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PlayFest Santa Barbara Spreads Its Wings with Taste of New Season

In preparation for 5th Annual Festival of New Plays in January, group stages benefit and premiere performance of The Boondawgle Estate this week

On Sept. 15-18, PlayFest Santa Barbara will present the world premiere of The Boondawgle Estate, an original play by Peter McDonough, at Center Stage Theater at Paseo Nuevo in downtown Santa Barbara. An opening night fundraiser Thursday benefits PlayFest Santa Barbara and DramaDogs. Click to view larger
On Sept. 15-18, PlayFest Santa Barbara will present the world premiere of The Boondawgle Estate, an original play by Peter McDonough, at Center Stage Theater at Paseo Nuevo in downtown Santa Barbara. An opening night fundraiser Thursday benefits PlayFest Santa Barbara and DramaDogs. (PlayFest Santa Barbara photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is the third in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article, and click here for the second.]

PlayFest Santa Barbara, the little theater festival that finally grew up and moved out, will celebrate its Ffth Annual Festival of New Plays in January.

Born on the Santa Barbara City College campus to founders and co-artistic directors R. Michael Gros and Jeffrey Meek, the event received critical praise but suffered low attendance in its first few years, perhaps due to its insular location.

But for 2016, the fledgling theater festival tested its wings and found itself a new nest, at Center Stage Theater at Paseo Nuevo downtown. And finally, its productions had well-deserved full houses with excited audiences.

The next phase of life for PlayFest starts this week when, in preparation for 2017’s festival, it will present the world premiere performance of 2016 honoree playwright Peter McDonough’s The Boondawgle Estate, done as a staged reading then. Long-time creative partner DramaDogs is producing the show, which features a rich array of talented local actors and runs Sept. 15-18 at Center Stage Theater.

“Our hope always has been that the work we present in our festival goes on to be fully produced,” Gros said. “Our mission speaks to the development and support of new plays, new playwrights and audiences. This production hits the mark on all three points.”

The Boondawgle Estate is a very funny farce set in a 1930s New York manor home inhabited by an eccentric family and all their foibles.

“We hope that this delightful comedy will draw in an expanded audience for DramaDogs, an active creative partner from our first festival four years ago, and will further expand the Santa Barbara arts community’s awareness of the work of PlayFest,” Gros continued.

Opening night, Thursday, will be a special fundraising evening benefiting both PlayFest and DramaDogs. A pre-show reception at 6:30 p.m. on the Center Stage plaza will feature wine and light hors d’oeuvres, with the performance beginning at 7:30 p.m. A post-show reception with dessert, wine and coffee will provide an opportunity to discuss the play and mingle with the playwright, director and actors.

While the script has not significantly changed since the reading in January, DramaDogs co-artistic directors Ken Gilbert, who is directing, and E. Bonnie Lewis, producing and acting, have become very familiar with it in past months.

“Changes in the script have been minimal, a word here and there,” Lewis said. “For example, my character was referred to as a butterfly, but during our creative process and through the deepening of my own character choices, she felt more like a hummingbird. Hence, the change was made in the script.

“When you stay with a script for a longer time, words and images come forward that didn’t have the time to manifest for a staged reading.”

The Boondawgle Estate features E. Bonnie Lewis as Victoria Overhill, Josh Jenkins as Entrance Overhill, Tyler X. Koontz as Exit Overhill, Alyssa Hadfield as Tess Overhill, Meredith McMinn as Edna Snodgrass, Kathy Marden as Gertrude Thornbush, Jean Hall as Mabel Meadowsedge and Paul Canter as Mr. Fornby & Captain Agelford. Click to view larger
The Boondawgle Estate features E. Bonnie Lewis as Victoria Overhill, Josh Jenkins as Entrance Overhill, Tyler X. Koontz as Exit Overhill, Alyssa Hadfield as Tess Overhill, Meredith McMinn as Edna Snodgrass, Kathy Marden as Gertrude Thornbush, Jean Hall as Mabel Meadowsedge and Paul Canter as Mr. Fornby & Captain Agelford. (PlayFest Santa Barbara photo)

This is an exciting development for PlayFest and for our local theater community in general.

“Moving The Boondawgle Estate to full production will help the national theater community see PlayFest as a legitimate, professional and successful organization and pathway for new play development,” Gros said.

“While not our first success, this production continues our positive track record of supporting new work development. We do need to continue to develop our Board (of Directors) and local community support, so our fundraising evening on Sept. 15 is an opportunity to do both and to highlight PlayFest’s partnerships with local arts organizations to support their efforts in expanding and deepening Santa Barbara as a home for theatrical development. We hope to attract some potential community partners new to PlayFest through this evening of celebration.”

So what is the next step for PlayFest?

“PlayFest is the early stages of preparing for our Fifth Annual Festival of New Plays in late January 2017,” Gros shared. “We are now open to submittals of new work, seeking local theater companies as festival partners based on the successful multicompany collaborative festival we presented in 2016, and are, of course, seeking financial support.”

It is clear that PlayFest is providing an infusion of energy and momentum to the Santa Barbara theater scene.

“We have worked with PlayFest since its inception,” Lewis said. “Personally and professionally, our company has grown from connections with these new and exciting playwrights. Our artistic sphere has expanded. When the community recognizes that theater companies grow with PlayFest in our realm, then we are truly moving forward.

“Stories inspire us. Stories tell truths we may ponder. Stories move all of us forward.”

Tickets for the opening night fundraiser are $53, or $96 per pair and are available at the Center Stage Theater box office. Call 805.963.0408 for more information.

Click here for more information about PlayFest Santa Barbara. Click here to make an online donation to PlayFest Santa Barbara. Connect with PlayFest Santa Barbara on Facebook.

Click here for more information about DramaDogs.

Noozhawk contributing writer Justine Sutton can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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