Park Circle Play Fest is a theater extravaganza 

Reading Rainbow

The Greater Park Circle Play Fest is about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. For Wando High School drama teacher Lori Carroll, that means directing grown-ups.

"This will be the first time I've directed only adults," Carroll laughs. "Hopefully they'll be well behaved. But there's no guarantee." She's directing a reading of Post-its... Notes on a Marriage on Sept. 11.

Play Fest takes place Saturday nights throughout September. As the only festival of its kind in the area, you can expect works from a variety of playwrights, from Post-its' New York-based husband/wife team Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley to local film pro and City Paper contributor Nick Smith.

These are staged readings, so while the actors will embody the characters, and in some cases props and costumes are incorporated, it's much less formal than putting on a full-fledged staged production — too difficult a feat to pull off when you're presenting three different short plays in one night. But if you've never attended a staged reading, you'd be surprised at what a good group of actors can do when they're simply reading from a script.

The month kicks off with Smith's debut of his new play Fairy Tale Endings, a story about a young woman who teaches fairy tales and struggles to find equilibrium between fantasy and reality. "It's a reflection of the 20th century and how we can be so naïve — even when we know better — because we're all so hungry for that happy ending," Smith explains. For local writers and actors like him, Play Fest provides a great opportunity to share their work.

Post-its is another promising play — Holzman wrote for My So-Called Life and The Wonder Years and is now executive producer of the new TV series Huge. It will be accompanied on Sept. 11 by two other shorts: Currency Express by Alex Broun and Soda Jerk, based on a book by Cynthia Rylant about the inner workings of a small Southern town.

"These days, we try to pack so much into these tiny sound bytes and texts," Carroll says. "Post-its encompasses 57 years of marriage in 15-20 minutes, and yet there is so much to be read between the lines. It's warm, it's human, it's funny, and it touches on all the milestones of marriage in a truly poignant way."

Also of note in the lineup is New York-based Neal Lerner, a professional actor and published playwright who's appeared in more than 100 TV shows, films, and plays in New York and around the country. He's traveling to Charleston from Los Angeles to perform his funny, urban, and (self-proclaimed) neurotic new play about balancing the family you're born with and the family of friends you choose.

Tickets for all shows are $7 for adults and $5 for students, making this an easy opportunity for folks to step out and support the development of community theater in Charleston.

After all, as Carroll says, "In New York City, if you get off the beaten tourist path, you'll find the places that are doing truly exciting things in theater are the small places, the community places. That's what we're hoping to build here."


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