By George Basler
The six plays to be performed this weekend and next at KNOW Theatre in downtown Binghamton range from a love story set inside an informational technology office to an intense confrontation between a wife and her unfaithful husband.
The plays didn’t just come from the imaginations of the six playwrights. They were inspired by three works of art being displayed in the lobby of the theater at 74 Carroll St.
For the ninth year, KNOW is presenting a Playwrights and Artists Festival that takes three works of visual art and challenges playwrights to write one-act plays inspired by the artwork. A panel of judges, including KNOW Artistic Director Time Gleason, then blind-reads the submissions and picks six plays to produce — two for each work of art.
The plays will be presented this Friday through Sunday (Nov. 16-18) and Nov. 23-25 — two plays each night. After each performance, KNOW Theatre brings out drinks and snacks and asks audience members to stay for a dialogue with the playwrights, directors and actors, Gleason said.
“The audience feedback is a key element to the whole thing that is experimental to begin with,” Gleason said. “The playwrights know it’s early in the writing process, and the audiences can help move their plays forward.”
KNOW Theatre started the festival in 2003 at the suggestion of Jan Quackenbush, a Broome Community College faculty member, as a way to honor Leonard Melfi of Binghamton and Harry Koutoukas of Endicott, two playwrights who achieved international recognition in the world of experimental theater. Another BCC faculty member, Jim Gormley, came up with the idea of marrying the visual arts to theatrical productions, Gleason said.
Planning for the festival takes place over several months. First, Gleason visits a Binghamton art gallery, directed by John Brunelli, to pick the three works of visual art. KNOW posts them on its website, and writers submit plays inspired by the art. The shows are judged by a three-person panel. KNOW received 20 submissions this year, Gleason said.
This year’s plays are inspired by Untitled Photograph by Binghamton photographer Tice Lerner, Hand Study by Vestal artist Joseph Daily and In the Name of God by Christopher Hynes of Austin, Texas, Gleason said.
The six plays are: Sub-Prime by Lisa Huberman about the confrontation between a banker and a woman whose property is being foreclosed; In Time by Jonathan K. Fitts about the battle between a philandering husband and his wife; Rays by Marshall Frey, a comedy about the existence of God on a first date; My God in an Angry God by Maria DeLucia about a man telling his daughter about a plan to deal with his Alzheimer’s disease; Broken Wings on St. Maurice by Charlene Donaghy, focusing on a young girl living through the turmoil from an assault, and There’s Never A Chance But The One You Take by Sean Walsh, a play with music about love in an IT office.
Two of the playwrights, Fitts and Donaghy, had plays produced earlier this year at KNOW Theatre as part of a collaboration with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
The Playwrights and Artists Festival gives the playwrights the opportunity to get feedback early in the writing process, Gleason said. At the same time, the visual artists get the perspective of having “someone look at their work and take it to a whole different place,” he said, noting: “I love the collaboration of different mediums.”
Tickets at $10 per night/$20 for a weekend pss are on a first-come, first-served basis in the 76-seat theater. Seating is general admission, and ticketsare available at the door. All performances take place at 8 p.m. The schedule is:
Nov. 16, 24: In Time and Sub-Prime
Nov. 17, 25: Rays and My God is an Angry God
Nov. 18, 23: Broken Wings on St. Maurice and There’s Never A Chance But The One You Take.