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Part of the mission

New Voice Play Festival gives playwrights a first staging

New Voice Play Festival gives playwrights a first staging

June 20, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

He stands stage left.

She sits with a slight stoop of the shoulders, stage right.

And they read, bringing playwright Harry Newman's "Correspondence" to dazzling life with little more than voices shifting between sad melancholy and edgy frustration.

There are no flailing histrionics, exaggerated movements or eccentric set pieces on which to fall back. No, the play's the thing; Bill Morgan and Lynn Seely are just trying to do right by it as the script ping-pongs from one actor to the other.

So goes the first third of a Monday rehearsal of "Correspondence," soon to be followed by stagings of Larry Ragan's "Audit" and Diane Morgan's "Tiers." Together, they comprise the winner's circle for the Old Opera House Theatre Co.'s New Voice Play Festival, the second edition bowing 8 p.m. Friday at the Charles Town, W.Va., theater.

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"We want people to focus on the words of the play, not the action," says Bill Morgan, OOH manager and artistic director. "It's almost like playing an instrument, deciding, OK, we're going to stress this, not stress this. We're going to pick up the pace through this passage."

While Morgan and Seely attempt using only the spoken word to breathe life into Diane Morgan's plaintive ode to identity and living life to the fullest, the other two selections have the benefit of a full staging.

In "Audit," Jeff Czerbinski and Cassandra Redding explore the humor of an IRS investigation. During "Tiers," Diane Morgan's play selected Best of Festival, a prison block is the backdrop for a microcosm of life. Each play unfolds over roughly a half-hour.

The parallel between life and art is what attracted first-time actor Timothy Intravia of Williamsport to the role of Manny in "Tiers."

"I'm a very laid back, humorous, funny guy and Manny is very serious," Intravia says before rehearsal begins. "Not that I don't relate to him, but being so intense about something is not the way I usually am."

Seely is also new to the theater scene. The Martinsburg, W.Va., freelance writer says working on "Correspondence" has given her a new appreciation for the creative process, and how in this case a reading may serve the material better than a full-fledged production.

"I think the most significant thing is to convey the emotions the author has in mind," she says. "It's also inspiring to me as a writer. It's given me more of an incentive to get busy with the projects I've put off. It's kind of neat as a writer to be on the other side of it."

Bill Morgan says the inaugural festival barely broke even. Of course, New Voice isn't about the bottom line.

Last year, the director talked about how strong the quality of submissions was. In this go- around, they were better yet and that indicates the festival's mission remains true.

"This is one of those things we should do," Morgan says. "This is something that is part of our mission, is part of what we're here for. We provide new opportunities for actors all the time. Every new show is an opportunity for them, but there is a segment of playwrights that we want to appeal to."

If you go . . .

Old Opera House Theatre Co. New Voice Play Festival, featuring a reading of "Correspondence" by Harry Newman plus performances of Larry Ragan's "Audit" and Diane Morgan's "Tiers"

Friday, June 21, through Sunday, June 23

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Old Opera House

204 N. Charles St.

Charles Town, W.Va.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, $7 for students.

For tickets or information, call 1-304-725-4420 or 1-888-900-SHOW or go to www.intrepid.net/ooh on the Web.

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