Northern Writes New Play Festival to open

Posted June 17, 2010, at 7:42 p.m.
Comedy and tragedy theatre masks
Getty Images/Stockdisc
Comedy and tragedy theatre masks

The fourth edition of the Penobscot Theatre Company’s Northern Writes New Play Festival, set to kick off on Wednesday, June 23, at the Bangor Opera House, didn’t get as many submissions as last year. What it lacked in volume, however, it made up for in quality.

“We actually got less submissions, but the quality has really grown,” said Scott R.C. Levy, producing artistic director for the theater. “We’ve found over the years that the $10 submission fee kind of brings out only the people who are truly serious about it. It gets better each year.”

This year, in addition to an array of plays from writers from all over Maine and the country, Northern Writes features some firsts. A staged reading on June 26 of the new musical “Disconnected,” based on the songs of the New Orleans band Cowboy Mouth, is the first musical to be offered at the festival. Cowboy Mouth, who have produced eight albums of roots rock, have a cult following and a reputation as a great live band.

“I think, coming off ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch,’ we recognize that there is a really great market here for high-quality rock musicals,” said Levy, referring to the popular rock musical PTC staged in late April. “A lot of rock musicals, they’ve got really great music, but the plot isn’t there, like in a lot of those ‘jukebox’ musicals that just take a body of work and make a musical out of it. It’s lacking in story. This musical isn’t that at all.”

Hermon High School’s Maine Drama Festival-winning production of David Ives’ “Sure Thing” will be

performed on July 1. “Sure Thing” will be performed along with the PTC’s Advanced Acting class students’ reading of the musical “Stick Together,” written by Wallace N. Davis, the pen name of the Waldoboro-based sibling writing team, Brenda Norris and Judith Hupp. Aside from one youth-driven piece in the first year of the festival, Northern Writes has not had a youth-centered performance.

“We wanted to be able to have Hermon come perform their award-winning piece, and we actually got a handful of submissions for youth theater for the festival, so it was a great chance to showcase it,” said Levy. “We haven’t gotten a lot of youth theater submitted at all in the past, and ‘Stick Together’ is another first, because it’s also a musical.”

Levy and his wife, PTC education and outreach director Joye Cook-Levy, found that for the 2010 festival the entries skewed toward comedy.

“We really have a lot of very, very funny pieces,” said Levy. “‘The Sports Page’ and ‘Affair With a Fish’ and ‘Mona Lisa’ in particular are really laugh-out-loud funny.”

Tickets for each evening are $5; an all-festival pass is $35. Visit penobscottheatre.org or call 942-3333.

Schedule for the 2010 Northern Writes New Play Festival, June 23-July 2, Bangor Opera House

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 23: “Orbiting Mars” by Peter Snoad

One man tries to take his community theater group to the next level by casting a god in its production of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter.” Mars, the Roman god of war, imposes more drama than anyone is prepared for.

• 7 p.m. Thursday, June 24: “Vacuum” by Arlene Hutton

A modern slice in a play about the machinations of scientific research, and how the most important breakthroughs are sometimes thrown away in the reality of American health care.

• 7 p.m. Friday, June 25: An Evening of One-Acts from Near and Far

“Dis/Connect” by Michael Parsons and “Fluttering Against The Pane” by Jeremy Sony focus on connections in life — those lost and those worth fighting for. “The House On Sobieski Street” by David Wojcik is about a German mathematician set on solving an equation before the Nazis bomb his building. “Safe” by Michael Tooher is about a daughter challenging her aging mother to protect herself from germs — any and all. “The Rain Fell Up” by Jaclyn Villano shares the story of a marriage with flashbacks to their youth.

• 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25: An Afternoon With Maine Playwrights

“Barter” by Bruce Pratt is a drama about class and exploitation set in rural, coastal Maine. “Under One Blue Tarp” by Travis Baker is a comedy about a man who dares to stand up against the new town ordinance outlawing blue tarps in yards and the notion of “progress” it signifies. “The Nziza” by Delvyn C. Case Jr. was commissioned by Central Africa Vision USA after the playwright traveled to Rwanda to work with teenage genocide survivors. “Rightsville” by Jonathan Potter is set in a dystopian future, and features a small town trying to keep their world pure.

• 5 p.m. Saturday, June 25: “White Pearl in Red Dragon’s Mouth” by Joe Musso

A famous American poet vacationing in England is determined to end her ruinous marriage on her own terms in this play by the only writer to have work presented in all four Northern Writes Festivals.

• 8 p.m. Saturday, June 26: “Disconnected” by Todd Lawson and Carter Anne McGowan, music and lyrics by Cowboy Mouth

A coming-of-age musical about a young man who walks out on his life in New Orleans and must decide to pursue his fantasy life in New York or grow up and face the music. All songs by the New Orleans-based rock band Cowboy Mouth.

• 2 p.m. Sunday, June 27 : “The Sports Page” by Larry Herold

In the summer of 1966, the sports pages of the newspaper were enticing and exciting for fans — but television sports coverage was about to take over.

• 7 p.m. Sunday, June 27: “Affair With a Fish” by Wayne Paul Mattingly

A magic fantasy play about a man caught in the circumstances of his life and a 6 foot bass named Darwin.

• 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 29: “Commixtus” by Katherine Roscher

A young girl is faced with renewing her relationship with her father, who is returning from a 10-year prison sentence. She wrote him a letter a day and now must find the words for conversation.

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 30: “Ink (A Tale of Captivity)” by Alice van Buren

Set in Boston in 1676 in the wake of the great native revolt known as King Phillip’s War. A woman who was “captured” must submit her tale on paper for the Puritan leaders. But once the ink is on paper, whose story is it?

• 7 p.m. Thursday, July 1: Youth Night At The Theatre: Shows Performed by Area Teens

Hermon Middle School will share their winning state championship production of “Sure Thing” by David Ives. Penobscot Youth Theatre’s Advanced Acting students will perform a staged reading of the musical “Stick Together” by Wallace N. Davis.

• 7 p.m. Friday, July 2 “Mona Lisa” by Ron Burch

Why did Leonardo da Vinci never deliver the Mona Lisa painting to the man who commissioned it even though da Vinci always needed money and hung onto it until his death? The answers are given in this hilarious recount of the relationship between da Vinci and Lisa del Giocondo.

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