Special theater event set for Saturday

See three short plays focusing on love

BUCKHANNON — What’s love got to do with it? Come to Loar Hall at 7 p.m. Saturday and see three plays with different takes on the love theme.

The first Buckhannon Community Theater playwright competition and festival was an idea brainstormed by board member and membership coordinator Jill Okes.

“We do a lot of largely known and sometimes lesser-known plays in this community,” she said. “I recommended to the board to do a playwright competition to encourage new ideas within the community and to bring some new artists and playwrights into the fold that haven’t been part of BCT before.”

A one-day playwriting workshop gave budding playwrights some guidance if they had never written a play before. Wesleyan associate theatre professor Thomas Schoffler led the class. 

The plays had to be 10 to 15 minutes in length and were all based around the theme, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

“They are all a little bit different,” Okes said. “They are quirky and very deep and thought-provoking, but it’s connected with love.

“We took submissions in August and the committee sat down and reviewed all the submissions and pulled three from the several submissions we thought would be best to showcase this year. We are having local directors direct the play and collaborate with the playwrights. This is one of those great opportunities where they are able to take the time to adapt from the original script and work through the process.”

Bryce O’Loughlin, of Buckhannon, said he saw a poster for the playwright festival just a couple of days before the deadline.

“I went home and wrote down a play,” he said. “They selected three plays, and I’m also the only playwright that has applied to direct as well.”

Although O’Loughlin had a short time frame, he has written, acted and directed before.

“When I was in high school, we could not afford the rights to any plays, so we had to write them ourselves,” he said.

O’Loughlin also wrote and directed a play for WVWC a few years ago and he has been active with Buckhannon Community Theatre.

O’Loughlin’s play is a short, science fiction musical entitled “Mothership.”

“It’s been a lot of fun to see it come to life,” he said. “I have a very talented cast and they are so good that I don’t need to overdirect them. I just let them follow their instincts and they are hilarious.”

Another budding Buckhannon playwright chosen to be in the featured in the festival is Abigail Benjamin.

“I grew up in Buckhannon and directed my first play when I was a sophomore in high school at B-UHS,” she said. “I also acted in Buckhannon Community Theatre.”

Benjamin returned to Upshur County in August when her husband accepted a position at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Not long after that, Benjamin learned about BCT’s Playwright Festival.

“I was just really happy and to be back in Buckhannon, and some of my family friends were talking about submitting plays to the contest,” she said. “This is my very first time writing a play, but I love theater and I love to act. I’m so thrilled and happy.”

Benjamin’s play is based on another work she authored.

“The play came out of a novel that I wrote,” she said. “I have been working on this novel for about three years and it’s been very much a solo project.”

The play, entitled “The Women of the Gallery,” is about two women, one 40 and one 25, who are both mothers and developed a friendship through Facebook but are meeting for the first time.

“They are meeting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and taking a moment out of their motherhood to do something for themselves and figure out their identity and place,” she said. “They are having some tension.”

Benjamin’s play is directed by Matasha Weaver, a BCT veteran, who is doing an amazing job, she added.

“I had rewritten some of the play to take place with a younger character, and it’s amazing to change something in a play, hand it over to the director and two actors and get the validation that they like my story,” Benjamin said.

The third play being performed was written by Don Narkevic of Nutterfort.

The festival is also showcasing a Wesleyan alum, Liv Hancock, who wrote her own play and then made a film that will be shown at the end of the festival, according to Okes.

“The film is a little less than 10 minutes and it’s called ‘The Rest I Can Do Without,’” Okes said. “It was produced and filmed on campus.”

At the end, the audience will get to participate in a discussion with the participants and the adjudicators.

First prize in the playwright festival garners $150, while second place and third place get $50.

Tickets are available for $10 online at www.buckhannoncommunitytheatre.com or at the door.

“This year is the first year we are offering season tickets, and for those who buy season tickets, the festival is free,” Okes added.

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