Local writers debut new plays at festival


After a day of acting, writing and directing, a group of Key City Public Theater actors piled into the Pope Marine building for their last rehearsal of the day on Saturday night.

The playwright had news for them.

“I’ve made some edits,” said Henry Feldman, author of “Global Warming: A Comedy,” one of the featured full-length plays in KCPT’s Playfest 23, the festival of new works.  

With a flutter of pages and the uncapping of many pens, the actors were off, highlighting their parts, learning new lines, and taking a look at the playwright’s cuts.

“At this point, I’m pretty bleary,” said Genevieve Barlow, an apprentice at KCPT. “But it’s also just festival mode.”

Barlow was reading the stage directions for the comedy during that night’s rehearsal. The previous night, she had played the part of “Max,” in “Hold Steady,” by featured playwright Tira Palmquist. The previous weekend, she had directed two of the festival shorts.

The phrase “festival mode” was like a mantra, said repeatedly to induce a new mental state. Barlow shook off the bleariness and dove into the script, making notes, crossing out cues and giving the actors advice before the rehearsal began.

“Let’s go to page 12,” the director said. “That’s Lenny and Hank.”

Like Barlow, the actors on stage had played multiple parts in the last week and even though it was nearing the end of the festival, the minute rehearsal began they, too, entered “festival mode,” and threw themselves into character.

The second weekend of Playfest 23 featured three full-length plays in various stages of production.

On Friday night, Palmquist’s “Hold Steady” provoked intergenerational discussion, as a largely middle-aged audience watched a group of 30-somethings wrestle with “millennial” adulthood: including the ever-looming student debt, messy relationships, failing companies, and the shame of having to move back home.

“Millennials get a bad rap,” Palmquist said. “In actuality, they’re some of the hardest-working people I know. It was kind of a love letter to this generation.”

Playfest was the second time “Hold Steady,” had been performed, and Palmquist said she enjoyed working with a different group of actors to discover new facets of character development.

For local playwright D.D. Wigley, Playfest was the first time to see an audience react to her new play, “Needles And Pins,” which debuted Saturday afternoon.

“When I’m in the process of creating, I don’t always have all that much perspective,” Wigley said.

Wigley took an ordinary “whodunit” crime-solving storyline to new levels with a noir fairy tale twist. Her risk-taking—such as writing a character who is a talking cat—paid off.

“I learned that it isn’t just me that loves my play,” Wigley said.

Feldman took risks in his, “Global Warming: A Comedy,” as well, although some ended up on the writers room floor. But the cuts to his play, which was performed Friday night, refined on Saturday and performed again Sunday, only made the dark humor of his global warming comedy stand out more.

His process of seeing his work performed and then spending hours editing and refining his writing is the exact reason KCPT’s Playfest exists.

“What I hear a lot is, ‘I’m not quite ready for you to look at it yet,’” said Denise Winter, director of KCPT. “I hope this festival has expanded that viewpoint for playwrights; that it’s never going to be ready. You just have to be brave.”


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