January 8, 2009


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Hear new plays in Concord

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

The lobby of the Concord City Auditorium is now the place to hear new plays in the new series “Page to Stage.” It’s held about one Sunday per month.

“I was fortunate enough to meet a person with great interest in developing new works for the theater,” said Carol Bagan of the Friends of the Concord City Auditorium. Their discussions led to a grant from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for the Friends.

Bagan felt it would be best to use the grant to benefit both the New Hampshire theater community and New Hampshire playwrights trying to get work produced. Yet she didn’t feel developing new work quite fell under the Friends mission. She contacted Wayland Bunnell, from the Community Players of Concord, which had a playwrights’ group, she said. The Players have joined the Friends in running the series.

“The best musical ever written, in my opinion,

Chorus Line, started as a workshop,” Bagan said.

“You never know what will happen.”
Attending Page to Stage is free, and there are cookies.

“The audience becomes really involved with the discussion afterward,” Bagan said.

The relatively well-known local playwright David Preece was at the inaugural P2S, as they call it. His adaptation, Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories, presented by Community Players of Concord, won New Hampshire Theatre Awards, and Tender, staged by Yellow Taxi Productions, won a NH Theatre Award for best professional production.
Preece brought his adaptation of House of Seven Gables to P2S, along with a few actors from Music and Drama Company. The community group produced it in Derry in October, Bagan said.

“People were interested in how you come to be a playwright ... how you turn a classic book into script ... how to turn that script into a production,” Bagan said.

“I took the feedback that was given to me and made some changes to the play,” Preece said. “I owe a lot to Carol Bagen,” Preece said.

The art of playwriting is constantly rewriting, Preece said. “When you’re writing something, [you are] so close to the source, you can’t see where the gaps are,” Preece said. He also worked on Seven Gableswith MADCo. You need to hear the script and get feedback from actors and directors, he said.

“You know, Edward Albee is still making changes,” Preece said of the famed playwright.

Preece thinks the P2S series is a great opportunity to get new works read and to generate interest in them. “It’s easy to do productions of Neil Simon ... but if you don’t know there’s equally talented writers out there, those writers never be given a chance.”
Exposure was what Joel Mercier of Manchester was looking for at P2S when he brought A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story in December.

A Christmas Carol is a wonderful tradition” but ends up sugar-coated, Bagan said. Mercier “captured the spirit” of Dickens’ time, when the ghosts were “really spooks,” she said.

Mercier had had a staged reading the previous year and his goal at P2S was to get it in front of people who might consider producing it. Actors Kennedy Pugh of Bedford and Marisa Roberge of Manchester assisted.

This is Mercier’s first full musical, although he’s also a composer and arranger, music director and Equity actor (www.joelmercier.com). He spent the last three years in New York doing those things professionally. Originally from New Hampshire, he recently returned to Manchester for a break from the city.

He’s found readings of new work are much bigger in New York and Connecticut, where he’s also lived. He thinks the series is a great addition to culture in New Hampshire.

It’s “fantastic” as an audience member to see the beginning of a piece, especially if it ends up in a full production, Mercier said.

Andre Tremblay of Bow, a “wonderful comedic actor,” brought his one-act comedies Twenty Pages and Vinnie Comes Knocking in November, Bagan said. Actors were off book and used a simple set.
Coming up Jan. 11 is Don Tongue of Londonderry, well-known as an actor in New Hampshire, Bagan said.

This will be the first public staged reading of Tongue’s short comedies, School Portrait Monologues and Void.

School Portrait Monologues is “about a high school student, Gina Garfoni, who had a terrible school photo taken the previous year and is panicking in the hallway waiting for the photographer to call her in. The photographer has an unusual approach that allows the students to reveal their true nature and to come to realizations about themselves and others,” Tongue wrote in an e-mail. Void concerns “two characters who are stuck in an unfinished play,” Tongue wrote.

Actors Joletta Hardman, Marc Pelletier and John Decareau are helping out.

Tongue said there’s a process to developing plays, and this stage is about hearing how it sounds, getting actors to read it, seeing how well the language flows, and getting an audience reaction. He’ll also be checking to see if what the protagonist wants is clear, and if conflicts are clear.

“A lot of things I’ve read about playwriting, and in the course I’m taking, talked about playwrights getting some acting experience, getting some directing experience.” Without it, a playwright may not be aware of what it’s like to try to deliver lines on stage. Work can feel more “novelistic,” he said. Tongue thinks his time acting and directing has given him a sense of dialogue.

His first attempt followed actors playing the Cratchits in A Christmas Carol back stage and in the green room. 

He found that he enjoyed writing plays, and that his first try was “god awful.” It was what’s called a “park bench play,” he said. Two people meet, have interesting discussions, but there’s no real story to drive it forward or keep the audience invested, he said. Tongue started taking courses online through Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York about two years ago. He’s also joined Playwright’s Platform, a writer’s group that meets twice a month in Massachusetts. Tongue is a computer scientist for Meditech in Massachusetts.

The next P2S dates are Feb. 1 and March 2. Contact Wayland Bunnell to submit scripts. “We would like to give everyone a chance to develop their work,” Bagan said.

Don Tongue. Courtesy photo.

If you go
What: Page to Stage series of new work from New Hampshire playwrights, presented by Friends of the Concord City Auditorium, and the Community Players of Concord.
Who: Don Tongue, of Londonderry, presents staged readings of short comedies School Portrait Monologues and Void
When: Sunday, Jan. 11, from 3 to 5 p.m.
Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord
Cost: free

Playwrights: To present your work during the series, contact Wayland Bunnell, President of the Community Players, at wtarrytown@aol.com or 668-5466.


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