NEWBURYPORT — Some of the most creative minds in the area’s theater scene are coming together this weekend and next at the Firehouse Center for the Arts for the 18th annual New Works Festival. 

The festival features 17 one-act plays, 10-minute shorts and a single full-length production from local writers and directors performed over four days: Jan. 17-18 and Jan. 24-25. Each night’s performances begin at 8.

The festival opened Friday night with a performance of this year’s winner of the Pestalozzi Prize for Best Full-Length play, “Seeing Violet,” written by Peter Snoad and directed by Stephen Faria.

Today, Jan. 18, will be “A Night of Shorts,” featuring performances of seven plays: “Filling in the Gaps,” written by Ken Green and directed by Ellen Dempsey; “The Angel,” written by Robert LeBlanc and directed by Elizabeth Randall; “Where the Fireworks Come From,” written by Michael Pisaturo and directed by Katharine Clarke; “The List,” written by Jonathan Markella and directed by Astrid Lorentzson; “Are You One of Those Robots?” written by Deirdre Girard and directed by David Houlden; “Locker Room Talk,” written by Andrea Clardy and directed by Bonniejean Wilbur; and “One-on-One,” written by Elaine Brousseau and directed by Leslie Pasternack.

The festival will pick back up on Friday, Jan. 24, with performances of the one-act plays, “The Unstable Bridge,” written by James English and directed by Adele Jones, and “The Brink,” this year’s winner of the Honnegor Prize for Best One-Act Play that was written by Eugenie Carabatsos and directed by Stephanie Carbone.

Among the cast members for “The Brink” is Meaghan Robichaud, an Amesbury native and junior Acting major at Emerson College, whose performance next weekend will mark her return to Newburyport theater after several years of being away from it.

“I haven’t done a show in Newburyport since eighth grade,” said Robichaud, recalling her younger experiences with the local Acting Out program. “I feel like when I grew up it was just a community theater scene happening, but now it’s growing even more.”

Robichaud expressed her excitement about acting in “The Brink,” which she said will be “more of a staged reading” about a group of four friends grappling to make sense of a murder-suicide they’ve witnessed. Newburyport actors Jonas Ruzek, Peter Solis and Guthrie Scrimgeour are also featured.

“It’s so much fun getting to meet people and create things while telling stories that aren’t about you,” said Robichaud. 

The festival’s closing night on Saturday, Jan. 25, will include “A Night of Shorts” with performances from seven more short plays.

The evening will see performances of “The Stake Out,” written by K. Alexa Mavromatis and directed by Adair Rowland; “The Only One by Anne Marilyn Lucas,” directed by Eden Tomaszewski; “If I Had Wings to Fly,” by Judith Strang-Waldau and directed by Anne Easter Smith; “Loon Lake,” written by Lawrence Kessenich and directed by Josh Faigen; “Duck Blind,” by Bruce Menin and directed by Jesse Kalfel; and this year’s winner of the Honegger Prize for Best Short, “Deal, a Reunion,” written by John Shea and directed by Geehae Moon.

Full festival passes are available for $44 per person. Single evening passes cost $16 each.

For tickets or more information on the Festival of New Works, visit https://www.firehouse.org/event/2020-new-works-festival/2020-01-17/ 

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury­port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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