Dayton Playhouse selects 2021 FutureFest finalists

The cast of the 2019 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest-winning drama "Fall With Me." The 2021 festival will be held virtually July 16-18. CONTRIBUTED
The cast of the 2019 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest-winning drama "Fall With Me." The 2021 festival will be held virtually July 16-18. CONTRIBUTED

“Each play provides a different picture of the human condition,” festival director Fran Pesch said.

Stories of communication, connection, family, identity, love, loss, mystery, journalism, gun violence, and the lore of William Shakespeare provide the framework for the Dayton Playhouse’s 31st annual FutureFest of new plays.

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The nationally recognized, all-volunteer showcase, which presents six previously unproduced works over the course of one weekend, will be held virtually July 16-18.

Chosen from 273 submissions from across the country and narrowed from a field of 12 semifinalists, the six finalists are:

Playwright Cary Simowitz of Clayton, MO
Playwright Cary Simowitz of Clayton, MO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

“All the Oxytocin in Your Fingertips” by Cary Simowitz of Clayton, Mo.

In this daring coming-of-age tale containing relevant echoes of Academy Award-winning film “Sound of Metal,” a deaf of hearing individual raised in a dysfunctional household where sign language is forbidden grapples with his future. The play poses the question: “Would you rather be a ‘different’ person in a ‘normal’ world or a ‘normal’ person in a different world?” The play will be directed by Fran Pesch.

Playwright Shanti Reinhardt of Los Angeles, CA.
Playwright Shanti Reinhardt of Los Angeles, CA.

Credit: CONTR

Credit: CONTR

“Otis” by Shanti Reinhardt of Los Angeles

In this charming contemporary character study, New York City apartment dwellers grow closer while conversing in the titular elevator. The play will be directed by Dawn Roth Smith.

Playwright Andrew Heinze of Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
Playwright Andrew Heinze of Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

“Shylock the First” by Andrew Heinze of Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

In this comical ode to the Bard spotlighting “The Merchant of Venice,” the friendship between Shakespeare and his 21-year-old protégé Will Hatcher takes center stage. The play will be directed by David Shough.

Playwright Mike Bencivenga of Astoria, NY
Playwright Mike Bencivenga of Astoria, NY

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

“Talk of the Town” by Mike Bencivenga of Astoria, N.Y.

Adapted from James Thurber’s “The Years with Ross,” this nostalgic play tells the story of The New Yorker magazine from the 1920s through the 1950s centered on its eccentric creator/editor Harold Ross and noted writer/illustrator Thurber, a Columbus native. The play will be directed by Annie Pesch.

Playwright Michael Sloane of Glendale, CA
Playwright Michael Sloane of Glendale, CA

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

“Tall Woman with Red Fan” by Michael Sloane of Glendale, Calif.

The study of art and the search for truth fills this intriguing contemporary caper. The play will be directed by Tim Rezash.

Playwright William Cameron of Washington, PA
Playwright William Cameron of Washington, PA

Credit: CONTR

Credit: CONTR

“Truth Be Told” by William Cameron of Washington, Pa.

A dramatic two-hander concerning a journalist interviewing the mother of a mass shooting murderer. The play will be directed by Craig Smith.

“When I consider the six finalists, one word comes to mind to describe the group — diverse,” said Fran Pesch, festival director. “Diverse in terms of genre, character, time periods, and situations while unified in fulfilling the mission of theater to enlighten, educate and entertain. Each play provides a different picture of the human condition.”

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Cameron and Reinhardt were selected as finalists last year, but the in-person festival, including adjudication and a declared winner, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Three of last year’s six finalists were ultimately streamed, but their plays were not among them. Organizers are pleased both playwrights have an opportunity to see their works performed this time around.

“(Last year), we made the decision to try three (productions), two as Zoom theater and one videoed from simple staging,” explained Matt Lindsay, Playhouse board chair. “To the other three playwrights, we decided a fair offer was to commit to making their scripts semi-finalists next year — provided they did not have a production in the intervening year — since they had not been in a festival nor part of our alternative programming. I feel it was a simple way to pull something positive out of a bad set of circumstances. What we did last year, and the three productions since, has given us the confidence to try all six this year and to mount a virtual festival. Many of the board members had hoped that by July an in-person festival would be feasible. Sadly, it appears our decision to go virtual will prove a wise one.”

The six finalists will be produced for streaming and then available for viewing starting July 6. All shows will be available for streaming through the festival weekend and the week following. As with past festivals, three of the plays will be staged (”Otis,” “Shylock the First” and “Tall Woman with Red Fan” will be filmed) and three will be readings (”All the Oxytocin in Your Fingertips,” “Talk of the Town” and “Truth Be Told” will be produced on Zoom).

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This year’s event includes adjudication and the announcement of the festival winner, which will all be done virtually. Adjudications will be streamed live over the festival weekend with audience participation available through the Zoom chat feature.

Auditions will be held May 16-18 and consist of cold readings from the finalist scripts. Zoom auditions are May 16. In-person auditions are May 17 and 18 at the Playhouse, located at 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Those auditioning must reserve a time slot for in-person auditioning in order to maintain social distancing.

Tickets to the individual shows cost $15 and festival passes to view all six plays cost $60. Ticket sales will begin in early June at daytonplayhouse.com. All ticket buyers will have complimentary access to the adjudication sessions.

For more information, visit daytonplayhouse.com.

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.

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