Actor-playwright brings his one-act gems to Laurel

Portrait of actor/playwright Elan Zafir, who will be directing two of his one-act plays at Laurel Mill Playhouse this month, "Super Earth" and "Ben and Lucille." He is photographed around the theater space, August 17, 2015.
Portrait of actor/playwright Elan Zafir, who will be directing two of his one-act plays at Laurel Mill Playhouse this month, "Super Earth" and "Ben and Lucille." He is photographed around the theater space, August 17, 2015.(Nate Pesce / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Art appreciators who lean toward theater will have a unique opportunity this weekend to not only peek into the mind of playwright and actor Elan Zafir, but to see him perform up close and personal in the Laurel Mill Playhouse's production of "One Acts by Elan Zafir."

Zafir, 38, said he had a little creative time on his hands before diving into his next professional gig, performing in Oscar Wilde's "Salomé," adapted by and under the direction of Yaël Farbe at the Shakespeare Theatre Company coming this October.


Which, by the way, will require some work at the gym since he'll likely appear nude (at least) from the waist up.

So the Canadian-born American actor, who recently relocated to College Park from New York City to pursue work in D.C., decided to circulate some of his own plays to a few area theaters.

And Playhouse executive producer Maureen Rogers, of Laurel, was blown away.

"I started to read 'Ben and Lucille,' never dreaming that I wouldn't be able to put it down," she said.

Rogers was so taken with the one-act play that she said she contacted Zafir immediately to arrange for a weekend of performances at the little theater.

Zafir, who is directing, said Laurel Mill Playhouse was a fine match.

"I love actors; I love theater; I love communities; I love people," he said. "I'm happy to be here; it's a very warm atmosphere."

Born in Montreal, Zafir moved with his family to Fort Lauderdale when he was 6. At age 17, he returned to Canada to study professional theatre at Dawson College and founded his own theater company, Untimely Ripped Entertainment.


As a dual citizen, he went back and forth to New York City before relocating there in 2000. Working professionally in television, film and theater for the next 13 years, Zafir also founded Flipside Productions, a comedy venture.

Two works he wrote (and performed the lead role in) in addition to "Ben and Lucille" — "Leaf in the Mailbox" and "This is Your Life" — earned the playwright awards at the Montreal Fringe, the NYC Fringe and 2006 Strawberry One-Act Festivals. "Leaf in the Mailbox," which he also directed, made it to publication.

In 2013, Zafir moved to D.C. and completed an MFA in acting at George Washington University.

At the Capital Fringe Festival last summer, "Ben and Lucille" received stellar reviews. In the Playhouse production, Zafir will play Ben, again, and Teresa Spencer — an EMC actor and company member of the Maryland Shakespeare Company — his corresponding lead.

"Ben and Lucille" is a romantic comedy bringing an encounter to life between an artist (Ben) and intellectual activist (Lucille) trying to manage a long-distance love affair.

Community actors Miki Hager, of Greenbelt, Spencer Kate Nelson, of Bowie and David McCrary, of Columbia, will enact the world premiere of Zafir's new work, "Super Earth" — an apocalyptic daydream of sorts in which a scientist and two characters face soul-searching choices when confronted with the end of the world.


Zafir said the "Super Earth" script was not entirely finished going in to rehearsals.

Both short plays are funny, full of adult language and thought provoking, but Zafir said the language really isn't as important as what the actors do with it.

"I want to see that it's happening for the first time [during performances], right now, and not the way we planned it," he said.

Zafir doesn't feel his dialogue is particularly deep, although the concepts behind it could be. But he doesn't think about that, he said. He gets excited and he writes.

For inspiration, Zafir reads a lot of plays, sees a lot of movies and listens to music. He also watches people.

Zafir said directing his own work is an artistic interest, not a professional ambition. The playwright is, he says, "in love with language and with words."

"I love what words do to people," Zafir said. "And how you can get what you want with them."

The actor, who looks a little like Jason Statham, said he would love to do an action film.

And for those who can't get enough after this weekend's performances, watch for Elan Zafir in this season's opening episode of "House of Cards" on President's Day.

"One Acts by Elan Zafir" runs Aug. 28, 29 and 30, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. General admission is $20. Students 18 and under, active duty military and seniors 65 and over pay $15. For reservations, call 301-617-9906 and press 2.