Playwrights Roundtable showcases local playwrights, interesting stories

It’s about to get freaky in the Carrboro ArtsCenter.

Tomorrow evening, the Playwrights Roundtable will present “Unnatural Acts,” a one-night-only collection of five short plays described as “the good, the bad, the strange and the beautiful.”

“We usually have a theme for our show, but this time we couldn’t decide on one,” said Annie Taft, a member of the Playwrights Roundtable. “So we started looking at our pieces, and someone suggested the name ‘Unnatural Acts.’ We all kind of liked it.”

All the plays — two comedies and three dramas — contain atypical plots, she said.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Taft said.

“Close to Home,” Taft’s aptly-titled play, is about a high school shooting and its effects on one family.

“With recent events, it is very close to home,” Taft said.

She said the tragedy at Sandy Hook sparked the idea for her play, and that she was interested not just in the victims of the families, but also the victims of the shooters’ family and all the people who knew him.

“Like with the bombing in Boston, all these people are saying he was such a nice kid … he was such a good kid. It’s just so shocking that there’s this whole other side of people that we’re completely unaware of,” Taft said. “It’s bizarre, to hide such a huge side of themselves and no one would know they’re capable of such tremendous violence.”

Taft said she wants the audience to consider and discuss what they’ve just seen.

“We’d really like to open up a dialogue about the whole gun control issue and the fact that we have such a violent culture,” Taft said.

John Paul Middlesworth’s play, “Hidey Hole,” is a situational comedy in which a minister’s wife unwittingly gives away their secret sex tape.

While he said his piece is purely for entertainment, Middlesworth, a member of the Playwrights Roundtable, said several of the plays raise some genuine social issues.

“Each play raises its own purpose, and you really need to be there for it,” Middlesworth said.

He plays the husband in Playwrights Roundtable’s member Paul Behrman’s play, called “Prophylaxis.”

It is about a woman contemplating a mastectomy to offset her chance of developing breast cancer, which runs in her family. It is set in the future, when insurance companies pay for preventative maintenance operations.

The Playwrights Roundtable is a play development lab comprised of people who foster a love of playwriting and theater, Middlesworth said. They meet once a month to share and read their work, and
perform at the ArtsCenter biannually.

Jeri Lynn Schulke, artistic director of ArtsCenter Stage, said she is appreciative that Chapel Hill and Carrboro support community theater. Still, she said that playwriting is a much more difficult art form to share with others — as opposed to music or studio art, for example.

“For a band or a singer you can go online and listen to them and say, ‘Oh yeah, I like them! I’m gonna check them out,’ as opposed to a play, which you can’t see before you actually see it,” Schulke said.

“It’s harder for playwrights.”

Despite this difficulty, Mark Cornell, a member of the Playwrights Roundtable, said being a part of this group keeps him motivated.

“I know that once a month, I have a place where I share my plays and have them read. So for me, the best part of this group is that it keeps me writing all the time,” Cornell said.

Cornell’s comedy is about two dimwit detectives investigating the murder of a sheep on Old MacDonald’s farm.

“It’s really, really, really silly,” Cornell said, whose play departs from the dramas he typically writes.

Cornell said he just wants people to be entertained.

“I really just want people to laugh and have a good time,” Cornell said.

“For the whole evening, I just want people to be glad they got out of their house and went to the theater.”


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