The Juneau Douglas Little Theatre tackled a big project this winter that has culminated with the production of "An Evening of One Acts."
The theater sponsored a local playwriting competition and has produced the winning one-act plays, "Relationship Insurance" by Geoff Kirsch, and "Coming Back" by Erik Boraas, to showcase Juneau talent.
The plays will be staged at8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through March 22 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. A matinee will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16.
The theater's board of directors discussed the idea of a playwriting competition after the success of its "24 Hour Miracle," where thespians and artists collaborated on staging a theater project, said Eric Caldwell, the board's president.
"We knew there was a need for an outlet for local playwriting talent," he said.
Nine playwrights submitted work for the contest and the three-judge panel had a difficult time declaring the winners, Caldwell said, with seven of the nine playwrights being rated by at least one judge as being in the top four.
"We wanted to know which of these plays the judges felt were ready to go up on the stage now," he said.
Although playwriting contests may not be uncommon, Caldwell said he believes writers vying to have their material produced on stage is fairly unique.
"I don't think many communities the size of Juneau have a project where local playwrights submit their work and actually get to see it fully produced," he said, adding that similar contests are usually done by larger city or state arts organizations. "It's more an examination of the literature, as opposed to the full-on production."
Kirsch said "Relationship Insurance" blossomed out of an idea he had with a former writing partner he collaborated with in New York who used to write for "The Daily Show with John Stewart." The two spent about a decade working together as a sketch comedy team, but the idea never came to fruition in the Big Apple, so Kirsch decided to revive it in the form of a one-act play for the competition.
"These two people have been dating for a little while, and he feels like they've been dating long enough that it's time for them to insure their relationship," he said, adding that the girlfriend is less than thrilled about it. "They go through the entire screening process basically, and it's a very exhaustive process. ... It tries to make a point, that basically is, you can't really insure anything."
Kirsch said it has been enjoyable to see the words on paper come alive and be performed by actors on stage under the direction of Brittany Buell. While creating movie shorts in New York, Kirsch would often find himself doing some acting and technical production work.
"This is the first time I've written something like this where I wasn't going to be in it at all," he said. "It's fun to see the part that I would have played is being played by someone completely different from me and really works very well."
Boraas' play also explores a relationship, but in a much different way. "Coming Back" begins with a man showing up at his former girlfriend's doorstep after living for five years in self-imposed exile in the wilderness after graduating from college.
"The play from there explores the relationship between the couple, the decisions they made to get where they are now, and the examination of what the future might hold," said Caldwell, who directs the one-act play.
Actress Sharon Early, who portrays the insurance agent in "Relationship Insurance," said it has been empowering to see the productions come to life in Juneau.
"They're both very different, and it's really stunning to have such outstanding work produced here locally from beginning to end," she said.
These locally written and produced one-act plays truly reflect the talent of Juneau - from the playwrights to the production team to the actors - Caldwell said.
"This project is a reminder that local theater is both alive and accessible," he said. "No matter what your skills or talents, there is a place for you in Juneau theater. We want the community to see what comes out of that process, when you bring people from all over the community."
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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