Acrosstown Theatre Puts Playwrights in Spotlight

Six stage readings, all created by local playwrights, will take place over four days this weekend at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre on South Main Street.


Fans of local theater are in for a treat beginning Thursday when the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre presents its fourth annual installment of the Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase.

The Showcase gives local playwrights an opportunity to see how their plays work with real actors and real audiences so that they can tweak them before submitting them for consideration as mainstage events.

“It’s an opportunity to be the first ones to hear a new work that hasn’t been spoken anywhere else,” said Meagan Reagle, one of the organizers of the four-day event held at the theater at 619 S. Main Street, in the Historic Baird Hardware Center.

Reagle is also directing one of the plays, Bond, which is scheduled for Friday night at 8. Written by Aliza Einhorn, Bond is a tragic comedy about family dynamics following the bizarre death of a family pet. The play stars Reagle, Adam Lishawa, Wilfredo Gonzalez and Carolyne Salt, who happens to be president of the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.

Although Reagle didn’t provide any spoilers, she did say that in Bond, “Everyone’s waiting for this one moment to happen, and when it does, it’s ‘Thank you!'”

Einhorn, the playwright, recently moved back to Gainesville after living in New York City for a few years.

The Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase begins on Thursday at 8 p.m. with a staged reading of Keith & the Eccentrics: Seeking Rose, a two-act play written by Cat Van Adams and directed by Joan McDonald.

“It reminds me a little of The Princess Bride,” Reagle said. “It’s like a fairy tale told like a kids’ play but definitely for adults.”

Saturday night’s Showcase, starting at 8, features a pair of one-act plays: A Comedy of Armageddons by Chuck Lipsig
and Dame daDA & the META Show written and directed by Nichole Hamilton.

This is Lipsig’s fourth play in the Local Playwrights’ Showcase. Two years ago, Lipsig wrote Small Town Knights for the Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase. A revised and revamped version of the play was later performed as Hometown Knights at the Acrosstown.

Reagle described Lipsig’s A Comedy of Armageddons as “a total farce about the apocalypse and bomb shelters.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton is best known for her stage work as a member of the Hippodrome Acting Company. Her most recent performances included All Girl Frankenstein and The Elephant Man.

dead-ladyThe Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase draws to a close on Sunday with two separate performances.

At 5 p.m. is The Dead Lady on the Shelf (A trailer-park elegy), written and directed by Michael Presley Bobbitt. Based on a true story, the comedy/farce is about a man dealing with the cremated remains of a woman he never knew. Bobbitt is the Acrosstown Theatre’s facilities manager.

At 8 p.m., the Showcase concludes with World Enough by Robert Hugh Brown and directed by Laura Jackson. The comedy is about a carnival that comes to town and a suspicious murder.

Each performance is a stage reading, meaning that actors typically carry scripts with them as they move about the stage. Whether actors use props or wear costumes is each director’s call.

Carolyne Salt, president of the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, said she was impressed with the caliber of plays submitted this year. She doesn’t have a favorite.

Dean Carvalho and Adam Lishawa in a scene from Hometown Knights, by Chuck Lipsig
Dean Carvalho and Adam Lishawa in a scene from Hometown Knights, written by Chuck Lipsig.

“These plays are like children, and each is unique and a miracle of creation,” she said. “I will say that each has moments of hilarity and moments of real pathos.”

Reagle said that the six plays were chosen from 10 finalists by a committee that included herself, Salt and board member Jessica Arnold.

“We based our choices on which ones we really appreciated and what an audience would like,” she said. “There’s no theme at all. The only criteria was that you must be a local playwright for your work to be considered.”

However, Reagle said all the plays do have one thing in common.

“They’re all very strong and entertaining,” she said. “And all of them are fun.”

Salt said the Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase serves a variety of purposes.

“For audiences, it’s the opportunity to see staged readings of local authors’ plays first, before they hit the big time,” she said. “For local playwrights, it’s the chance to see how their play works with real actors and real audiences so that they can perfect their craft. For directors and actors, it’s the possibility to work with a play and characters that have never before lived and breathed, and to be involved in a show that doesn’t have a huge time commitment or memorization.

“A big part of our mission is to develop local talent, and this develops our local playwrights, directors and actors, while entertaining our audiences in the process.”

A $15 all-access pass provides admission to all Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase performances (plus a laminated keepsake ticket). Tickets for individual events are $5 each. There is no assigned seating. Patrons are requested to arrive 30 minutes before showtime to secure the best seats.

Salt added that she is appreciative of the dozens of people who work tirelessly to make the Local Playwrights’ Showcase happen. They include Arnold and Reagle (“They’ve really done most of the heavy lifting here.”) as well as Bobbit, the facilities manager, stage manager Jasper Suskin, tech operator Mandy Fugate, as well as the directors, actors and volunteer crew.

artyMeanwhile, Acrosstown Repertory Theatre’s youthtroupe, known as ARTy, will perform Herschel & the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel and The Baker’s Dozen, A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard just before the holidays.

“What’s particularly cool about our holiday production is that kids of all ages come together to present renditions of beloved children’s books,” Salt said.

The ARTy shows will take place on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. and the Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Acrosstown is already rehearsing for its next mainstage show, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Directed by Jessica Arnold, the play runs Jan. 20-Feb. 4.

art-logoFor further info and to purchase tickets, visit the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre website.