Ring in the new year with new play development

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By AARON KRAUSE

If you’d like to participate in the process of writing new plays, Palm Beach Dramaworks (PBD) can give you that chance through its New Year/New Plays Festival.

Indeed, while performers read the plays, audiences play their own part.

“We will, as always, be soliciting your feedback following each reading, as your thoughts and reactions are valuable to the playwrights as they continue to polish their work,” a PBD e-mail to subscribers reads.

PBD’s third annual New Year/New Plays Festival will have a new look and last over a new length of time. Due to the pandemic, the early January event will take place over Zoom and last five days instead of the usual three.

“We’re still going to be reading five plays, but watching virtually is very different from watching in person,” the West Palm Beach company’s leaders wrote in a weekly e-mail to subscribers. “Because you’ll be sitting in front of a computer, we think it will be a more pleasurable experience – more festive, if you will – to view a play a day.”

Producing Artistic Director William Hayes and Dramaworkshop Manager Bruce Linser chose this year’s plays from a list of pieces that received readings in PBD’s Drama(in the) works series. Audiences who signed up to watch the plays in that series also helped shape the pieces.

“It was a tough choice, as there were many plays worthy of selection,” PBD’s leaders wrote. “Bill and Bruce took your feedback into account.”

In the end, Hayes and Linser chose Charlottesville, by Catherine Bush; The Surest Poison by Kristin Idaszak; Dorothy’s Dictionary by E.M. Lewis; Twenty-Two by Erin Considine, and The Prey by Gina Montet. Performers will read these plays during the festival’s dates of Wednesday, Jan. 6 – Sunday, Jan. 10. Though tickets are free, you must RSVP at https://www.palmbeachdramaworks.org/program/newplaysfestival. Or, you can call the box office at (561) 514-4042, ext. 2.

Below is a synopsis of each play that will receive a reading during the festival, which Mark and Diane Perlberg are sponsoring.

Charlottesville, by Catherine Bush. The reading will take place at 7:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 6

When someone accuses Civil War reenactor Curtis Jenkins of being racist, he begins a fantastical journey through American race relations. As the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally explodes into violence, Curtis must confront the truth about his family legacy and his own beliefs.

The Surest Poison, by Kristin Idaszak. PBD has scheduled the reading for 7:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 7

It’s the era of Prohibition, and Alexander Gettler, a chemist whose research helped create the field of forensic toxicology, must try to catch a murderer and convince the federal government to stop poisoning alcohol. Gettler and journalist Lois Long’s real-life work inspired this play.

Dorothy’s Dictionary, by E.M. Lewis. PBD has scheduled the reading for 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 8.

After a violent incident at his high school, Zan is forced to choose between juvenile detention and community service. But when he is assigned to read to Dorothy, a librarian who has just entered hospice care, neither of them is sure he’s made the right decision.

Twenty-Two, by Erin Considine. The reading will take place at 7:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Jan. 9.

We lose 22 veterans daily to suicide. That’s 22 men and women who survived combat but return home broken. The play follows one man and one woman affected by this unspeakable choice — and the hope they find in each other.

The Prey, by Gina Montet. The reading will take place at 2 p.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 10.

This is a tale of beauty, love, and murder in the heart of the Everglades. Actual events inspired this play, set in 1912. The piece is a chilling interpretation of one of Florida’s most notorious killings.

In addition to the play readings, as PBD has done during the previous two festivals, the company will present a discussion at noon on Saturday.

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