Festival of New Plays

Dayton Playhouse’s Future Fest returns

By Brian Sharp

Dayton Playhouse, located within the Wegerzyn Garden Complex, plays home to a nationally recognized festival of new plays July 27, 28 and 29.  This festival, now in its 22nd year, has received attention from the playwriting community in this country and beyond.  The festival that takes place every summer was the brainchild of two long-time Playhouse volunteers – Dodie Lockwood and John Riley, and both are still involved today.  The thought behind the festival is to give authors the opportunity to move their plays forward.  What happens on that stage – and off – in a short weekend in Dayton, Ohio is simply hard to fathom.  There is a faithful following of patrons from year to year…but always room for more.

It starts with the submission of plays – around 6,000 in 22 years.  This year, 165 new plays were submitted – there have been years with submissions of over 450 plays.  The plays come from all over the United States and this year submissions also came from Hong Kong, Singapore, Ontario and Montreal. In past years, the Playhouse has received plays from Israel, Greece, France, Ukraine, Brazil and Iceland.  Once the plays are received, a committee begins reading.  Each play is guaranteed at least 3 readings.  That committee then starts the process of narrowing down the submissions until they finally select 12 plays that are then submitted to a final play-reading committee.  The committee, made up of six people, reads all 12 plays and narrows the field to six.  Those six will be produced – three as fully staged productions and three as staged readings over the course of the FutureFest weekend.  It is a whirlwind weekend of new play works.  The Dayton Playhouse Board of Trustees with the partnership of Fran Pesch, FutureFest Program Director, makes arrangements to bring the playwrights to Dayton for the weekend.

But it doesn’t stop there…there is more, much more.  It’s not just about selecting the plays and bringing the playwrights into town, it’s about seeing their plays produced, and sometimes on stage for the very first time. Then there’s more.  FutureFest is truly about allowing the playwrights the opportunity of seeing their work come to life, but also about receiving feedback regarding their work.  That feedback comes from a number of sources. The first are five adjudicators (some who have been a part of the weekend for many years), the audience and of course the directors and cast members.  Once the play is seen on stage, the adjudicators take the stage with the playwright, director and cast.  The playwright is then given the opportunity to receive this feedback from renowned adjudicators, all with years of theatre experience.  No one could really afford to pay for those opinions in one step, but Dayton Playhouse allows it to happen.  While the opinions and thoughts from the adjudicators are vitally important, sometimes the thoughts and feedback from the audience is just as powerful and thought provoking.  This year, returning adjudicators Helen Sneed (President of Helen Sneed Consulting), Eleanore Speert (previously Publications Director at Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and David Finkle (writer for The Huffington Post), all who have been involved for many years, are joined by Rob Koon (Dramaturg at Chicago Dramatist’s and a playwright) and Faye Sholiton (playwright and Ohio regional representative to the Dramatists Guild and a previous FutureFest winner in 1997 for The Interview ).

The weekend is packed full, from an opening reception and production on Friday to three shows on Saturday and two more on Sunday.  It is hard to pack it all in…but you really don’t want to miss this opportunity right here in Dayton, Ohio.

This year’s finalists include:

“A Political Woman” by Joel Fishbane of Quebec, Canada, also a finalist in 2010 for “Short Story Long.”  This play will be directed by Cynthia Karns and will be fully staged at 8 p.m. on Friday.

“Provenance” by Daniel J. Weber of Great Neck, New York.  This play will be a staged reading Saturday at 10 a.m. and will be directed by David Shough.

“Nureyev’s Eyes” written by David Rush of Murphysboro, Illinois whose play “Estelle Singerman” was the festival winner in 2006.  This play will be directed by Annie Pesch and will be a staged reading 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“Curve” by Sam Havens of Houston, Texas.  This play will be directed by Jim Lockwood and will be fully staged on Saturday at 8 p.m.

“Excavation” by Robert Barron of Newburgh, NY.  This play will be directed by Nancy Campbell and will be a staged reading at 10 a.m. on Sunday

“This Rough Magic” written by Richard Manley of New York City, who was a festival finalist in 2009 for his play “Quietus.”  The play will be directed by Gayle Smith and will be fully staged at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

“This event is nationally recognized as a premier event in the playwriting community and is the largest effort of its kind sponsored by a community theatre,” notes Pesch.  Come be a part of this amazing weekend of new theatre works.  It is the culmination of hours of volunteer work and worth every minute.

Weekend passes for the entire festival are available for $95.  Tickets to individual performances are $18.  All tickets may be purchased at www.daytonplayhouse.org, or by calling the Dayton Playhouse box office at 937-424-8477.  The Dayton Playhouse is located at, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton, OH 45414.  

Reach DCP freelance writer Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com


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Reach DCP food critic Brian P. Sharp at BrianSharp@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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