The Bath House Cultural Center will be swimming with talent next week with the opening Friday of the 13th annual Festival of Independent Theatres. The four-weekend event features eight small theater companies doing one-act plays under one hour each, in rotating repertory and for budgets averaging under $2000. Playwrights represented include big names like David Mamet, Lanford Wilson, Tennessee Williams, John Guare and Steve Martin. But a couple of local playwrights are debuting new work in the fest.
Jon Christie, a recent Collin College grad, is directing his play One Phone Call for the new Triple J Productions. Second Thought Theatre is staging Dallas writer Eric Steele's one-man play Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, starring Barry Nash.
Past FITs have put the spotlight on original scripts such as Matt Lyle's silent film-style comedy The Boxer, which went on to successful runs at Dallas Children's Theater, Collin College and several other theaters (Lyle is now in Chicago, working with Second City).
Is there one budding breakout hit among this year's slate of FIT plays? "All of these scripts have a lot of potential," says festival coordinator David Meglino. "One of the best things about FIT is that there is something for everyone."
Here's the lineup:
• Churchmouse Productions - Squirrels by David Mamet. Two writers become trapped in an existential cycle that can only be broken with the help of a cantankerous cleaning lady. An absurdist one-act directed by Chad Cline.
• MaCa Latin Theatrical Group - La Danza de Terpsicore by Frederico Roca. Performed in Spanish, this play tells the story of Eloisa, a dancer coming to terms with the aging of her body. In the last moments of her life, she is joined by her younger dancer self to relive the greatest moments of her life. Directed by Frank Ayala Jr.
• One-Thirty Productions - The Madness of Lady Bright by Lanford Wilson. The playwright's first notable Off-Off Broadway play follows the titular Lady Bright, an aging drag queen descending into madness, as she dons her finery for what could be the last time. Frequent One Thirty collaborator Larry Randolph stars as Lady Bright in this emotionally charged work directed by Morgana Shaw.
• Rite of Passage Theatre Company - The Love Song of the Albanian Sous Chef by Robert Askins. A meek cook orchestrates a way to express his love for a sexy Bulgarian waitress. He does it with the help of singing oysters, talking ravioli and a Mexican busboy. A musical and culinary confection co-directed by Cassie Bann and Clay Wheeler.
• Second Thought Theatre - Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self by Eric Steele. Third in the writer's Midwest Trilogy, this one is a monologue by a motivational speaker who recounts the harrowing tale of the plane crash that killed his family and friends. Starring Barry Nash. Directed by Dallas Theater Center's Lee Trull.
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• Triple J Productions - One Phone Call by Jon Christie (who also directs). When a reckless teenager gets thrown in jail for the night, he's forced to decide which of his divorced, abusive parents he'll call to bail him out. This new company, a group of Collin College theater grads, makes their debut at FIT.
• Upstart Productions - W.A.S.P. by Steve Martin. An irreverent look at 1950s suburbia and the death of American culture. Directed by Josh Glover.
• WingSpan Theatre Company - A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot by Tennessee Williams and The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year by John Guare. Two quirky one-acts by two American greats. Starring Nancy Sherrard and Cindee Mayfield. Directed by WingSpan Artistic Director Susan Sargeant.
The Festival of Independent Theatres runs on weekends from July 15 to August 6 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Dr. A full festival pass is $69; two-weekend pass, $49; individual tickets, $14 to $18 (there is a $2 handling charge per ticket). Shows run back-to-back in rotating rep, 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday; 2, 5 and 8 p.m., Saturday; 2 and 5 p.m., Sunday. Call 800-617-6904. For the full schedule visit festivalofindependenttheatres.org or bathhousecultural.com.