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Everybody’s doing it

PlayFest, Durango’s contribution to developing new American plays, has just concluded. Two similar festivals are scheduled nearby in August.

Words Cubed is Utah Shakespeare Festival’s annual new plays festival. Every summer, many Durango theater lovers make the one-day drive to Cedar City, Utah, to see half a dozen high quality professional productions. Some time their trip to coincide with USF’s week of new-play staged readings.

USF is currently running four Shakespearean plays plus two musicals, “The Pirates of Penzance” and “Ragtime,” plus two contemporary works: “Intimate Apparel” and “The Comedy of Terrors,” yes, you read that right.

Words Cubed schedules four staged readings each of two new plays. Michael Hollinger’s “The Virgin Queen Entertains Her Fool,” runs Aug. 25 and 27. Vincent Terrell Durham’s “Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids” will be held Aug. 20, 21, 26 and 28.

All staged readings begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Festival’s Studio Theater and run approximately two hours. The cast is drawn from the company you see in afternoon and evening performances.

Talkbacks after the readings include the director, actors and the playwright who traditionally asks the audience for specific feedback. Tickets are $10 each. For more information, visit www.bard.org.

Headwaters New Plays Festival is in its ninth year at Creede Repertory Theatre. The festival runs concurrently with CRT’s productions, performed this year outside because of COVID-19.

Three new plays are on the Headwaters schedule Aug. 27 and 28. Two will be staged readings: Erin K. Considine’s “Twenty-Two,” explores the dark fact that 22 American soldiers are lost each day to suicide. The content advisory outlines that fact and adds that the reading “contains scenes describing some violence and gun usage.”

Jordan Ramirez Puckett’s “Saints and Stars,” imagines the first crewed mission to Mars with an undercurrent – the age-old conflict between science and faith.

The new plays will be presented live on Zoom. The third new work, “El Guyabo/The Guava Tree,” is the company’s Young Audience Outreach production and will be a live performance with two showings at 11 a.m. Aug. 27 and 28. CRT is one of the largest providers of educational theater in the Southwest, serving more than 31,000 children in rural and underserved communities in seven states.

Headwaters Festival Passes are $25 for all three plays and include an interactive talkback with playwrights and directors. For more information, visit www.creederep.org.

PlayFest concluded its Aug. 5-8 run with readings of four works. Two followed the standard “reading” format of actors sitting and reading scripts. The focus is on the text. Two plays were upgraded to staged readings with props and blocking.

Playwright Lia Romeo’s “Sitting & Talking” had been seen on Zoom throughout COVID-19. PlayFest brought it back for Director Jim Glossman to reshape it for the stage. Romeo’s “Ghost Story” also got a detailed staged reading under Director Tom Wright. Durangoan Lindsey Kirchoff, a newly minted playwright, won the coveted local author slot with “Golden Gate,” a dramedy about suicide. The reading featured local Equity Actor Kate Loague and Durango performers Mandy Gardner, Maya Mouret and narrator Maureen May. Vallecito resident and theater producer Bud Franks directed.

Lee Blessing’s new work, “The Family Line,” wrapped up the festival Aug. 8 in the Smiley Tent. Featuring PlayFest co-founder Dan Lauria as Jonah and Sky Lakota Lynch as Finn, the contemporary road-trip saga centered on two family members driving from Florida to Minnesota to re-establish an estranged connection.

Tickets for individual readings were $25 with a special fundraising presentation of “Ghost Story” for $100. More information about next year’s PlayFest, visit www.durangoplayfest.org.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.