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Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival winners finally reach the stage

By Eddie Torres

Fort Wayne Reader

2015-05-18


For a handful of local and regional playwrights, the weekend of Mat 29-30 represents a milestone on a long and (sometimes) pretty solitary literary journey.

That’s the weekend of the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s 6th annual Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, and it’ll be the first time that the writers have seen these particular characters and stories “brought to life” on the stage.

This year, there were two first place winners — a first in the festival’s history. Bob Ahlersmeyer’s Is This Seat Taken? and Rebecca Cameron’s Touch & Go share the first place honors and will be presented as full productions with several shows scheduled.

The first place playwrights were a little surprised at the “tie” when the winners were announced. “They announced the second and third place winners, and Bob (Ahlersmeyer) and I were looking at each other thinking ‘what are we both doing here? This is going to end not well for one of us’,” says Rebecca Cameron.

Ahlersmeyer, who has been in many local theater productions (and also is in the staged reading for the 3rd place winner), just recently sat in on one of the rehearsals for Is This Seat Taken? “I wrote three very demanding roles,” he says. “All three characters have to go on an emotional journey. The trick is that some of them have much less time on stage to get their objectives, while others never leave the stage at all. I don’t envy (the actors) for how much work I’ve made for them. I feel a little guilty about it…not really.”

He admits that as an actor, it’s difficult not to hear his own voice in the line readings, but that’s not his role this time around. “If I wanted to act in it, I’d have auditioned,” he says. “I’m all-in with the playwright role, and part of that is trusting the director and the cast to do it justice. I am completely onboard with their choices.”

He continues: “I wrote the play over a year ago, and these actors have spent more time deciphering things in the play than I have in months. They’re more proficient with the text than I am in a weird way.”

But while Ahlersmeyer has an extensive resume of theater experience, Rebecca Cameron has almost none. A professional writer, she’s never been on stage, and didn’t even try her hand at writing a play until a couple of years ago. Touch & Go is only her third play. She also recently visited rehearsals. “It was one of the most exciting, nerve wracking experiences I’ve ever had,” she says. “Very weird to hear people saying out loud things I had written, things I’ve only heard in my head before.”

Any surprises, hearing the dialogue out loud? “I may have put in a little too much swearing,” she laughs. Not that there’s a lot of swearing in Touch & Go, but… “I thought it was in there where it needed to be. But it’s a good lesson in writing a play: you don’t really ‘get it’ until you hear it back. I’m interested to hear what (the actors) think works and doesn’t work.”

The second and third place honors — T.B.D. – To Be Determined by Paul Elliott; and Between the Sheets by Anthony Hall Seed — will be presented as stage readings during the weekend of the festival.

The special guest speaker this year is Dr Paul Evans, a playwright, theater professional and instructor with numerous honors — and productions — to his credit. He’ll be conducting a workshop called “Writing for the Stage, Staging Such Writing,” on Saturday, May 30.

All the details for the festival events are below.

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The Plays

FIRST PLACE - TWO WINNERS!
The two first place plays are produced together as two 1-act plays.
Directed by Phillip H. Colglazier

Is This Seat Taken? by Bob Ahlersmeyer

Socially-awkward Thomas plunges head-first into the unfamiliar dating pool for the first time in almost twenty years, and Victoria, a strikingly beautiful woman, is the target of his clumsy advances. However, Thomas isn’t completely alone in his quest for romantic enlightenment. A mysterious outsider arrives to lend Thomas support in this romantic endeavor. Thomas and Victoria’s conversational back-and-forth comes to a cataclysmic head when past secrets and freshly healed wounds are ripped open anew in the most unexpected of ways. Both Thomas and Victoria are not what they appear to be, and they all have their own agenda for this particular evening.

Cast: Justin Herber, Joyce Lazier Lloyd, Jan Venderly

Touch & Go by Rebecca Cameron

Hospitalized in a coma following an overdose, India hovers between life and death – but she isn’t alone. India meets Idina, her inner demon, who gleefully claims responsibility for all of India’s indiscretions, namely drinking and drug abuse. India’s seemingly picture perfect family hovers nearby as she faces the ultimate struggle with her demons. Touch & Go offers a rare glimpse into the time that India’s life hangs in the balance including the impact her actions have had on the ones that love her. In the end, it is up to India to decide her fate.

Cast: Brittney Koza, Dotty Miller, Todd Staszak, Janet Piercy, Madeline Miller, Justin Herber

Winning plays are presented
Friday, May 29 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, May 30 at 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Sunday, May 31 at 2:00 pm

Additional performances
Friday, June 5 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, June 7 at 2:00 pm

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SECOND PLACE STAGE READING

Saturday, May 30 at 10:00 am

T.B.D. - To Be Determined by Paul Elliott

Dottie and Ruth Hamilton have always kept their lives in order, living each day in isolated contentment. All of that changes when the Sheriff drops a battered teenage girl on their doorstep and asks them to keep her safe. Neither is prepared for the role of savior and they are even less inclined when they find out a secret the girl is hiding and the identity of her attacker. Will Dottie and Ruth Hamilton step out of their well-defined world to save this young adult they don’t even understand?

Cast: Marsha Wallace, Nan Durant, Maggie Leavell, Kevin Torwelle, Maurita Saunders, Robert Shuster, Janna Fisher, Isaac Lengacher
Directed by Aaron Willoughby

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THIRD PLACE STAGE READING

Sunday, May 31 at 10:00 am

Between The Sheets by Anthony Hall Seed

What happens when two professional escorts end up together in a room instead of with their prospective clients, and follow through with their service before discovering the error? How do they recover the $2,000 commission each one desperately requires? And what about the two prospective clients in the adjoining room, who also enthusiastically leaped before they looked? The ensuing confrontation between all parties is eventually mediated by the hotel concierge, who admits he mistakenly provided the wrong keys and room assignments. But the seemingly simple mistake leads to unforeseen consequences for all concerned as Between The Sheets plays out.

Cast: Maggie Leavell, Bob Ahlersmeyer, Ennis Brown, Eileen Ahlersmeyer, Courtney White, Paul Faulkner
Directed by Dianne B. Shaw

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Festival Workshop
Saturday, May 30 at 5:30 pm

“Writing for the stage, staging such writing”

Guest Speaker
Festival Adjudicator - Dr. Tom Evans

Dr. Tom Evans will speak of the special demands that writing plays places on the “would-be” dramatist, with references to play structure as squared against the pragmatic limitations of the physical stage. He will reference the kind of departures from realism that the stage offers when the writer creates proper contracts with an audience. Dr. Evans will share his insights on directing the “new” or “original” play and follow up with a Q&A session.

As a playwright Evans has seven plays that have been produced at university, community or professional theatres. Evans has been awarded numerous honors in his career as a theatre professional and educator and is a Former Theatre Department Chair of Hanover College. In addition, Evans spent eleven summers as Staff Director at Shenandoah Playwrights Retreat in Virginia.

As a director, Evans’ professional credits include productions in Indiana with Bloomington Playwrights Project, Hanover College, Phoenix Theatre and Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. Among other directorial credits he has worked with South Carolina Repertory Company (Hilton Head, SC), New Playwrights’ Theatre (Washington, DC), Tao House (Danville, CA) and Circle Repertory Theatre (New York, NY).

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All festival events are held at the Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab
300 E. Main Street – Downtown Fort Wayne

Tickets online at fwcivic.org
Or call (260) 424-5220

ArtsTix Box Office
In the Front of the Arts United Center
300 E. Main Street
Open Monday – Friday from noon to 6pm
Saturday from noon to 4pm

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