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FutureFest offers drama, humor and pathos 

Dayton Playhouse’s FutureFest is famous in Dayton and also around the country. Six plays are selected by a devoted two-tier selection committee.  Each year hundreds of scripts are submitted.  

The effort to select the plays and mount the performances nearly boggles the mind. The secret is an incredibly devoted cadre of supporters, actors, set builders, expert adjudicators and all manner of avid theatergoers.

After each play is finished, the audience is treated to far-reaching discussions and criticism of the playwright’s efforts. Then, there is a winner. My own expertise and tastes seem to have the same result.  For as many years as I can remember I have never picked the winner yet!  This year was no exception.

A funeral prevented us from experiencing one of the most enthusiastically received plays, Mary Bank Road Show, directed by master actor Alan Bomar Jones. No matter, it didn’t win either.  

Of the five plays seen, three were very good theater, all different and all provocative and pleasing.  Two were, in my opinion, real losers.

Let’s work in reverse order.  The losers were Delora Whitney’s Adam and Evey and Carl Rossi’s Yellow to Lavender. Both were full of empty words and circuitous scenes. Adam and Evey dealt with God and the Devil vying for the soul of a card-carrying neb.  

TV sports seemed to be Adam’s highest calling.  Yet the deity, played by lovely Amy Brown, and David Shough, her ex-lover in the guise of the Snake, wasted several hours of the audience’s patience fighting over this nerdy Adam and his family.
As universal as those themes were, Yellow to Lavender was a microscopic examination of the career of actress Laurette Taylor. OK, don’t feel badly, no one else knew who she was either.

It seems that Taylor was an alcoholic actress whose career bumped up and down at the turn of the 20th century. Author Rossi was completely absorbed in her life – the audience was not.  In spite of stunning performances by Barbara Jorgensen and Devan Norsworthy, the play was an arduous test for the audience.

Now, to the goodies. We had real suspense, clever humor, sympathy and pathos in the remaining plays. The suspense, and it was dramatic and forceful, came during William Hollenbach’s Inside the Gatehouse.  

A clever and absorbing plot, well acted by Dave Williamson, Cheryl Mellen, Goeff Burkman and K.L Storer, responded to Saul Caplan’s direction and the excellent script.  The play explored class warfare and inner warfare.

Four self-congratulatory wealthy persons made their disdain for the lower classes quite clear from the fortress of their gated community.  Not as safe as they thought, they found themselves imprisoned by unknown and unseen exterior forces.  The unseen terror wanted one thing, their atonement.  The demanded apology took the form of their killing one of their number as expiation of their haughty sins.  Wow!  Of course, it was my choice and didn’t win.

The funny play was just that, great humor milking nearly every line with delight. Coming Back to Jersey was domestic crisis on display.  Playwright Carl Williams used every comic ploy with great success.  Dave Nickel, Debra Kent, Lynn Kesson, Robb Willoughby, Susan Robert and Richard Young worked together to make us all laugh.

The winner, Heartland, was a sensitive and far-reaching drama about discrimination in action.  Set in a Wisconsin farm community during World War II, the largely German born population had to deal with German prisoners of war in their midst.  
A widow, played by Becky Lamb (who memorized her German with amazing authenticity) was struggling to keep the family farm after the death of her husband. Two of the POWs were assigned to help them.  Love between one of the daughters and one of the prisoners created a crisis of malignant prejudice.

In spite of their shared ancestry, the populace turned on the family naming them collaborators.  The mother was arrested by the FBI and carted off to an internment camp.  Stunned by this unexplainable and illogical tragedy, the daughters, Allison Husko and Sarah Gomes, fought valiantly.

The undertow of narrow-minded intolerance defeated them.  The spearhead was the town banker, a would-be sexual predator, and his too, too proper wife. As the heavies, John Butkowski and Stefanie Pratt made it a delight to hate them.  Hisses were even spontaneously elicited from the audience.

Handsome Muse Machine star and Oakwood High School alumnus Micah Stock was the sensitive lover. His fellow POW was played with appropriate callousness by James Goodwin. The joint playwrights, Anita Simons and Lauren Simon, have discovered another shameful chapter in our history. Like the Japanese-American internments, the action against German-Americans is less well-known but equally dishonorable.

Bravi to all associated with Dayton Playhouse and FutureFest.  I’ll keep coming even if I never do pick a winner.

Zeitgeber exhibit at Link Gallery

Link Gallery, an art gallery in the Oregon Arts District and home to a group of Dayton’s most notable artists, is presenting a new exhibit, ZEITGEBER – German for ‘time givers’, an exhibit of blown glass by Thomas Chapman, paintings and drawings by Jennifer Rosengarten, and mobiles by Terry Welker.  The exhibit, addressing the theme of nature’s recurring rhythms and our own recapitulative refrains, is being held in concurrence with another community event of interest to those who appreciate art and nature  - Cox Arboretum Metro Park’s Native Butterfly House, open through Labor Day, and their Garden Walk, Learning From the Landscape, held on Aug. 3, 2 p.m. at the arboretum, 6733 Springboro Pike.

Exhibit Dates: July 31 – Aug. 30

Artists’ Talk and wine reception -Thursday, July 31, 5-8 p.m.
First Friday Event, Aug. 1, 5-10 p.m.
Second Look Saturday, Aug. 2, 2-8 p.m.

Giving Strings Aug. 9 concert

It’s hard to believe that communities close to us such as Moraine. Dayton and Kettering can have poverty and hunger problems. What about the health of these less fortunate kids? They have just as much right to healthy foods such as fruits and veggies as we do. This year, Giving Strings will be donating their proceeds to a branch of The Food Bank of Dayton called The Kid’s Café, a place where kids go to enjoy healthy nourishing food, a safe place to play, and social and recreational opportunities to meet other kids. The Kid’s Café operates Monday through Friday at various churches, schools, and after-school programs…. But what about the weekend?  

Giving Strings will be supporting a similar project through the Food Bank of Dayton called the Good-to-Go Backpack Program. This program helps 1000 local children in need every weekend. Each backpack is filled with kid-friendly, easy to open and easily prepared foods. No one but the child knows what is in his or her backpack to preserve their confidentiality and dignity.

The Giving Strings Concert will take place on Saturday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. in Shafor Park. Everyone is welcome to listen or play. Please call 293-5753 for details. This year canned goods as well as donations will be appreciated.



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August 8, 2008
Volume 17, No. 32

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