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Civic Theatre opens stage to regional playwrights during Playwrights’ Forum Festival

Dave Rideout, left, playing King Charge, acts out a scene with Chris Bastible, right, playing Gnash, from the play “Fresh Hell” on Monday, June 2, 2014 at Spokane Civic Theatre. “Fresh Hell,” written by Merridawn Ducker and directed by Scott Doughty,  was one of six plays  performed during the 26th Playwrights’ Forum Festival. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Dave Rideout, left, playing King Charge, acts out a scene with Chris Bastible, right, playing Gnash, from the play “Fresh Hell” on Monday, June 2, 2014 at Spokane Civic Theatre. “Fresh Hell,” written by Merridawn Ducker and directed by Scott Doughty, was one of six plays performed during the 26th Playwrights’ Forum Festival. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Since opening in 1947, Spokane Civic Theatre has built a reputation for staging intricate productions of beloved plays and musicals.

But for 30 years, the theater has also prided itself on being a hub for both new and experienced playwrights to premiere one-act plays.

By giving these playwrights a stage, the theater in turn gives the audience the chance to see material not yet produced anywhere else.

The 30th Playwrights’ Forum Festival runs Thursday through June 17 and features nine plays from playwrights from Washington, Oregon and Montana.

This year, Civic received about 50 one-act submissions, winnowed down by a committee headed up by festival director Matthew Harget and resident playwright Bryan Harnetiaux.

The festival features two rotations of plays performed on alternating days.

Rotation A includes “Sebastian and Chloe” by Matthew Weaver (Spokane), directed by Kathie Doyle-Lipe; “Working Girl” by Jean Hardie (Spokane), directed by Jerry Sciarrio; “Saint Brendan’s Last Voyage” by John Byrne (Albany, Oregon), directed by David Hardie; “DON Talk #23 - Plain Speak” by Harnetiaux (Spokane), directed by Harget; and “Love to Go” by Chris Demlow (Newport, Washington), directed by Dominick Betts.

Rotation B includes “Monument Valley” by Paul Lewis (Bainbridge Island, Washington), directed by Heather McHenry-Kroetch; “Donny and Doodie” by Pamela Kingsley (Spokane), directed by Jamie Flanery; “Temptress Standing by an Open Window” by Lewis, directed by Adam Sharp; and “Victoria’s Secret” by Ross Peter Nelson (Helena, Montana), directed by Tom Armitage.

Playwrights Jean Hardie, “a legend in the Spokane arts scene,” said Civic’s creative consultant Jake Schaefer, and Kingsley, “a Civic tent pole for a very log time,” are no strangers to the theater but are both making their Civic debuts as playwrights this year.

As resident playwright, Harnetiaux’s piece is non-competitive, but the others will be in the running for several awards, including audience favorite.

Schaefer is pleased that the Playwrights’ Forum Festival is now in its 30th year, and he hopes to, over time, make it an even bigger part of Civic because of the wide-ranging benefits.

The festival provides playwrights the opportunity to premiere their work and Civic the opportunity to house these new works, but it also gives aspiring directors a chance to try their hand leading a production.

David Hardie and Betts, for instance, are make their Civic directorial debuts during this year’s festival.

“So you ask yourself as a creative leader of a company ‘What’s next? Are they going to submit to direct in the studio season the following year?’ ” Schaefer said. “That’s the hope. The hope is that we’re raising these multi-dimensional talents through this festival while still remaining keenly focused on the playwriting.”

In conjunction with the Playwrights’ Forum Festival, Civic will host a free Playwrights Gathering from 1-3 p.m. on June 16, also in the Studio Theatre, for all local and regional playwrights as well as those interested in becoming a playwright.

Those interested in attending should RSVP to RSVP@spokanecivictheatre.com by June 8.


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