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Ashland New Plays Festival

For 14 years, a little-known organization has been working to bring new plays to audiences in the Rogue Valley. Once or twice a year, the organization steps out of obscurity and literally steps onto the stage and into the lights. That will happen when the Ashland New Plays Festival presents its program of readings of four new plays the week of Oct. 16 through 22.

Ashland New Plays Festival board president Janet Rodkey wants to use this opportunity to tell people about the great work being done by her organization. "I want people to start getting the big picture of what we're doing," Rodkey said. "We're looking for the next great American playwright and the audience participation part is critical."

Audiences are invited to hear the keynote address, see the plays, make comments after the plays, meet the playwrights and attend their workshops.

The keynote address "What to Feed a Playwright?" will be delivered by Robert Koon at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16 as part of the Festival Kick-off at Carpenter Hall, Ashland. Koon heads up the Playwrights Network program at Chicago Dramatists which offers opportunities for beginning and emerging playwrights. "It's a wonderful incubator for the theater," Rodkey said. "The lucky people coming to our festival get to network with him." Rodkey hopes that the playwrights will make a connection with Koon and the resources at Chicago Dramatists. Later on in the week, Koon will be presenting a workshop on writing 10-minute plays.

Twenty-three play readers pored through mare than 300 submitted scripts before deciding on the four that will be read.

'We're hoping to find plays that are going to go on from this reading," Rodkey said. And a number have. Some have gone on to win awards. Readings are the first step. Audiences will have the opportunity to make comments to the playwrights after seeing the plays.

Koon told Rodkey he likes to hear from the audience what they thought the play was about an who's play it was in terms of the characters. "I want to know where the play fails," Koon said.

Rodkey too enjoys that process of playwrights and audiences sharing their ideas. She hopes people will come to the festival and the workshops and explore the process of writing plays. And to make it worth everyone's while, Rodkey adds, "We want good plays for them to see."

The play readings will feature directors and casts drawn from the professional and amateur theater community.

This year's program includes:

"At The Heart of Art" by Lydia Bruce and Andrew Burns, directed by Michael Meyer. An aspiring painter, striving to achieve recognition with her new abstract style, supports herself as a curator at a publicly funded museum in New York City. An ambitious lawyer for the city enters her life via an internet dating service. Events get complicated when she sponsors a controversial new exhibit entitled Shockwave, and he takes the lead for the city in trying to block the sensational exhibit. At the heart of the matter is the definition of art itself and the political ramifications of free expression. As the characters grapple with these issues they come to some new discoveries about themselves.

Co-writers Bruce and Burns have written three full-length plays and several short plays. Their works have been produced or read in Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Alaska and New York. They recently received the Audience Choice award for their comedy "SPAM!" at the Playwrights Platform Festival of New Plays.

"The Garden of Dromore" by James McLindon, directed by Liisa Ivary. On the eve of trial, a devout Irish-Catholic family in Boston is offered a settlement of their lawsuit by the Roman Catholic Church, provided that all members agree to remain silent about their son's sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. Family members clash over their conflicting desires. Should the pain of a trial be avoided at all costs? Should revenge be exacted on those responsible? Should they accept a cash settlement? Will the family at last find peace?

McLindon's plays have been developed and/or produced in throughout the country. He has won numerous awards for his work including nomination for a Joseph Jefferson Citation in Chicago. His play, "Distant Music," was a finalist for the Kaufman and Hart Prize for New American Comedy. In addition to plays, he has published numerous short pieces in Yankee Magazine and the Boston Phoenix, and has written for the Harvard Law Review

"Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?" by Vanda, directed by Caroline Shaffer . The play tells the story of two women who fall in love with each other while their fianc&

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Vanda received an Edward Albee Fellowship in 2004 and a Brown Foundation Grant in 2006. Her play, "Vile Affections," appeared in the New York International Fringe Festival in august, 2006. She has won numerous awards and citations for her work and has had several one acts plays produced throughout the country. She is a full-time Assistant Professor at Metropolitan college of New York.

"Exit Polls" by Daniel C. Beck, directed by Lenny Neimark. The play explores the dark side of the American political landscape through the world of campaigns and tabloid journalism. Set in Portland, Oregon, it takes us behind the scenes of a political marriage where ambitions and personal values clash. What does it take to "win" and what defines success?

After 20 years as a political operative and campaign consultant, Dan Beck abandoned politics to pursue playwriting. A political satire, "Nixon's Woody," was a finalist at the 2006 Long Beach Playhouse New Works Festival in 2006. Beck is the president of the board of directors of Moving Arts, a non-profit theater company in Los Angeles.

Schedule of Events

Monday, Oct. 16 Festival Kick-off at Carpenter Hall

6:30 p.m. Reception for playwrights, directors, actors, volunteers, board members, by invitation

7:30 p.m. Keynote address by host playwright Robert Koon, open to the public

Wednesday, Oct. 18 8 p.m. "At The Heart of Art" by Lydia Bruce and Andrew S. Burns

— — — — — —

Thursday, Oct. 19 10-11:30 a.m. Play writing workshop, "The Ten Minute Play" led by Robert Koon

2 p.m. "The Garden of Dromore" by James McLindon

8 p.m. "Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?" by Vanda

— — — —

Friday, Oct. 20 10-11:30 a.m. Play writing workshop, "Creating Effective Dialogue" led by James McLindon

2 p.m. "At The Heart of Art"

8 p.m. "Exit Polls" by Daniel C. Beck — — — — —

Saturday, Oct. 21 10-11:30 a.m. Play writing workshop, "Collaboration in Play writing: Focus on Comedy" led by Lydia Bruce and Andrew S. Burns

2 p.m. "Exit Polls"

8 p.m. "The Garden of Dromore"

Sunday, Oct. 22 2 p.m. "Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?"

For a full schedule of events, see .

if you go

What: Ashland New Plays Festival

When: Monday, Oct. 16-Sunday, Oct. 22

Where: Oregon Stage Works, 191 A St.,

Tickets: $10 per play, available at Paddington Station,

Call: 482-4357