“This has been a wonderful experience,” said Cameron. “What a great (endeavor) FutureFest is for the Dayton Playhouse. I also thank the adjudicators who offered such sage advice and do such important work. I also want to thank the whole Dayton Playhouse family. It’s been a great joy to be here and see all the people I’ve been communicating with for the past two years. I also thank Ray and the extraordinary cast. I’m so grateful. It was thrilling to watch the superb work of my fellow playwrights and I’m honored to be included with them.”
Chosen from 378 submissions, the remaining finalists were:
- Brooklyn, New York playwright Daniel Damiano’s thought-provoking environmental/relationship drama “The Wild Boar”;
- Los Angeles, California playwright Angela J. Davis’ timely and topical drama “Griswold,” spotlighting Estelle Griswold, civil rights activist and feminist known as a defendant in the landmark 1965 Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down laws barring married couples from access to birth control;
- Astoria, New York playwright Holly Hepp-Galaván’s medical drama “Lakshmi Counts Her Arms and Legs,” based on the true story of Lakshmi Tatma who was born with eight limbs in the village of Bihar in India in 2005;
- Sandy Hook, Connecticut playwright Kate Katcher’s humorous, sitcom savvy senior comedy “The Little Sisters of Littleton”; and
- Blue Point, New York playwright Donna Kaz’s nostalgic, poignant drama “The Docent.”
“Thank you so much for letting us do your beautiful plays,” said Tina McPhearson, Playhouse Board Vice Chairperson. “It is our privilege and our honor to celebrate all of you because if you didn’t write (your plays), we would not be here today. We cannot thank you enough.”
Assessing the festival, my favorite play was “The Wild Boar,” a fascinating, eerie, outside-the-box, unexpectedly moving, shouldn’t-work-but-does character study involving crisis and compassion. An outstanding Cheryl Mellen portrayed grieving mother Marlotta Campo, a newly retired teacher seeking escape and challenging norms on a remote island oddly overrun by boars. Believably supported by an endearingly astute Jonathon North in the non-verbal titular role, Mellen brought beautiful, heartbreaking realism to Damiano’s unique portrait of a fearless, independent woman scarred by her past. Director Jennifer Lockwood’s strong cast included Jim Walker, Saul Caplan and Debra Strauss.
Elsewhere: Kerry Simpson supplied great humor and heart as the resilient Estelle Griswold opposite Tammy Bertsch and Rusty Paquay in “Griswold,” directed by Shanna Camacho; Alex Carmichal, Megan Cooper, Neal Patel and Trisha Chatterjee effectively navigated the complexities of culture clash in “Lakshmi,” directed by Annie Pesch; Becky Howard, Dee Berdine and Ted Eltzroth were wonderfully compatible and spunky in “Little Sisters,” a genuinely funny crowd-pleaser directed by Dawn Roth Smith; and Jared Mola excellently led “The Docent,” a love letter to early 1980s New York City featuring Hayley Penchoff, Cynthia Karns and Curtis Apwisch with direction by Aaron Washington.
This year’s adjudicators were New York-based author/playwright/theater critic Peter Filichia, New York-based author/theater critic David Finkle, Texas-based author/playwright/arts administrator Helen Sneed, New York-based publisher/playwright Eleanore Speert, and Dayton’s own Emily N. Wells, artistic director of the Human Race Theatre Company.
In addition, the all-volunteer festival was dedicated in memory of Jim Payne, who passed away March 3 at age 82. Payne, who taught speech, drama and English at Colonel White High School, served as managing director for the Playhouse from 1980 to 1994. He also helped formulate FutureFest with John Riley and Dodie Lockwood and was particularly instrumental in helping to acquire and design the current Playhouse location at Wegerzyn Garden Center. In 2002, he was one of the inaugural inductees of the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame.