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Play written by two Doner executives about...


Play written by two Doner executives about layoffs is a case 0) of life imitating art

Picture the scene: A group of white-collar workers is sitting around a bar after work when they get word that their company is instituting layoffs.

The above is not a slice of corporate life at General Motors, IBM or Xerox, circa 1991, but the setting for "Agency," a play about an advertising agency written by two executives now working for W. B. Doner and Company here; it will have its New York premiere in an Equity showcase production Wednesday

And the play was written not during last year's recession but in the boom year of 1987 when its authors, Cristie Dowda and Andy Ellis, were working in Richmond, Va.

"Layoffs have always been part of the ad business," explained Ms. Dowda, 43. "There's a tendency for accounts to shift from one agency to another. Andy and I have both worked at agencies that experienced layoffs, and it's very emotional."

As for the way the play resonates in today's economy, "Unfortunately, it's a case of life imitating art," said Mr. Ellis, 35.

But the playwrights -- who got married and came to work at Doner after "Agency" was first performed at Richmond's Studio Theatre in 1988 -- hope the timeliness of the play's theme will help attract investors who will finance a longer run at a bigger space.

"Agency" will be performed at the Synchronicity Space, 55 Mercer St., through Jan. 26. Tickets are $25 for opening night, which includes dinner; $10 for all other performances. For more information, call (212) 586-1001.

Artscape contest held

For a decade now, Baltimoreans have flocked by the tens of thousands to Artscape, the city's annual mid-summer, mid-town cultural festival. Now, in commemoration of what it is calling "A Decade Dedicated to the Arts," the city is sponsoring its first Artscape poster competition.

A panel of jurors will select three finalists from slide submissions, each of whom will receive a $200 honorarium. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize and will have his or her poster produced and sold at Artscape '92, set for July 17-19, to benefit the festival.

The competition is open to artists living in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia, and the deadline for submissions is Jan. 23. For more information, call (410) 396-4575.

Bands against hunger

Rockers Against Hunger, a benefit concert for the Maryland Food Committee, will be held tomorrow at Christopher's, York and Padonia roads in Cockeysville, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Among the 21 bands scheduled to perform are Great Train Robbery, Jr. Cline & The Recliners and Rob Fahey & The Pieces. Admission is $3 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.; $5 after 9 p.m. For more information, call (410) 335-4849.

Poe's birthday marked

The annual Edgar Allan Poe Birthday Celebration will be held Friday through next Sunday at the Westminster Hall, Fayette and Green streets.

The celebration to commemorate the 183rd birthday of the famed horror writer begins Friday at 8 p.m. with a lecture on "Poe's Baltimore Connections" by Mary Markey of the Baltimore City Life Museums, and includes a dramatic reading of "The Premature Burial." Admission is $6.

On Saturday, "Edgar Allan Poe: A Condition of Shadow," a characterization starring Jerry Rockwood and featuring material from Poe's tales, poems, essays and letters, will be performed at 8 p.m. The drama will be followed by performances by organist Michael Britt and bagpiper Jack Groves. The latter will lead a procession to Poe's Grave, where Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House, will give the traditional midnight toast to the writer. Admission is $15 for adults; $8 for those under 18.

Next Sunday, actors David Keltz, Don Mullins and Tony Tsendeas will perform repeated dramatizations of "The Black Cat," "The Tell Tale Heart," "The Bells" and "Annabel Lee." Performances are at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for those under 18. For more information, call (410) 396-7932.

Auditions scheduled

The following auditions are coming up:

* Theatre Hopkins, for "The Flowering Peach," next Sunday at 7 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 4 p.m. at Johns Hopkins University's Merrick Barn. Call (410) 516-7159.

* Boston University's Tanglewood Institute and School of Music, for its summer seasons, Feb. 3 from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Baltimore School for the Arts, 712 Cathedral St. Call (301) 974-0236 for an audition appointment; (617) 353-3386 for information.

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