be directed by Gregory Mosher. A two-time Oscar winner (Places of the Heart and Norma Rae), Field most recently appeared on Broadway in Edward Albee's The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?

Patricia Clarkson, an Emmy Award-winner for her role in HBO's Six Feet Under, will play Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (May 11-30), under the direction of Garry Hines. The Yale-trained actress appeared on Broadway in Eastern Standard. Recent film credits include The Station Agent and Pieces of April.

And, Dana Ivey, who won an Obie Award for her portrayal of the title character in Driving Miss Daisy, has been cast as Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (June 15-July 4), directed by Gerald Gutierrez. Ivey garnered Tony Award nominations for her roles in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Sunday in the Park with George and Heartbreak House.

"Tennessee Williams Explored" will also include Five by Tenn (April 21-May 9), an anthology of one-acts, directed by Michael Kahn; A Distant Country Called Youth (June 11-13), a one-man epistolary show starring Richard Thomas; and Women of Tennessee (April 12), a symposium moderated by Charles Osgood and featuring Zoe Caldwell, Rosemary Harris, Estelle Parsons and Eva Marie Saint.

For more information, visit www.kennedy-center.org.

Big boost in Baltimore

In each city it plays, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's play, The Exonerated, raises money for the real-life exonerees whose stories are told on stage. The Mechanic Theatre, where the show played a two-week run last month, reports that the Baltimore engagement raised $21,498 and that the first week's total, $12,053, is the highest amount raised in a single week by any city on the tour thus far.

In other news from the Broadway in Baltimore series, which moves to the Hippodrome Theatre in February, the Hippodrome box office is scheduled to open Jan. 12. For more information, call 410-837-7400.

Series adds Taylor

Playwright and actress Regina Taylor has been added to the lineup of "Inside Theatre," the speakers series at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland College Park. Taylor, whose play Crowns is currently at Washington's Arena Stage, won the 2000 American Theatre Critics' Association Award for her play Oo-Bla-Dee. Her updated adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull, retitled Drowning Crow, received a staged reading at Center Stage last season and will be produced on Broadway next month.

As an actress, Taylor starred in the TV series I'll Fly Away. Her film credits include Clockers, Losing Isaiah and Lean on Me.

Taylor will speak at 7:30 p.m. May 9. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $5 for students. Call 301-405-ARTS or visit www.claricesmithcenter .umd.edu.

Last winter, when San Francisco-based performance artist Josh Kornbluth was performing his one-man show, Ben Franklin: Unplugged, at the Theatre Project, he also gave several workshop performances of his newest piece, Love and Taxes. From Feb. 24-March 13, area audiences will be able to see the finished work at Washington's Arena Stage. And, after each Saturday matinee, Kornbluth will be joined by several tax experts for a free "Tax Talk" discussion.

Love and Taxes will be performed in the Old Vat Room at Arena, 1101 Sixth St. S.W., Washington. Tickets are $21. For more information, call 202-488-3300.

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