Short play festival returns to Newburyport next week

Erik Skoglund of Manchester, N.H., and Kate Ventimiglia of Topsfield rehearse “Luminous” by Newburyport writer Bruce Menin. The play is one of eight short works selected for production at The Actors Studio of Newburyport’s second annual short play festival.Courtesy photo

NEWBURYPORT — The Actors Studio of Newburyport’s annual short play festival returns next week for its second year, highlighting actors and the writers behind the work.

The festival, spanning the weekends of Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 25-27, will showcase the winning plays of eight playwrights.

Created by playwright Jack Rushton and Actors Studio founder Marc Clopton, the short play festival invites submissions from writers around the world and picks finalists based both on how the script reads on paper and how it sounds while performed on stage.

This year, the studio received 253 submissions from 42 states, three Canadian provinces and Ireland.

Each submission goes through four rounds of blind review by Actors Studio judges, meaning they do not know who the playwrights are or where they are from.

The submissions are typically narrowed down to 24 semifinalists, but Rushton said, “This year, the plays I thought were so good that when we got down to crunch time, we had 26 semifinalists.”

All the plays are then performed by actors during a one-day event that Rushton compared to “a Jerry Lewis marathon.”

“You can read one thing on the page, but how does it sound?” he said. “How does it play?”

Performances are then rated by the judges and 30 voting audience members to determine the eight finalists.

This year, Daniel Curzon of California won The Clopton Prize for Best Play for “I and the Queen.”

The other seven winners were Rich Orloff of New York for “The Unforgivable Sin of Forgiveness”; Judith Strang-Waldau of Massachusetts for “Reaping”; Bruce Menin of Newburyport for “Luminous”; Maripat Allen of Michigan for “Stay”; Tom Misuraca of California for “True Colors”; David Guaspari of New York for “Mortality Play”; and Bryan Harnetiaux of Washington for “Meta.”

Rushton said the whole festival is “a collaboration,” from the judges and the actors throughout the submission process, to the audiences attending each weekend, to the playwrights who submitted their scripts.

The festival features five comedies and Rushton said, at least one is “wet-your-pants funny.” There are also two dramas, and according to The Actors Studio website, one “play that’s so ethereal it defies description.”

“The work is strong, the actors are terrific, and the black box theater is intimate,” Rushton said. “It feels like you’re a part of it.”

The Friday and Saturday shows Oct. 18-19 and Oct. 25-26 start at 8 p.m. The Sunday shows Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 start at 5 p.m.

As a bonus, The Actors Studio will host a third weekend in November to showcase the almost-winning talents of an additional eight, Rushton added.

Community members can attend the performance the weekend of Nov. 23-24 in what the studio is calling “The Eight Wasn’t Enough Show.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to brownpapertickets.com/event/4352278.

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at halterisio@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt. 

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