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Expanding playwright festival's horizons


Over the past two decades, plays that have been produced at the Baltimore Playwrights Festival have gone on to have staged readings, workshops and full productions at theaters from coast to coast, and one play has even had a subsequent production in Singapore.

And the festival has become a local institution, with audiences charting the progress of their favorite playwrights from year to year.

For instance, the play produced in Singapore, "Lizard Brains," was written by Mark Scharf, one of 11 playwrights whose work will be produced in this summer's 20th anniversary festival. Among the others are Joe Dennison, who has had seven previous festival productions, and Ray Hamby, whose first festival play was produced in 1983.

In all, the festival, which premieres plays by Maryland playwrights, has staged 168 scripts by 112 writers.

This season's productions were selected from 66 entries, according to festival chairman Rodney Bonds. "The plays are, I think, a very high quality," he said.

"We have a number of different venues and one new company, Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, in Anne Arundel County," he said, and explains that expanding the festival geographically is one of his goals.

"One of the things that I've been trying to do is to get more venues, more companies, to participate because every year there are plays that do not get produced that deserve to be produced," he said. "I feel I've succeeded a little in that this year, and also in an attempt to make the Baltimore Playwrights Festival more than a Baltimore city event and more of a regional festival. We're reaching out to companies in the surrounding counties."

In its first year, the festival produced just five plays - half the number of offerings for this season.

"I've been associated with the festival on and off since 1988, and I've seen the festival grow and expand in the quality of plays that are being presented to us for readings, and also in the quality of productions that we are turning out from our participating venues," he said.

Bonds added that during this anniversary season he hopes to contact past festival playwrights to learn more about the progress of their careers. (Playwrights can leave a message for him at the phone number below.)

Subscriptions to the festival cost $45 for six tickets, which can be used for any of the performances, with an advance reservation. Subscriptions can be purchased by mailing a check and self-addressed stamped envelope to: Baltimore Playwrights Festival, Inc., 251 S. Ann St., Baltimore, MD 21231. For more information, call 410-276-2153.

Here's the 2001 lineup:

"Seasons of Love & Laughter," by Jim Cary. A bill of two one-acts, "Goodnight," about a waning 50-year marriage, and "In Smoke," about a pair of 18-year-old friends. Fell's Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St., June 28-July 15.

"Brotha," by James H. Chapmyn. Three former inner-city friends are reunited after their lives have taken different paths. Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul St. July 6-28.

A double bill of one-acts: "Free Fall," by Scharf, a twisted comedy about becoming fed up, and "Anthem," by Dennison, about two sisters whose mother died when they were children. Uncommon Voices Theatre Company at Fell's Point Corner. July 19-Aug. 5.

"Knees and Toes," by Michael Wright. When a photographer dies and donates his eyes, who will the recipient be? Mobtown Players at AXIS Theatre, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, July 19-Aug. 5.

"The Day They Left Home," by Bob Racine. A semi-autobiographical account of a dysfunctional family. Director's Choice Theatre at Kittamaquandi Theater, Oliver Carriage House, 5410 Leaf Treader Way, Columbia. July 26-Aug. 5.

"Run Past the Sun," by Theodore Groll. An expatriate American in Thailand faces his ex-wife, his abandoned son and a monsoon. Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park. July 27-Aug. 5.

"Why Do Men Have Nipples?" by Ray Hamby. A domestic drama about a family forced to confront an unexpected revelation when their son returns home from the armed forces. Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway. Aug. 3-19.

"Seafood Buffet," by Rosemary Frisino Toohey. A quartet of one-acts dealing, to one degree or another, with seafood. Fell's Point Corner. Aug. 9-26.

"Blood Memory" and "Buzz Bombs over Antwerp," by Chuck Spoler. Two one-acts set on Memorial Day involving veterans and a mysterious stranger. Spotlighters. Aug. 10-Sept. 1.

"Take Two," by Richard Espy. What happens when Adam loses his interest in Eve and becomes attracted to Steve? Director's Choice at Arena Players, 801 McCulloh St. Aug. 16-Sept. 2.

Theater workshops

The Baltimore Theatre Alliance is offering three pre-audition workshops at Towson University's Center for the Arts, Cross Campus and Osler drives, on May 19: Acting Technique, taught by Barry Feinstein, 10 a.m.-noon; Audition Technique, taught by Marc Horwitz, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; and Voice-over, taught by Lance Lewman, 12:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

The workshops cost $20 each for Alliance members, $30 for non-members. Call 410-783-0777 or visit the Alliance Web site at

Free readings

Two Maryland playwrights will present free readings of new plays this month. "The Agreement (A Story of Revenge)," by mj perrin, will be read at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. May 13 at Funk's, 1818 Eastern Ave., and at 8 p.m. May 19 at Towson University's Center for the Arts, Cross Campus and Osler drives. Focusing on an ex-cop, the play has four alternative endings.

In addition, two short plays by Trish Cole, "WitchHunt," about three women suspected of being lesbians in Salem., Mass., and "L.B.D.," about a lesbian couple, will be presented at 8 p.m. May 12 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1 E. Joppa Road, and at 3 p.m. May 20 at Funk's.

Call 410-467-1605 or visit the Web site at

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