by Dick Kerekes
Jacksonville theatre audiences are growing, not only in size but in acceptance of new plays that run the gamut from cutting edge to experimental. I know there are many theatre lovers who travel outside of North Florida to experience performances so Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s annual PlayFest running January 23-February l is an excellent and inexpensive way to get a first look at a wide range of new plays and scripts.
In past years, PlayFest has hosted literary luminaries as playwright Theresa Rebeck and Agnes of God author, John Pielmeier. This year’s playwright and star performer will be Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis. She will be conducting an acting master class on January 28 from 6 to 9 pm.
Ms.Dukakis will be performing the role of Prospera in Another Side of the Island, an adaptation of Williams Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The play is described as a gender-bending fantasy that includes gospel and funk music into the story. This brand new play, co-authored by Ms. Dukakis will get its stage reading at 7:30 Jan 30 and 5:30 Jan 31. VIP seating is only $25.00 and other seats only $l0.00.
PlayFest will have two full productions that include David Davalos’s Wittenburg and a musical adaptation of The Velveteen Rabbit by Patrick Flick.
Just these three events would make a wonderful weekend but PlayFest offers even more. Workshops and Readings go on all weekend long, with ticket prices of $8.00 or $10.00. I have attended a number of them in previous years and they are very professionally done.Workshops include “Missing Celia Rose” by Ian August and “The Chimes” by Kevin Christopher Snipes.
Here is a list of the titles of the Readings of new works that may get full stage production in future years at this theatre or may go on to be published and available for other producers and theatres:
NOTRE DAME de PARIS-an adaption of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW- a comic retelling of this American classic
CHARM- a magical dance through the life of women’s rights activist Margaret Fuller
THE QUEEN’S PHYSICAN- a depiction of the erotic power struggle in the court of Queen Elizabeth
SHOTGUN- four New Orleanians, white and black living under one roof in the aftermath of Katrina
THE TRAGEDY OF JOHN WILKES BOOTH- Booth relives his plot to kill the President
YANKEE TAVERN-a couple is caught up in web of conspiracy theories around the 9/11 attacks
DARK LADY OF THE SONNETS -Queen Elizabeth suggests a secret collaboration with Shakespeare
THE GALT REGENCY-compelling story of the wife of President Woodrow Wilson during his sever illness
PlayFest happens at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando’s Loch Haven Park. This is downtown Orlando, in area of museums and beautiful parks with plenty of well lit and free parking. The theatre complex is one of the most pleasant I have ever experienced, with a snack bar, gift shop and lots of comfortable lounging areas to chat between shows. Oh, if you are curious about the name “The Harriet Lake Festival of New Plays”. Harriet Lake is a very interesting Orlando resident who loves theatre and makes generous financial contributions to make this event possible each year. You can probably meet this very gracious lady, since she attends all of the shows.
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