Your Complete Guide to the Festival of Independent Theaters at the Bath House

Like Me is the title of Dallas writer-actor-comedian John Michael Colgin's latest one-man show; it's also his challenge to the audience. It's every actor's request, come to think of it. They're up there begging for approval.

Colgin's new solo one-act comedy, his fourth as both writer and performer, is part of this year's Festival of Independent Theatres, opening Friday for a four-week run of eight different plays by small local companies, all sharing the stage at the Bath House Cultural Center (through June 22). Moved up a month to coincide with the Theatre Communications Group national conference here June 6-8, FIT competes for the first time with Kitchen Dog Theater's New Works Festival at The MAC, also running through June 22.

Like Me is one of four new works by local playwrights at this year's FIT, which for 15 summers has given small companies the chance to do short, low-budget productions in back-to-back one-hour blocks. This is Colgin's first time in the festival, which has a history of supporting emerging talent and local writers. Matt Lyle, Eric Steele, Brad McEntire, Isabella Russell-Ides, Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, Jeff Schmidt and Thomas Riccio are among the Dallas playwrights to premiere shows there.

Colgin's play is aimed, he says, at people who spend too much time on social media (so, all of us). Do that and you risk "losing your narrative" while getting caught up in the drama of friends' lives. "The `like' button on Facebook streamlines your feelings," says Colgin, 24. "And Facebook gives you a false sense of connection with people."

In three previous shows at Nouveau 47 Theatre, Colgin kept his shows intentionally raw and provocative, with lots of sex talk and bold admissions about his real life. In A-Gays, he talked about his transformation from awkward, unpopular kid at Jesuit College Prep to coming out in college in Oklahoma and being overly flamboyant just to be noticed. His most recent monologue, Order of the Penix, chided young gay men for not heeding warnings about AIDS and other STDs, thinking they are magically immune.

Like Me, says John Michael, is still R-rated material but not so much about sex as his earlier work. That will please his dad, he says. "He asked me recently, `Why can't you do a show about Facebook instead of fellatio?'"

Also onstage at this year's Festival of Independent Theatres:

Dinosaur and Robot Stop a Train by Brad McEntire. Audacity Theatre Lab debuts this off-beat comedy about a traveling robot and a friendly dinosaur. Starring McEntire and Jeff Swearingen.

Dead Wait by Carson Kreitzer. Churchmouse Productions presents this existential comedy featuring two dead waiters and Jayne Mansfield, trapped in Limbo. Starring Andrews W. Cope, Jared Culpepper and Isabelle Culpepper. Directed by Chad Cline. Rated R for adult themes.

The Treatment by Eve Ensler. Echo Theatre does scripts by women and Ensler's latest, starring Terri Ferguson and Jordan Willis, explores the psychology of interrogation. Rated R for nudity and adult themes.

Play it by Ear is the debut at FIT of whizbang Dallas tap dancers Rhythmic Souls, three women who dance to pop tunes and classic music and often improvise challenging steps. It's the first dance performance at this fest.

Ask Questions Later by Meggie Spalding. Rite of Passage Theatre Company stages a from-the-headlines play about a high school student (Dante Flores) who skips school to get laid and misses being killed by a shooting rampage. With Ian Ferguson and Porcia Bartholomae. Directed by Kelsey Ervi.

The 1947 Ford by Ellsworth Schave. One Thirty Productions has a new one by the Austin playwright who loves metaphysical themes. This one is set on a writer's journey into desert where he meets two birds who change his life. Starring Mary-Margaret Pyeatt, Cameron McElyea and Larry Randolph. Directed by Gene Raye Price.

Lydie Marland in the Afterlife by Isabella Russell-Ides. WingSpan Theatre Company has been in all 15 FITs. This one by a longtime Dallas playwright is based on the life of one of Oklahoma's most eccentric first ladies. Starring Catherine DuBord and Cindee Mayfield. Directed by Susan Sargeant.

FIT shows run in two-show blocks, 8 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. (two shows) and 5 p.m. (two more shows) on Saturdays. Call 800-617-6904 or visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org for tickets or the complete schedule.

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