PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Playwrights’ Festival brings life to stage

PORT TOWNSEND — Inside the 66-seat Key City Playhouse, life is unfolding, in all its comic, work-in-progress glory.

This version of life, distilled into performances, is known as the 16th annual Key City Public Theatre Playwrights’ Festival, running through the coming week and wrapping next Sunday, Feb. 26.

The festival is a showcase of new plays and local playwrights, from “Senior Street Show” by Deborah Daline of Port Townsend to “Dream Voyeur” by Jack O’Connor of Chimacum to “Diary of a M.A.D Caregiver” by Denise Runyon Fleener.

Then there are three one-act plays, “Parrot,” “PRNYC” and “The Rug,” presented together at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, from Port Townsend-area playwrights Sandy Diamond, Mark Rose and Richard Weston.

These one-acts mix humor with serious subjects, said Erin Lamb, Key City’s production coordinator.

“Each has a subtle, surprise ending,” she added.

The festival also offers theater workshops including the TeenLab led by nationally known playwright and actress Constance Congdon. Congdon will coach 13- to 18-year-olds Saturday from 6 p.m. till 9 p.m., and then present a showcase of their work at 5:30 p.m. next Friday, Feb. 24. To sign up for Saturday’s TeenLab workshop, which costs $45, phone Key City Public Theatre at 360-379-0195.

For adults, Congdon is offering a free playwriting class from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. this Saturday and an $85 advanced playwriting intensive from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. Sunday. Potential participants should call the Key City office for details.

One of the rarer aspects of the Playwrights’ Festival comes in the plays in progress: three stories staged in order to draw audience feedback. These include New York playwright Charlie Bethel’s one-man adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Bellevue writer Gin Hammond’s “Man Catches Fish” and Fleener’s “Diary of a M.A.D. Caregiver.”

In “M.A.D.” — which stands for Mom and Dad — Fleener reveals her life as a caregiver for her elderly parents in Sequim.

She moved in with them back in 2004 and began writing a blog about living in her childhood home while taking on an entirely different role.

At first, Fleener didn’t figure anyone would want to read her blog; then she realized lots of caregivers out there can relate to it.

In writing the blog and then the play, she also hoped to introduce people to her father, who is “an unusual character.”

“People like my dad don’t come along,” Fleener said.

Her blog about her parents, who have been married 67 years now, is still online at livwitmad.blogspot.com.

And in its very young stage, her play “Diary of a M.A.D. Caregiver” will make its first appearances at

7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday and at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday, Feb. 25.

Meanwhile, “Man Catches Fish” is another play taking shape during the festival.

It’s a fishing tale told from a variety of perspectives — including the bait’s — using stand-up comedy, burlesque and other formats.

After Port Townsend, playwright Hammond hopes to take the show on the road, to events such as the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia.

Readings of “Man” at the Key City Playhouse are slated for 7 p.m. Thursday and next Sunday, Feb. 26.

Three other plays will be presented as staged readings: Daline’s “Senior Street Show,” O’Connor’s “Dream Voyeur” and “Delayed for Weather,” by Port Townsend playwright Steve Fetter, will come together at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Playwrights’ Festival is a chance, then, to taste the many styles of theater.

It’s also a celebration of local talent and an opportunity for audiences to help writers and actors develop new plays.

“We have a pretty active writing community,” said Lamb, “and there’s a real need for works to have a place where they can go through this process.”

With the festival, “we take the richness of what we have locally, and fortify it.”

Admission to each Playwrights’ Festival staged reading is $10, while tickets to the three one-acts — “Parrot,” “PRNYC” and “The Rug,” which are full productions — are $15.

All will be performed at the Key City Playhouse at 419 Washington St., and a complete calendar and more details await at www.KeyCityPublicTheatre.org.

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