Pittsburgh New Works Festival kicks off a four-week run with 18 plays

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The Pittsburgh New Works Festival kicks off with staged readings this Sunday and next Sunday, then dives into four weeks of performances to complete its schedule of 18 one-act plays by 18 playwrights.

The 22nd annual festival brings together local theater companies to present the staged readings and main-stage productions. A record number of plays were submitted from around the world this year, as submissions were received from playwrights as far away as Finland and New Zealand. A panel of readers whittled the submissions to 18 for the festival at the Father Ryan Arts Center, 420 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks.

The Donna Awards, named for Pittsburgh New Works founder Donna Rae, will be given Oct. 7 at the festival gala, when performer, choreographer and educator Ron Tassone will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

A festival pass is $40; single tickets are $15 in advance or $17 at the door; students or under 18, $12/$14. Call 1-888-71-TICKETS or visit www.PittsburghNewWorks.org.

The Pittsburgh New Works 2012 schedule

Staged readings Sunday at 7 p.m.:

• "Everything" by David Blomquist (12 Peers Theatre): The personally devastating effects of fear and the loss of freedom in a paranoid society.

• "Life on Mars" by Chris Gavaler, four-time winner as outstanding New Works playwright (Comptra Theatre): NASA studies the effects of long-term confinement on would-be astronauts during an 18-month mission to nowhere.

• "Interlude" by John Michael Duggan (Stage Right Theatre): A man and woman meet on a subway, and as they converse, the feeling grows that they might be soulmates.

Staged readings Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.:

• "Peace and Quiet" by Kenneth Smith (Theatre Sans Serif): A police officer struggles to reconcile a tragedy when he relocates to the idyllic countryside.

• "The Trick" by Michele Scaramucci (PNWF): In a nursing home, Claire learns a trick from resident Benny on how to outwit a disease, and in doing so, both learn a few things about themselves.

• "Love Insurance" by David Zinman (Actors Civic Theatre): Happy Owens tries to sell her friends on Love Insurance that will shield them from the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."


For Weeks 1 through 4, performances are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday:

Week 1, Sept. 6-9.

• "A Light Subject Matter" by Sara Baines-Miller (Greensburg Civic): Five women find themselves in an abortion clinic for five different reasons.

• "Art Initiates Life" by Connie Dillon (CCAC South): During the course of a morning, through the appearances of family and friends, Warren wrestles with his responsibilities.

• "Seeing Purple People" by Michelle Giusto (Theatre Factory): Chrissy, 10, is struggling with bullying and insecurities when a figure in her mirror challenges her thinking with wit, honesty and a unique world perspective.

Week 2, Sept. 13-16.

• "The Promise" by Jeffrey Strausser (Heritage Players): The play begins as Mary Becker's perfect life goes into a tailspin when her husband divorces her for a trophy wife.

• "Cones" by Russell Weeks (The Summer Company): During the Vietnam War draft lottery, circa 1969, one man must serve, while another gets lucky No. 351. In 1972, the two men -- one homeless, the other going blind -- find their fates intertwined via a military physician.

• "Sophie's Second Law (At the Speed of Life)" by D.J. Jones (The Red Masquers): A woman, a midlife crisis, a mysterious stranger, and a whirlwind journey through five decades.

Week 3, Sept. 20-23.

• "Leaving Antarctica" by Alyssa Herron (Phase 3 Productions): A mother comes to peace with making a difficult decision for her only son.

• "Often as the Moon" by James Sheldon (Baldwin Players): On the morning after the prophesized apocalypse of Dec. 12, 2012, two young believers grapple with disillusionment, faith and the budding love between them.

• "Smoke and Fire" by F.J. Hartland, 11-time New Works playwright (Thoreau MN): "Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke" -- Benjamin Disraeli.

Week 4, Sept. 27-30:

• "Forgotten Names" by David Katzin (Rage of the Stage Players): Two women's sense of contentment is challenged at a high school reunion.

"Helping Out" by James Michael Shoberg (McKeesport Little Theatre): A man asks his flamboyant friend to assist in a meet-and-greet for his parents and new girlfriend.

"Revolution" by Mark Cornell (Cup-A-Jo Productions): In a rural church in a small village in 15th-century England, a group of re-enactors gets a surprise.


Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.


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