I recently had the privilege of attending The Carnegie Stage where The Pittsburgh New Works Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Pittsburgh New Works Festival defines itself as a non-profit organization dedicated to the encouragement and the supporting of the writing and production of original, one act plays. The scripts are brought in from a diverse pool of talent from far and wide. To make it to a silver anniversary is nothing to be scoffed at, and stands as a testament to the quality of the offerings that the festival has brought to the stage. I attended last Thursday’s opening of Program C, featuring three original, world premiere plays. Each of them brought an energy, a magnetism, and a subtle beauty all their own. I felt that each one built atop of the previous one until arriving at the finality that brought a number of people to their feet.
The first play, Gravity Between Us, written by Josie Rush and presented by the Red Masquers, detailed the dynamic relations between two sisters, Raye (Michelle Flynn) and Grace (Leenie Baker). Like so many sisters in the real world these two always had each other, as well as a third player Jake (Stephen Wilson) the boyfriend. The play moves quickly and the story develops at a rapid pace. These are problems faced today, and the play reflected the antics and woe that they can cause as well. In the end, the play had promise, but could use a bit more time developing the characters, and building to perhaps a stronger ending. However, I cannot say that I did not enjoy myself.
Next up was Rules of Discovery, as written by Andrew Ade and presented by the Summer Company, brought to the audience the dynamics of a homosexual relationship and the stresses put upon them by society. I believe that Dan Brisbee in the role of Dana established a firm anchor for the other players to rally around and he worked well with Zachary Romah did a good job of presenting said stresses through his role. The remaining players, Vernee Smith, in the role of Mel and Lesa Donati in the part of Teri completed the ensemble and carried the play to fruition. This play forces the audience to face the possibility and reality of suicide and makes people look at their lives and consider that maybe one last remark or a kiss may be the difference between life and death. I loved what this play had to say and how it attempted to build out the social statements of today’s lifestyles and careless stereotyping that we still are guilty of.
In its appropriate slot, Phase 3 Productions presents a play written by Jeffry W. James’s, The Man That Got Away. I loved the power of this play. It made me laugh and it had me thinking, what? Who? How? For real? It really stood out as something terrific. It erupted on the stage like a volcano bursting colors, noise, and fiery power that covered the audience in joy. It starts with a stockinged leg that shoots through the curtain. Of course you expect it to be attached to a woman, but don’t be so foolish. Out comes the one man show in the form of Craig Russel dressed to kill in drag, He extracts laughter from the audience with his jokes, makes them wince and he sings! He happens to be the Man That Got Away, and he is a riot.
All the shows were presented wonderfully; the directors and stage managers did an excellent job bringing these plays to life and smoothly doing so throughout the night. The deep darkness that fell about the stage and then, as if by magic, everything changed and the lights shined and a new world and play began..
Like those days of the first technology bubble, there were those places that called themselves the incubators of fledgling talent. These were the places where the pioneers could come to build their technical marvels and wrap and bind together the organizational underpinnings that would take their innovations to the world. This festival serves as another kind of incubator for the area and has made me aware of one thing for sure: there exists a vast sea of incredible talent in this region. I can say, that I would have welcomed the opportunity to see all of them as there really can be nothing like seeing a play for the very first time.
For tickets and more information on the Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s final weekend, please check out their website.
Performance Date: Thursday, September 17, 2015