Play festivals prepare for their summer debuts

CRITIC'S CORNER

Critic's Corner

Theater

April 20, 2006|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK | J. WYNN ROUSUCK,SUN THEATER CRITIC

It's not only flowers that bloom in the spring. Also budding is news about festivals of new plays - by adults as well as youngsters.

The 25th anniversary season of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival will be lean in numbers but broad in subject matter, with scripts on everything from love and loss to Shakespeare's agent.

"Our silver anniversary - it's not often that a theater festival lasts that long, especially a festival that involves multiple theaters and is all volunteer," said chairman Mark Scharf.

At the same time, Scharf acknowledged that the slim schedule of only six productions "concerns me because you prefer growth." Although the festival began in 1982 with four plays, at its most expansive, it has included a dozen productions. He said several theaters that participated in the past, such as the Chesapeake Arts Center, were unable to continue for internal reasons, and the new theaters he approached weren't ready to commit.

The 2006 lineup begins with one of the most political offerings, Turn Your Head and Kafka, by Laura Ridgeway. To be produced by Run of the Mill Theater at Mobtown Theater, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, in June (dates to be announced), the play offers a look at how three Czech directors interpreted Franz Kafka's work under varying governmental regimes.

This will be followed by a bill of four one-act plays, jointly titled The Past is Present, at Fell's Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St. (June 29-July 23). The short works include Willie Baby - a collaboration between festival veterans Joe Dennison and Kimberley Lynne, based on an idea by the late Carol Weinberg - in which Shakespeare's agent shows up demanding royalties; Memory Garden and Wilderness, Scharf's examination of loss and suburbia, respectively; and Miss Alice Plays, Rich Espey's trio of 10-minute comedies, connected by their characters' relationship to an unseen kindergarten teacher.

The entry at the Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway (July 28-Aug. 6), is A Modern Pas De Deux, a comedy by Susan Middaugh about middle-aged romance.

Sibling relationships are the common thread in two one-acts - Return of the 5th Sister, by Lynne, and SOD, by Mark Squirek - at Mobtown (Aug. 4-20).

Uncommon Voices will produce Split by Ira Gamerman at Fell's Point Corner (Aug. 10-27). The script focuses on a young man whose insecurities are increased by two imaginary friends, a mentally unstable mother and the reappearance of an old girlfriend.

The festival concludes at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul St. (Aug. 11-27), with Hope's Arbor, a drama by Espey about a teenage girl coping with conflicted feelings about romance, friendships, identity and self-esteem.

Tickets and subscriptions go on sale later this spring. Call 410-276-2153 or visit baltimore playwrightsfestival.org.

Young writers

The work of six considerably younger playwrights will be on view at 7 p.m. Monday when Center Stage presents its 20th annual Young Playwrights Festival.

The plays receiving professional staged readings include two by high-schoolers: Poker?, in which the Easter Bunny, Satan, Santa and Jesus join in a game of poker, by Ben Ostrow, a junior at Towson High School; and Summer Solstice, about a troubled teen struggling with the aftermath of a friend's suicide, by Tara Richter-Smith, a junior at the Bryn Mawr School.

Middle and elementary school selections include: Writer's Block, about a girl stymied by a school playwriting assignment, by Jennifer Baker, a seventh-grader at Harford Day School; Another Man's Treasure, a play with rap songs about the shy-but-talented son of a rapper, by Tariq Al-Sabir, a seventh-grader at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy; Getting There, about a man's frustrating attempts to visit his ailing mother-in-law, by Malcolm Steinberg, a fifth-grader at Chevy Chase Elementary; and Paint Ahoy!, about a pirate with a plaid beard, by James Morogiello, a fourth-grader at Whetstone Elementary in Gaithersburg.

The festival will take place at the theater, 700 N. Calvert St. WJZ anchor Denise Koch will emcee. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Call 410-332-0033.

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

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