When eight writers from different walks of life create a theatrical festival, what emerges is a mixed bag of comedy and drama, realism and surrealism, and musical and non-musical work. In fact, there’s only one common thread: all of the contributors are based in Monterey County.
The festival, Monterey Plays, pulls together local artists and theater makers whose previous work has been featured in Monterey County and beyond. Performance artist Janice Blaze Rocke, who organized the event and supplies work of her own (the short play Brick House and the monologue “Blaze”), says she wanted a diversity of local voices.
Erik Roycraft, a Salinas-based playwright who previously worked with Rocke’s performance group Erotic Eclectic on his play Euphoria, was one of the first people on Rocke’s mind as she developed Monterey Plays. Roycraft’s play, Daylight Savings, delves into the inner monologues of a hospital patient with a communication barrier.
“It’s about displacement, and feeling alone in a chaotic world,” Roycraft says.
The theme of communication, or lack thereof, informs another short play. In He Fell In, But I Did Not, Nadine’s lunch hour is interrupted by a woman named Sharon, who speaks in unusual and affected tones. While at first Nadine tries to brush her off, Sharon’s persistence – and inner strife – force her to engage.
He Fell In is inspired by an experience in which playwright Nina Solomita was approached by a Sharon-like figure in public. Unlike in the play, Solomita left without talking to the woman.
“I thought it would be interesting to find out what would have made the woman who left stay,” Solomita says. “I created a need to interact. That need comes from the fact that they both have similar pain.”
Aside from the one-acts (which also include Pink Flamingo alum David Norum’s Euterpe, a short musical depiction of the relationship between a bar pianist and his divine muse, a live-wire cabaret singer), the festival features a slew of even shorter material. A number of writers who don’t mainly identify as playwrights, including Nicole Henares and Aideed Medina, submitted monologues and spoken-word pieces.
Rocke hopes Monterey Plays won’t be a one-off. “This is something I think we will do every year,” she says. “Once we get the ball rolling, I think we’ll be able to generate a broader range of plays.”