PORT TOWNSEND — The shows — 20 of them — will go on.
Yes, a few changes had to be made in Key City Public Theatre’s PlayFest amid coronavirus concerns. No performances or workshops are canceled, however, thanks to technology and “Around the World in 80 Days.”
Playwright and actor David Natale has penned a new stage adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, and KCPT will bring it to the downtown Port Townsend playhouse in June — but first, audiences will have a chance to see and discuss it during PlayFest this weekend.
Natale and “80 Days” have been brought in to replace the festival’s featured playwright, A.P. Andrews of Los Angeles. Andrews lives in a community designated high-risk for the virus, said KCPT artistic director Denise Winter, and he has opted not to fly to Washington state.
He will be teaching playwriting workshops for people in Port Townsend via web links Saturday and Sunday morning. But the writer can’t attend the “Evening with A.P. Andrews” previously set for today. He will not bring his play-in-progress, “Blue Velvet,” to town.
This evening will instead be given over to “Around the World in 80 Days,” which audiences will have a chance to see on stage in the 66-seat Key City Playhouse at 419 Washington St.
As is key during PlayFest, patrons will also have a chance to join in a discussion with Natale.
With 12 weeks to go before opening night June 5, the playwright continues to shape the romantic adventure; this weekend brings an early preview.
After today’s event, two more opportunities to see it follow: On Saturday, theatergoers can attend an “80 Days” open rehearsal at 5 p.m., and finally on Sunday, a performance of the show is set for 3:30 p.m.
“This will give us a jump-start. We’re happy to take the opportunity to workshop it now,” Winter said, as the cast and crew would otherwise have had to fit this process into their schedule somewhere in April. That’s already a busy month with KCPT’s run of “Always, Patsy Cline” April 3 through May 2.
Past KCPT productions similarly workshopped at PlayFest include “Spirit of the Yule,” “Mercy Falls” and “Wolf at the Door,” Winter added. All went on to have their world premieres in Port Townsend.
PlayFest also offers a pair of educational workshops Saturday and Sunday. Andrews and Jeni Mahoney, a New Hampshire-based playwright and PlayFest’s associate artistic director, will conduct them via the Internet.
So participants can either stream the webinar at home or attend in person at the 70-seat Pope Marine Building, where the three-hour workshops are traditionally taught.
Saturday’s workshop, titled “What Comes First? What Comes Next?,” is for writers of any level looking to restart a project or begin a new one. Sunday’s session, “Pen to Paper!,” focuses on the art and craft of writing for the stage, with a guided process for starting a new play.
PlayFest-goers also can fill up on new, short plays as six of them take the stage Friday through Sunday. All are winners of the Port Townsend Arts Commission’s 2020 One-Act Play Competition: “Adults” by Angela Gyurko, “First Mountain” by D.D. Wigley, “Geointerfering Inc. Bored’s Eye View” by Leonard Goodisman, “Oh, My! God?” by Jim Gormly, “Tea” by Doug Given and “Timeless” by Wynne Stevens.
Subject matter ranges from teenagers coping with a surprise pregnancy to a father and son on a road trip across the Texas-New Mexico border. Performers include David Schroeder, Miranda McClave, Tomoki Sage, Maggie Jo Bulkley, David Wayne Johnson, Karen Anderson, Bonnie Obremski, Orion Pendley, Tom Challinor, Aiden Hill, Sharon Wenzler and Erin Lamb.
Stevens’ play introduces an elderly man talking with his overnight caregiver and sharing a vivid memory of the woman he loved long ago — so vivid the young couple appears on stage.
During the after-play discussion last Saturday, Stevens could only shake his head and marvel at seeing professional actors bring the story alive.
“I am thrilled,” Stevens said.
Gormly, a friend of Stevens, felt similarly, and told the audience how the two of them would get together for beverages and talk about the plays they were working on. “Oh, My! God?” grew out of his musing about what you might ask God if you happened to run into him on a hiking trail.
These plays will return, either in full productions or as staged readings, twice more this weekend. They’re still evolving, and audience members are always invited to stay after for a brief discussion.
The festival is a rare chance to see how new plays go “from the page to the stage,” noted Winter.
“Live theater,” she’s fond of saying to audiences, “wouldn’t exist without you.”
PlayFest 24, Key City Public Theatre’s festival of new works, is heading into its second and final weekend, with the first events set for today.
The 66-seat Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St., is the venue unless otherwise noted; while single tickets start at $10, festival passes to all stage events are $35 and a Writer’s Pass including Sunday’s play writing intensive is $95.
For show tickets and workshop registration, see keycitypublictheatre.org or phone the box office at 360-385-5278.
• Noon — Performance of “Upon This Rock” by Chris Hawley, discussion follows at Pope Marine Building, Water and Madison streets, $10.
• 2:30 p.m. — Readings of one-act plays by contest-winning local playwrights: “Oh My! God?” by Jim Gormly and “Timeless” by Wynne Stevens, discussion follows, Pope Marine Building, $10.
• 4 p.m. — One-Act productions by winning local playwrights: “Adults” by Angela Gyurko, “Geointerfering Inc. Bored’s Eye View” by Leonard Goodisman, “First Mountain” by D.D. Wigley and “Tea” by Doug Given, discussion follows, $15.
• 7:30 p.m. — An evening with playwright David Natale and his commissioned play “Around the World in 80 Days,” discussion follows, $20.
• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Play writing workshop, Pope Marine Building and online webinar, free.
• 1:30 p.m. — PlayFest Teen Lab production, discussion follows, $10.
• 3 p.m. — Open rehearsal of “Around the World in 80 Days,” Pope Marine Building, free.
• 5 p.m. — Open rehearsal of “Upon This Rock” by Port Townsend’s Chris Hawley, free.
• 7:30 p.m. — “Working Drafts” discussion of new plays by local writers, Pope Marine Building, $10.
• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Play writing intensive, Pope Marine Building and online webinar, $70.
• 2 p.m. — Readings of one-act plays by contest-winning local playwrights: “Oh My! God?” and “Timeless,” discussion follows, Pope Marine Building, $10.
• 3:30 p.m. — “Around the World in 80 Days” performance, discussion follows, $10.
• 5:30 p.m. — “Upon This Rock” performance, discussion follows, Pope Marine Building, $10.
• 7:30 p.m. — One-Act productions by winning local playwrights: “Adults,” “Geointerfering Inc. Bored’s Eye View,” “First Mountain” and “Tea,” discussion follows, $15.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.