Staging the future

FutureFest’s 25 year milestone at Dayton Playhouse

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Maggie Carroll, Debra Strauss, Matthew Lindsay and David Hallowren rehearse for “The Consul, the Tramp and America’s Sweetheart”; photo: Jacqui Theboald

Twenty-five years! Hard to believe it? Volunteers at the Dayton Playhouse have been selecting and presenting six new scripts in one weekend, and bringing the playwrights and professional adjudicators to Dayton from all over the country to its FutureFest every summer for a quarter century.

Two new events: one with art, one with chocolate

This year there are new or new-again adjudicators and a range of play topics plus two extras. Art works donated by regional artists will be for sale at the theater all weekend as a fundraiser.

Before the weekend excitement, a celebratory Open House on Thursday, July 16 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. will offer chocolate, wine and hors d’oeuvres at Winans Coffee and Chocolates, 3510c Pentagon Blvd, in Beavercreek. Admission is $25 and reservations for the fundraiser are requested (call the box office, 937.424.8477). If you have a last minute need for chocolate, wine and a theatre buzz, you’re still welcome at the door.

Meet the judges

These people KNOW theatre! Their pithy, well considered comments are helpful to playwrights and make audience talk-backs rich.

Peter Filichia has been a FutureFest judge in the past, but not recently. He is a full-time theatre critic for the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. His work is well known to those who read Theater/Week and his weekly Internet column.

Eric Peterson is new to Dayton, but not to anything about the stage. He’s been the producing artistic director at Oldcastle Theatre in Vermont since its beginning 43 years ago, and has produced some 300 plus plays and directed more than 200.

Jana Robbins is new to FutureFest, but not to Dayton. She was on stage at the Human Race Theater Company in “Managing Maxine” in 2013. She’s also a producer, with Broadway credits including “Little Women: The Musical” and was part of Tony nominated production teams for “Ragtime” and “War Horse.”

Andy Sandberg has two Tonys to his credit as a producer: Broadway and London’s West End 2009 revival of “Hair” 2009 and the Broadway revival of “The Best Man” in 2012. He recently directed the world premiere of “Application Pending.”

Helen Sneed. We know Helen. She has a theatrical C.V. a yard long, and for the 22 years she has been a FutureFest adjudicator we have come to treasure her astute, insightful and very clever but kind commentary. Among many other accomplishments her own play, “Fix Me Jesus” premiered Off-Broadway in 2013 and was also seen on this very stage last March.

Play selection

Between 250 and 300 scripts from all over the country are submitted most years. Each is blind-read by three different members of a committee that eventually narrows the semi-finalists to 12. Then a different reading committee chooses the six to be presented, three fully staged and three as staged readings.

In the beginning…

Dodie Lockwood along with John Riley had the original idea for FutureFest and has remained involved as it has grown becoming more sophisticated and nationally known. Serving as 2015 co-chair with DPT board president Brian Sharp, she’s also in “Smoke.”

“Giving deserving playwrights opportunities to be seen and publicized is one of our main goals,” she says, adding, “this enormous undertaking would not have been sustainable without ALL the volunteers and our very supportive fans.”

“Over the years many FutureFest plays have gone on to professional stages, four recently, and another published,” says Fran Pesch, longtime previous executive director.

The playwrights love FutureFest, the adjudicators are impressed with Daytonians’ theatre savvy, and the weekend audience is exhilarated and exhausted.

The Dayton Playhouse presents FutureFest July 17-19 at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, 1301 E. Seibenthaler Ave. Weekend passes are $100 and include the six plays, the adjudication sessions and some social activities with authors and adjudicators. Individual tickets are $20. For tickets and more information, please call 937.424.8477 or visit


Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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