Faith, family, friendship - not to mention sexual abuse, illness and death.
These are just some of the issues that will be addressed during the 28th Baltimore Playwrights Festival, in works that cover the stylistic waterfront - comedy, drama, and the festival's first musical - and that are set in a variety of places and times, including Thanksgiving and Passover.
"It's a pretty eclectic group of plays," says Bob Russell, former owner of the Spotlighters Theatre and a two-decade veteran of the festival's organizational team.
Since its founding in 1982, the festival has spurred productions of more than 200 plays by nearly 140 playwrights. The 2009 lineup, which opens this week and wraps up Sept. 6, offers 10 works that will be brought to the stage for the first time.
"We ask playwrights from Maryland to send in scripts, which is all done digitally now," says Russell. "We get volunteers, a lot of different people, to read the submissions. If a play gets three yeses, it gets a reading. We have marathons of readings, and actors line up to do them, even though no one is paid. Then the theaters pick the plays they want to produce."
Several community theaters are involved in the 2009 festival. A panel, which includes theater producers and teachers, will single out three works for awards to be given on Sept 21. The first prize is $250.
"Not a lot of money," Russell admits, "but still. The festival, at its core, is about fostering and bringing Maryland playwrights' work to the stage. Looking at or reading a script is one thing; seeing the show produced, on a stage with lights, actors and sets, is something else."
Kevin Kostic, whose musical Unraveled in the Gravel will be premiered in August, agrees.
"It's difficult to get your work out there," says Kostic. "The festival is an incredible opportunity for any playwright or composer. Having this community help you with this process, connecting you with others interested in this art form, is a unique and special thing."
Here's a rundown of what will be on the boards for the 2009 Baltimore Playwrights Festival:
Thursday to July 5: Bloodlines by Dan Baum. A college student home for Passover confronts intense familial issues. Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St. Call 410-276-7837 or go to fpct.org.
July 16-Aug. 2: Turducken by Lisa Hodsoll. Named for a duck-in-a-chicken-in-a-turkey recipe, the play reveals secrets hidden within a bizarre group in a hospital at Thanksgiving. LeClerc Hall, College of Notre Dame, 4701 N. Charles St. Call 410-982-6979 or go to originalplays.com/tmc.
July 23-Aug. 9: G-Man by Rosemary Frisino Toohey. A contented garbageman discovers more than he bargained for on the job. Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St. Call 410-318-8895 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug. 7-16: Dancing Without You by Robin Rouse. A woman confronts an abusive world alone. The Barn (Building B), CCBC, 800 S. Rolling Road, Catonsville. Call 443-840-4400 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Aug. 13-30: Unraveled on the Gravel by Kevin Kostic. A musical of memory and regret about a hitchhiker on the day he's supposed to get married. Call 410-598-0914 or go to winterslaneproductions.org.
Aug. 13-30: The Ape on the Church Steps by JM Dinson. A man returns home to face a mentally ill father, a fleeing mother and more. LeClerc Hall, College of Notre Dame, 4701 N. Charles St. Call 410-982-6979 or go to originalplays.com/tmc.
Aug. 20-Sept. 6: Sex and Desperation: A Little Something for Everyone - Four one-act plays. Leap Day by Lee Saperstein; Monitors on the Quad by Julie Lewis; Imperfect Hour by Michael Stang; Salt Water by Gina Young. Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul St. Call 410-752-1225 or go to spotlighters.org.