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Good Things Come in Threes

See for yourself in three days of Compass Rose Theater’s New Play Festival

Local authors Katherine Haas, Cindy O'Neill, Lynn Schwartz, Kimbra Cutlip, Alan Young and Jane Elkin.

A three-ring circus excites us with more than we can possibly take in with only two eyes.
    A three-act play relies on incitement, complication and resolution.
    Compass Rose Theater’s New Play Festival promises three days of ambition, achievement and aspiration.

Day I: Ambition
    Imagine success at playwriting as a mountain to be climbed. Friday evening you see one playwright beginning the climb, another working his way up. You’ll be the first audience for both playwrights.
    Sixteen-year-old playwright Hannah Geib calls it an “amazing experience” to see her real-life drama, The Bully Play, acted by and for real people.
    Rising playwright Mark Scharf agrees: “It’s exciting to see your work performed for the first time. It’s like Christmas, a first date and becoming a father for the first time — a combination of feeling exhilarated and terrified.”
    Scharf’s Freefall is a philosophical dramedy about a drop-out pestered by his uptight coworker. The playwright has twice been O’Neill semi-finalist and runner-up for the 2012 Piccolo Spoleto Festival’s Todd McNerney Playwriting Award.
    Author Dan Baum, who begins Saturday’s program, has taught play writing at Anne Arundel Community College. He’s making a new climb in Lance the Lunkhead, a children’s play about a dog who longs to roam beyond his invisible fence — until a cat enters his yard. Baum wrote Lance to encourage his children’s interest in the theater. He likes working with children, he says, because they get the jokes.

Day II: Achievement
    Lee Blessing has climbed the mountain. The prolific and successful playwright — with theater, television and screen writing awards — will share the view from the top on Saturday evening.
    If you go to the theater in Annapolis — or any other city in the nation — you’ve seen his plays. Eleemosynary, his shortest and most produced, closed last week at Compass Rose, where it earned a Helen Hayes recommendation. (See full review at www.bayweekly.com/node/16385).
    If your idea of good drama is Homicide, you likely remember his Double Blind episode in season five.
    He’s had plays in production for nearly 40 years, but it’s still thrilling, he says, especially when his work leads to change.
    Blessing told Bay Weekly he was still elated from the St. Paul premier of his biographical play about hometown boy Harry Blackmun. A planned statue of the controversial Supreme Court Justice, which had been stalled for years, received funding soon afterward. “I felt like my play helped,” he said, noting that his enduring works deal with chronic problems that continue in changing form, particularly plays with a geo-political theme.
    Looking ahead to the challenges and rewards future playwrights can expect, Blessing says, “It’s a unique era in which things are happening that haven’t in 500 years. It’s not just that we’ve changed the way we see the world, but the way we communicate. It will affect every art form that uses words. I think it would be a terrific time to enter the profession.”
    Blessing takes the stage Saturday evening, before the reading and after a wine-and-cheese reception.

Act III: Aspiration
    Seven local authors wrap up the festival Sunday afternoon with Page to Stage Readings, paired with live music, the brainchild of writing coach Lynn Schwartz.
    I’m one of this group, along with Iain Baird, Kimbra Cutlip, Katherine Haas, Karen Ippolito, Cindy O’Neill and Alan Young. Most of us write for the page, and all of us are writing about our own lives: Peace Corps regrets; coming to grips with a family member’s mental illness; a near-death experience; a competition for the strangest foods ever eaten; an adventurous life lived on three continents; a diplomatic Glasnost toast; and a coming-of-age story. As playwrights, we’re still at the aspirational stage, imagining ourselves talking on the mountain.
    Food, drink and talk follow.

Tickets for most events: $10; $75/three-day: 410-980-6662; www.compassrosetheater.org/registration/new-play-festival.