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Comedy, crime and family secrets

The winners of the 4th annual Northeast Indiana Playwrights Festival

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Many writers will tell you that a great deal of writing is actually re-writing — polishing, editing, and honing the material until it’s “just right” — and playwright Nancy Carlson Dodd would probably agree.

Carlson Dodd’s play The Wedding Gift is the first place winner of this year’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, the Fort Wayne Civic’s annual contest for original works by area writers. In addition to a $750 prize, Dodd also receives the honor of having her play performed at the 4th annual Playwright Festival itself happening May 31- June 3 at the Arts United Center.

This is actually the second time for Carlson Dodd — her play The Ladies In Cabin 10 nabbed first place for the inaugeral Northeast Indiana Playwright festival back in 2010. “I’m delighted,” Carlson Dodd says. “I didn’t expect lightning to strike me twice.”

Carlson Dodd was ten years old when she performed her first role at the Fort Wayne Civic Theater, and several years later she was Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady in the very first local production of the musical.

Her winning play The Wedding Gift also began life as a musical called Flossy. Carlson wrote it many years ago; she took the script out of the drawer again last year to have something to do while she was recovering from foot surgery. “It was type-written; that’s how old it was,” she laughs.

She had written music for it, eventually found an arranger, and had a reading with friends. “I was determined that this was going to be a musical,” she says. “But some of my friends said ‘you know, the plot is strong enough that it could stand without music’.”

Though Carlson Dodd took the music out, the basic plot of The Wedding Gift sounds like it could be from a 50s musical, or at least a screwball comedy. It’s about a couple and their beautiful young daughter, Ashley, who find the richest, most eligible bachelor in town, and try to pull off a scam… Carlson Dodd showed a talent for humor in her previous winning play, The Ladies In Cabin 10, and The Wedding Gift is pure lighthearted comedy. “Of course I like thought provoking drama,” she says. “But I like the musicals and the comedies, too. I love to come to the theater and be entertained.”

The two other winners in this year’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival were Nancy Gall-Clayton’s Bernice Sizemore’s 70th Birthday and Anthony Seed Jr.’s The Mark of a Dog’s Foot in second and third place, respectively.

Gall-Clayton is from Jeffersonville and has had more than 50 of her plays produced all over the country. Bernice Sizemore’s 70th Birthday is her first submission to the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival; Gall-Clayton says it’s about an independent 70-year-old woman whose grown children come back into her life. “Her kids keep telling her what she should do, especially her daughter, but she has some big surprises for them,” Gall-Clayton says. “So often, many women characters you see on stage are stereotypes, but I try to create complex women characters.”

As a second-place winner, Bernice Sizemore’s 70th Birthday will be presented as a staged reading at the festival (and Gall-Clayton also received a check), the first time one of Claton-Gall’s plays has been performed in the state where she lives and was born. “I love readings,” she says. “You just learn so much about your play from seeing it read by actors and directors who know what they’re doing. Then you get some feedback from the audience as well, which always gives me some ideas. I’ve never had a play that I’ve considered done.”

The third place winner, The Mark of a Dog’s Foot, has another very interesting set up — 40 years ago, five close friends were involved in a bar fight, killing, and cover up. Now all successful and close to retirement, the group is forced to consider what might happen if the body of Barry — small time thief and all-around jerk — is discovered when the city starts dredging the old clay pit…

Playwright Anthony Seed Jr. is an award-winning short story writer and journalist from Hobart (as a journalist, he has won Hoosier Press Association Awards for writing and photography) who only started writing plays about two years ago. “A story I was writing just wasn’t working,” he said. “It was all dialogue, and I thought ‘this story really wants to be a play’.” His first effort for the stage wound up as a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwright Conference in 2011.

Since then he’s written six plays, including a cycle about the Vietnam War and its impact on surviving veterans. The Mark of a Dog’s Foot is actually the fourth and final play in the cycle. As third place winner, it earned Seed a check and a reading at the festival later this spring.

The 4th Annual Playwright Festival will be held May 31 – June 2 at the Arts United Center and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. The Wedding Gift will be presented as a fully-staged production during the festival, premiering on Saturday, June 1 with a post-show discussion with Carlson Dodd, and will run weekends through June 8.

The featured play will be Lomard by Michael B. Druxman, a one-woman show starring Jessica Butler as screen legend Carol Lombard. Druxman will also lead a workshop “Writing for the Stage, Screen, and Television” on Sunday June 2. The special guest at the festival will be Douglas Post, Chicago Regional Representative of the Dramatist Guild of America. Post will lead a workshop “Playwrighting and Services of the Dramatist Guild of America” on Saturday June 1.

For more information of the festival, including guidelines for next year’s competition, visit fwcivic.org.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.