A great short story can offer an experience as rich and profound as an epic novel — and Doug Warner of Next Stage Repertory Company is all about telling stories.

Agreat short story can offer an experience as rich and profound as an epic novel — and Doug Warner of Next Stage Repertory Company is all about telling stories.

"Everyone likes a good story," Warner says. "Entertainment by itself doesn't make a great story. Look at the independent movies that explore obscure subjects and themes. They can be more engaging than any action blockbuster."

Since Next Stage Repertory's beginning, it's presented audiences with such plays as "Duet for One," the story of a violinist who watches her artistic quality ebb as she struggles with multiple sclerosis; "Brilliant Traces" showed us a man and a woman pulled toward each other by fate from different sides of the continent; and "Wild Guys" told a comic tale of five men on a retreat who got lost in the woods.

"Good stories are layered and complex," Warner says. "The drama can be classic or heightened."

Playwright Donald Margulies can tell a good story. He won a Pulitzer in 2000 for "Dinner With Friends," a play about dealing with American life. His other notable works include "Time Stands Still," "Brooklyn Boy," "Sight Unseen" and "Collected Stories," among others.

Director Warner, along with actors Gwen Overland and Danielle Elyse Pecoff, will present Margulies' "Collected Stories" at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 20-22. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., online at www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.

The Village Voice wrote that Margulies (a professor of English and theater at Yale) "holds the rich ore of his material up to the light so that it sends beams in every direction ... always fluid and lively, the play is thick with ideas, like a stockpot of good stew."

This play explores a relationship between a successful, published writer and teacher, Ruth Steiner, and a novice — albeit up-and-coming — student and writer, Lisa Morrison, with six scenes that span six years.

When Steiner was a young, aspiring writer, she lived in Greenwich Village and fell in love with an older man, a poet named Delmore Schwartz, who eventually broke her heart. She's kept these memories to herself throughout her rising career, keeping them safe, warm and out of the public's eye.

Until Morrison asks Steiner for mentoring. She takes the young writer under her wing and teaches her what she knows about pursuing a good story, how to be fearless and find her own voice. As the two spend time together, Steiner tells Morrison about her devastating affair with the now prominent poet.

As Morrison becomes a better writer and her fiction is met with positive acclaim from literary critics, she also feels pressure from the publishing industry to produce her first novel. Born to middle class, she feels her life isn't as colorful as Steiner's. She's attracted to Steiner's Jewish heritage and early Bohemian lifestyle with beat writers and poets in the Village.

So Morrison writes Steiner's story. Knowing that her mentor will feel hurt and betrayed, she justifies her action by telling herself that Steiner would want her to do it. It's what Steiner taught her to do. Tell a good story.

"We see the clues everywhere," Warner says. "Lisa knows Ruth will feel used. I've seen this moral dilemma in all of the arts. Every teacher, director or mentor is confronted with the same situation in one shape or another. They share their knowledge, insight and advice, and — once students make it their own — it's sometimes a hard thing to let go of ... especially if that teacher feels his or her knowledge has somehow been usurped."

Set design is by Warner, and lighting is by Donna Hoehm. Overland directs and acts in Next Stage and Camelot Theatre productions. Pecoff is a graduate of the Southern Oregon University Theatre Arts program.