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Eugene Weekly : Theatre : 3.31.11


Fresh and Local

Area playwrights celebrate two world premieres

By Anna Grace

Why import expensive plays from New York or Londons West End when you can enjoy homegrown work conceived and staged fresh right here in town? If you're hungry for something a little different this weekend, two venues are serving up the original fare of local playwrights.

Kim Donahey and Richard Leebrick on stage at last years NXNW 10 fest

First, Lord Leebrick Theatre hosts a festival of short plays, North by Northwest Ten! The lime-green press release came sailing in on a brightly colored toy bi-plane, signaling the return of a free-spirited, fast-paced evening of theater. The Annual Northwest Festival of 10-Minute plays stages eight complete plays, one rolling in right after the next. With submissions coming in from every corner of our state, only the very best were selected, solidifying a line up where each play is not only quick but quality theater.

Ten-minute plays are great fun, as one story completely unfolds and wraps up before you know it, in a jumble of themes and styles. Its like ordering tapas ã theres bound to be something you really like. And if a writer happens to serve up a story that doesnt cut it for you, guess what? Its only ten minutes!

This years plays range from quirky comedy to serious drama, and your inner ADD spirit will enjoy the quick flips of concept and character. I mean, really, where else are you going to see the Brangelia and Satan on stage in the same evening?

Executive producer Paul Calandrino has marshaled seven directors and 19 actors to perform the handful of original plays. Local favorites like Bill Campbell and Lynn Berg grace the stage to celebrate the work of new authors. Join them in an evening that quite literally promises something for everyone.

Paradise: If you think its lost, you can recover yours this weekend as the Unity of the Valley Coming Alive Players stage Paradise, an original musical by Sunny Schneider.

Imagine an island utopia, founded by suffragettes in the tumultuous years following the American Civil War. Now picture that society seventy years later, when peace and cooperation rule the day as women take the lead in governing. Its a beautiful world, but somethings missing; then, in 1944, a wounded army doctor washes up on shore. Love battles duty as the characters croon their way to a surprise ending.

"It seemed to write itself,” Schneider says of the script that unfurled from her fingers in four short months. When I ask about the style of music, Schneider says, "Definitely old Broadway. The songs are romantic and heartfelt, like a classic musical.”

What could be more innovative than a weighty utopia put to catchy show tunes? Its as if Marge Piercy had a hand in writing South Pacific.

Produced by The Unity of the Valley Coming Alive Players, an ongoing theater troupe connected with the church, this play has been a labor of love and cooperation. "Every theater production takes a community of effort and is a wonderful model for how we can live our lives,” says Schneider. "This is how they live on Paradise Island. They are waiting for us to join them.”

North By Northwest Ten! runs at Lord Leebrick Theatre April 1-9. Paradise runs at The Unity of the Valley Church April 2 at 7 pm (5:30 for dinner) and April 3 at 2 pm (12:30 for lunch); a meal and the play is $10, the play is by donation.