Vero Voce showcases new playwrights, plays

It’s a chance to hear new voices on stage.

Twenty-four original one-act plays will be presented at Vero Voce Theatre during its first-ever New Playwright Festival.

For three weekends at the St. Charles theater, local playwrights will get the chance to see their works come alive. Each of the weekends consists of eight different plays.

“There’s comedies, very dark dramas, lighter dramas, a few farces and a couple that are very avant-garde,” said David M. Rodriguez, theatrical artistic director at Vero Voce. “One is basically poetry.”

Several of the one-acts will be fully produced, with the remainder presented as staged readings.

Earlier in the theater season, area playwrights submitted original scrips for one-act plays. The plays had to be a minimum of five minutes long, at most 30 minutes. In December, Vero Voce board members reviewed the scripts, which cover a variety of topics.

“Some of them are clearly, clearly personal for some of the writers,” Rodriguez said.

Several deal with loss. One tells the story of a man who can’t retain memory. Another deals with suicide and the repercussions of it.

The tale of a hit man on his last job before he retires is told in another one-act. The farces deal with families and situations like guests who won’t leave, someone who has one drink too many and more.

“We are doing our best to spread them out. We don’t want to have five dark ones in a row,” Rodriguez said. “We do mix them up and get the comedy in there so everybody can get a nice breather.”

Performing the one-acts are area actors and students at Vero Voce. The playwrights were invited to attend as many rehearsals as they wanted. All of the directors were given rules regarding the scripts, said Rodriguez, who is both acting in a few of the plays and directing some.

“You can edit, you can always cut the fat off it, but you can not add anything. If you add anything, you’re saying you have better ideas than the writers, and that’s not what we’re doing here,” he said. “But also at the same time, once you hand the script over, it is no longer yours.”

Part of Vero Voce’s inaugural season, Rodriguez said he hopes the New Playwright Festival — his “baby of the season” — becomes an annual event.

“This is an idea I’ve had and actually pitched to other theater companies in the past. It’s just been incredible finally being getting the chance to do it. I’ve written several plays, I’ve had a few produced in Los Angeles. It’s hard to do that, especially in the Chicago suburbs, because everybody is doing ‘The Odd Couple,’ ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ ‘Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat),’” he said. “The burbs and the community theaters have the tendency to do the same shows over and over again. They’re great shows, but we’ve seen them so many times.”

If audiences want to see something new, they have to go to the city or storefronts, he said. And not everybody has the chance to get to Chicago or wants to pay the parking or take the time to get there.

“This is an opportunity for writers like myself to say, ‘hey, I’ve gotten a pen and paper and I think I have great ideas and I want people to see them and give me some feedback. What can I do better? What should I never do again?’” he said.

“Everybody’s a writer, but not everybody gets the chance to either be told they are in fact writers or be told ‘you’re on the right path, you just got to work a little harder.’”

During the festival, Vero Voce will also announce the adult and children’s productions for next season.

Tickets for the New Playwright Festival are $15 for one day, or $35 for a festival pass good for all three weekends.

“A lot of people do want to see all of them,” Rodriguez said of the plays. “There’s a lot of theater lovers out there who want to see something new.”

New Playwright Festival ♦ To March 9 ♦ Vero Voce, 951 State Ave., Suite F, St. Charles ♦ Tickets: $15-$35 ♦ (630) 584-0139