From hundreds of plays, only five were chosen to be part of the Elite Theatre Company’s Ninth Annual One-Act Play Festival, which kicks off on Friday, Jan. 12. As in prior years, there’s a healthy mix of comedy and drama. As always, every play is a world premiere. This year’s selections include works by playwrights from California, New Mexico, Georgia and New York City, and they hold more than the promise of the new. They highlight what the Elite Theatre is all about.
“Our passion is to showcase new plays and playwrights,” says Artistic Director Tom Eubanks. And it shows. The festival features fully produced one-act plays, meaning they’re fully formed little worlds, not just staged readings. For audiences, that’s like being served a flight of the most exciting new things on tap.
The plays represent different points of view, but they all take very personal looks at what it means to be human. In Victimology, written by Rachel Linton and directed by Katrina Rabusin, siblings meet outside a courtroom, where they confront each other and their troubled past. The Waiting Room, written by Steven Doloff and directed by Howard Leader, invites us into a hospital lounge where we meet “all manner of people,” including a man who is anxiously awaiting his son. Playwright Terry Riley’s Obits is about two elderly friends who meet for tea and find some interesting reading in the local paper. The “gray” comedy is directed by Angela DeCicco. Five Days in Calcutta, by Fred Perry and directed by Larry Swartz, is a dark comedy about two very different brothers, one an artist and the other a doctor, who find themselves drawn into a Kafkaesque situation. Finally, three eccentric sisters, one charming insurance investigator and a missing $50,000 brooch set the stage for Sisters, Tramps and Thieves written by Lily Rusek and directed by John Comstock.
The festival runs four weekends only, but the Elite Theatre’s dedication to fostering new plays and emerging playwrights is ongoing. Since 2009 the company has dedicated itself to featuring at least one world premiere per season on the Main Stage. This season, Elite will produce two: Fifteen Men in a Smoke-Filled Room by Colin Speer Crowley as well as Eubanks’ own Thespis Thinks. These new works share the 2018 season with the classics: True West by Sam Shepard, Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts and Bus Stop by William Inge.
Elite’s smaller South Stage will feature innovative new works and works in progress, as well as staged readings throughout the season. Later in the year, the theatre will host the Second Annual Pachyderm Project, which is especially close to Eubanks’ heart. His daughter gave him the idea to mentor high school students who wanted to write, direct and act in their own works.
“This is not a youth production aimed at kids,” says Eubanks. It’s serious theater that is the culmination of a lot of honed talent and hard work. The students pick a theme and, over the course of several months, develop fully produced one-acts and monologues around that theme. This year’s theme: “Old enough to know better. Young enough to want to do it anyway.”
The practice of producing original works may not be overly common among community theaters, but it’s not something Elite is about to stop doing anytime soon. It’s the company’s passion, and it’s profitable. And, as Eubanks says brightly, “It’s a lot more fun than fundraising.”
Catch the One-Act Play Festival Jan 12-Feb. 4 at Elite Theatre Company, 2731 S. Victoria Ave., Oxnard. For tickets and more information call 483-5118 or visit www.elitetheatre.org.