• A.J.

Old Red Barn Reading Series and a bit more

It’s been a busy last month or two!

The craziness began back on the weekend of 20th of May. That’s when we had the first ever Appalachian edition of “In Their Voices,” a night of new play readings stylized after what the Pittsburgh Dramatists Guild hosts every November for playwrights in that city. In fact, our readings were co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh DG, given that the Pittsburgh branch oversees all of WV. The readings were held at M.T. Pockets Theatre in Morgantown, at their new home near the Mileground. Four playwrights came to read selections of their work, hence the “in their voices” part, and in the audience we had five local theatre companies represented. M.T. Pockets were wonderfully gracious hosts, too. I can’t thank them enough for letting us use their space.

On that very same weekend, I also drove down to Marlington, West Virginia, to watch the preview night of “ The People at the Edge of Town.” The play was being presented for a three show run at the historic Marlington Opera House as part of the Pocahontas County Drama Workshop. Eric Fritzius, a friend and fellow playwright, directed the play, and it was a wonderful production. From the near perfect set to the nuances of the characters, Eric and the acting ensemble truly brought to life my fictional town council. Of course, driving the hundred plus miles home on country roads was torture... But totally worth it.

Which brings me to June. I found out two weeks ago that a short play of mine, called “The Spider Test,” was named an Honorable Mention for the WV Writers, Inc. annual scriptwriting competition. That’s two years in a row I’ve been named an Honorable Mention!

Then, this past weekend on June 23rd and 24th, we held Theatre on the Lake’s first ever Old Red Barn Reading Series. Leah and I had been working like crazy since January to get the event ready. Between reading scripts and securing monetary donations for prizes, it was a hefty undertaking -- and that was before we had to start finding actors! But all the pieces eventually fell into place, and I felt as though the event went off incredibly well, especially considering how difficult it can be to entice an audience to come hear new works. We also had two of our winning playwrights come up to Deep Creek and join us, so our company got to know two new playwrights – always a plus!

And on that same note, I learned a substantial amount how contests are run by putting together the reading series. There are so many outside factors when considering which plays are chosen. Cast size, actor availability, mission statements, audience demographics: all of these issues factored into which plays we chose. And we were given some wonderful plays to choose from, so the decisions were not made lightly.

Running this series made me realize, too, that the facilitators of play series are given somewhat of a raw deal. Putting on a play series requires pulling off so many small miracles, and requires so much hidden work and worry (Oh my lord, we forgot to order the Port-a-potty!), that those who submit or attend may never understand the labor involved. More to the point, though, I know that there’s almost a level of disdain for event organizers, especially if they ask for a submission fee. To those of us submitting, it’s just another company, and more likely, another rejection.

So I guess what I’m saying is, no one does theatre for money. We do it because we love telling stories, whether that means acting as a facilitator for stories to be told, or acting as the storyteller. Or just plain acting in general. J

Looking ahead, Theatre on the Lake begins our summer season with James and the Giant Peach on July 13th. That runs for two weekends, and we follow it up with weekend runs of Antigone and The Misanthrope (now you see why it was important to read some NEW works!)

In terms of playwriting, The People at the Edge of Town will be read on August 6th in Oakland, Maryland, as part of The Our Town Theatre’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. Following that, sometime this fall, The Redemption of Rube Moats will have its WORLD PREMIERE (Woohoo!) at Lab Theatreprojects in Tampa, Florida.

Till then.

- A.J.

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