KAILUA-KONA — For aspiring playwrights, finding a theater to produce their play is the most difficult hurdle to a successful career. Next weekend, six writers will have that opportunity to get their foot in the door.
In its 25th year, Aloha Performing Arts Company’s annual Original Play Festival presents six new, never been produced plays over the course of four days at Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu. The six plays will all be directed and performed by local talent, while the playwrights hail from all over the country.
A former journalist, Patricia Kenet is the writer behind “Ten Minute Warning,” a short play about Hawaii’s false missile alert in January of this year. This is the first play written by the New York-based writer to be produced, and was it one chosen out of hundreds of submissions.
“I’m 58-years-old and I’m just getting my feet wet in this world, and it’s very exciting to be a mature but emerging playwright,” Kenet said. “I think there’s always chances for people to have second or third acts.”
“Ten Minute Warning,” directed by Victor Lugo, will be one of the plays opening the festival Wednesday. Also to be performed is “Maybe It Won’t Happen,” written by Ron Radice and directed by Yasir Bey and “Paindemonium,” written by Joyce Fontana and directed by Randall Shirley.
Thursday, Aug. 16, features “Going Wild,” by Peter Snoad and directed by Nikki Johnson, followed by “October Kiss” on Friday, Aug. 17, written by Brian Slayton and directed by Harli Meech. The festival closes with “The Uninvited Guest,” by Maryanne Truax and directed by Rich Mears, on Saturday, Aug. 18.
Kenet said she plans to attend the festival next week for her first-ever trip to Hawaii. She said she wrote “Ten Minute Warning” before she had heard about the festival, and called it luck that she had a Hawaii-based play to submit.
“I wanted to examine what people would say and do in my imagination when they were faced with that dread,” Kenet said. “I was very intrigued by the human side of that situation. I read a few articles in the New York Times about people’s reactions to being threatened, and then I just let my imagination go with that situation.”
For others, the writing process hit closer to home. Slayton based “October Kiss” on real events he witnessed while working as a nurse.
“The play focuses on a family whose trying to deal with their teenage sons diagnosis with terminal cancer and it kind of explores their whole dynamic,” Slayton said. “I kind of modeled the characters off what I saw in the hospital. Something that kind of shocked me the most is, in real life, most people don’t have Oscar-winning meltdowns. It’s a lot more internalized. So I tried to bring some honesty and realism to the plot and to the characters.
“The main character, the 19-year-old whose dying, his story is pretty much spot on from what one of my patients went through, and then the rest of his family is kind of a inspired by a bunch of people who filled those roles.”
Slayton said being a nurse has provided him with a lot of inspiration to write. “October Kiss” is only the second full-length play Slayton has ever written.
“For me, it was since so much of this play is true of what I went through, writing it was kind of therapeutic for me,” Slayton said. “My best writing days were when something really emotional or horrible happened during my shift. And the only way I was able to get through it was to write.”
The Georgia-based writer and nurse hopes the audience at Aloha Theatre experiences the same feeling when watching the play.
“What I hope the people get out of it is just something that they can connect with,” Slayton said. “I did a private table read with some other actor friends when I was in the development process of the play, and afterwords a lot of people shared that they had a family member or a friend that went through something similar. Because of the honesty and the realism of the play, it really touched them and gave them an opportunity to share what they went through and express their feelings.”
Some of the plays to be performed at the festival are written by more experienced writers. “Going Wild” is one of 20 full-length and short plays written by Snoad, who lives in Boston and was previously a journalist.
“Going Wild” is about a small-town librarian from the Midwest whose violation of local lawn ordinances sends her on a journey filled with social media stardom, environmental organizations and terrorism accusations. Snoad said he feels lucky to have his play be one of the few chosen.
“Like most playwrights, I submit all the time and mostly don’t get selected so it’s always nice when someone says they want to do your play,” Snoad said. “And after many, many scores of rejections, because that’s kind of the name of the game. You can in fact paper your entire house with rejections. But this time, I was fortunate.”
To have six original plays performed on the stage next weekend is something Snoad believes is valuable to the theater community not just on Hawaii Island.
“The Aloha Theatre is doing something really important that isn’t done enough, which is to produce new work for the stage,” Snoad said. “There are thousands of playwrights like me that produce new work every year and it’s very hard to get your work done because of the nature of the economics of the theater. So many theaters feel that to survive economically, they need to put on plays that are tried and true, that people have heard of to put those butts in seats, to sell the tickets.
“I think those theaters that decide they’re going to try and be a place where new plays can be done and tested out and find an audience is a tremendous gift to playwrights and a tremendous gifts to the people in the theater.”
Info: Each night of the festival begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $5 for each night. At 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, a free potluck reception honoring the participants of the festival will be open to the public. For more information, visit apachawaii.org.