Milwaukee Chamber Theatre


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

by Education Director/Literary Manager Jacque Troy; Originally written for MCT's WORDPlay newsletter

Every year, I'm grateful to be on the final reading panel for Wisconsin Wrights. This five-year-old organization, created and sustained by UW-Madison faculty and staff, provides opportunities for emerging Wisconsin playwrights, which is reason enough to applaud their efforts. But through MCT's four-year partnership with them, we've had even more reasons to cheer.

You've probably noticed A THOUSAND WORDS by Gwendolyn Rice slotted for a February production this season. We found this evocative play two years ago through WI Wrights and grew even more attached to the script through a workshop and public reading as part of our Montgomery Davis Play Development Series. So perhaps it's not surprising that we once again found a play and playwright that we're gladly showcasing as part of our reading series. WI Wrights finalist OCTOBER, BEFORE I WAS BORN by Lori Matthews will be featured as a staged reading on Monday, Sept. 19 at the Broadway Theatre Center.

Given that I receive about one play submission a week, every week, from eager playwrights across the country, finding a piece that resonates for this company is surprisingly rare. Nine plays advanced to the final round of competition with WI Wrights and were sent to readers at the end of March. I admit to having been intrigued or amused by the plays about famous '60s musicians, soldiers stranded in Antarctica, and ghosts in a costume shop. But a three-character comic drama set one hour after a 1960 explosion at the Tennessee Eastman Company dazzled me. A recent review of my response sheet showed undeniable enthusiasm: "This family dynamic is very unique and so enjoyable. Each character exists beyond all stereotypes." When asked to list the play's weaknesses, I unreservedly noted, "Nothing, to my mind."

Since final play selection at MCT always rests with Producing Artistic Director Michael Wright, I passed the script along with a short memo that began "I love this play!" Michael agreed. In fact, he embraced the piece as passionately as I, and despite his already packed artistic schedule, insisted that he wanted to direct the reading.

Apparently we are not alone in our enthusiasm for this incisive and life-affirming play, which is based on actual events experienced by playwright Lori Matthews' relatives. OCTOBER, BEFORE I WAS BORN was recently awarded first place at the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights produced by the Barter Theatre of Virginia.

OCTOBER, BEFORE I WAS BORN will be performed on Monday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Broadway Theatre Center's Skylight Bar & Bistro, located on the second level. MCT Producing Artistic Director Michael Wright will direct cast members Michael Cotey, Raeleen McMillion, April Paul and Ken Williams.

The reading is FREE of charge, with donations kindly accepted. Reading reservations are not required; seating is first-come, first-served. The Skylight Bar & Bistro will be open for dinner service beginning at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact MCT at 414.276.8842.

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