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Third time’s a charm
The Fort Wayne Civic announces the winners and special guests at the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Apparently, the third time really is a charm, at least for Ruth Tyndall Baker. The playwright nabbed first place in the Fort Wayne Civic Theater’s 3rd Annual Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival for her play Althea’s Well, the story of a religious woman with an abusive husband in post-Depression era Missouri.
In addition to the $750 prize for first place, Tyndall Baker’s play will be staged during the three-day festival the first week of June and will run weekends through June 9. Gregory Stieber sits in the director’s chair for the production.
Tyndall Baker previously won second for her plays Papillion in 2010 and Knitter’s Row last year. During her brief acceptance speech, Tyndall Baker talked about the importance of contests like the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival to local writers. “I think there are only two places in our area that are dedicated to the development of new writers,” she said. “Where does a playwright in Fort Wayne go to get their work heard or performed?”
Althea’s Well was one of 15 scripts submitted for this year’s contest, which is open to current or former residents of Indiana and those within a 90-mile radius of Fort Wayne, the contest received entries from Fort Wayne, Auburn, Indianapolis, Bryant, Ohio; St Louis, Missouri, and Florida, among others.
In addition to Tyndall Baker, other writers honored this year were Theron RD Steinke who won second place ($500 and a staged reading at the festival) for Hands Under the Table; and Jonathan Van Dyke and Douglas C Evans who won third place ($250 and a staged reading) for Spring at the Willowbrook Inn.
Jonathan Graham from Richmond Indiana recived an honorable mention for Status Update, about friendship in the age of social media. “I was interested in the idea that we have this virtual world that we’re a part of everyday,” says Graham, an award-winning playwright with 25 plays and numerous theater productions to his credit. “We have these friends on Facebook, and a lot of the things we find out are trivial, but sometimes, we find out something that’s very important.”
In Status Update, a man discovers via Facebook that an old friend has died, and renews contact with the friends’ wife, whom he also knew years ago. “It tries to render the virtual world of Facebook on stage, so you have basically a newsfeed being performed by actors on stage,” says Graham.
Theron RD Steinke — whose Hands Under the Table nabbed second place — also has an impressive theater resume. A resident of Bryant, Ohio, Steinke has written several plays and has been involved with numerous theater organizations in Ohio, including as an actor in the Ohio Community Theater Association festivals.
Hands Under the Table is a one-act drama that takes a look into the lives of three couples. Fort Wayne Civic Executive Director Phillip Colglazier says Steinke’s play has a great ending. “It kept me in suspense, wondering how these three lives intertwined,” he says.
Steinke says Hands Under the Table was one of the “quickest writes” he’s ever done. “I find dramas a little easier to write,” he says. “For Hands… I felt I didn’t have to censor myself, because I thought I knew my audience. It came together very quickly.” Kirby Volz will direct the staged reading of Hands Under the Table at the festival in June.
Writing team Jonathan Van Dyke and Douglas C Evans took third place with Spring at the Willowbrook Inn. Both writers live in Florida (Evans is the former Fort Wayne resident), with (once again) lengthy theater resumes — Evans was recently Chief Operating Officer of Nederlander Entertainment, while Van Dyke has written the book for the musicals Totally Electric; The Class of R.I.P. and others. Just to name a couple highlights. …Willowbrook Inn “is about two people who meet at a motivational conference in 1967,” Van Dyke says. “It follows their relationship up through 2011, the significant moments they have over the years, even though they haven’t really been together.”
Harvey Cocks will direct the staged reading of Springtime at the Willowbrook Inn.
The featured play at the festival will be Alive and Dead in Indiana, directed by Larry Wardlaw and adapted by playwright David Long from a book of short stories by Fort Wayne native Michael Martone (Chris Colcord wrote about Michael Martone in FWR #91 and interviewed him in FWR #110). Martone and Long will also be at the festival and participate in a post show production of one of the performances of Alive and Dead in Indiana.
The Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival happens June 1- 3. For more information on the festival — and to read the complete guidelines for the playwright contest — you can visit fwcivic.org.