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Ojai Playwrights Fest Talks Politics

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Now headed up by new artistic director Robert Egan--producing director for the Mark Taper Forum--this year's Ojai Playwrights Conference is taking a turn toward the political. Egan's mission for this weeklong retreat is to tackle the big themes, not simply via the kinds of plays and playwrights he has chosen to workshop but also by scheduling two community symposia--something the conference has not done in the past.

Community members are invited to attend and participate in the two symposia. Led by playwrights, they will cover such issues as race, class, and political theatre.

"There is a kind of focus that we are giving the conference this year and maybe in following years," said Egan. "Not only are we looking for great quality theatre pieces that need development, but we are particularly looking for writers and projects that are attempting to grapple with the important social, cultural, and political issues of our day. Particularly at this time, when we are going through such a profound and important exploration and redefinition of who we are, it's important to have a conference that has that as a priority of its developmental agenda."

Now in its fifth year, the conference culminates in readings of works-in-progress by participating playwrights Arthur Kopit, Jessica Goldberg, Kelly Stuart, Luis Alfaro, and Jon Robin Baitz.

All plays will be presented at the Zalk Theatre at Happy Valley School, 8585 Highway 150 in Ojai, CA. Submission inquiries from playwrights should be sent to the Ojai Playwrights Conference, P.O. Box 1288, Ojai, CA, 93024. The following is the conference's complete schedule:

Symposia

Tuesday, July 23, 7:30 p.m.: "Race, Culture, & Class on the Pacific Rim: What's coming out of West Coast Theatre?" A conversation with Luis Alfaro, Chay Yew, Lisa Loomer, and Jessica Goldberg.

Thursday, July 25, 7:30 p.m.: "A Political Theatre in 21st Century America: What is it and what is it about?" A conversation with Jon Robin Baitz, Arthur Kopit, and Kelly Stuart.

Workshop Presentations

Friday, July 26, 8 p.m.: Arthur Kopit's Discovery of America is based on the actual diaries of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a fortune-seeking Spanish nobleman and one of four survivors of an ill-fated 1527 expedition to conquer Florida.

Saturday, July 27, 2 p.m.: Teen Playwriting Workshop Presentation. The culmination of a weeklong workshop led by playwright Laural Meade, titled "Why Don't You Just Go Write a Play About It?"

Saturday, July 27, 5 p.m.: Jessica Goldberg's Katzman and the Mayor. The mutilation of a Jewish man's corpse in a cemetery of a small American town sets off a chain of events that uncovers long-simmering resentments and the buried secrets of two families.

Saturday, July 27, 8 p.m.: Kelly Stuart's Mayhem. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has a lie. Whether it's the genocide in far corners of the world, the drive-by shootings across the street, or even the homegrown mayhem on the other side of her kitchen table, Susan needs to decide which story will be hers.

Sunday, July 28, 1 p.m.: Luis Alfaro's No Holds Barrio. A new solo theatre piece created with the assistance of director Chay Yew.

Sunday, July 28, 3 p.m.: Jon Robin Baitz's The Paris Letter. A tragic game of financial and moral betrayal is played out over four decades between two friends. The play addresses the human costs of denial and self-delusion to family, friendship, love, and marriage.

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