Peck Plays Range from Romantic to Ridiculous

by Molly Gilmore

An Improbable Peck of Plays, a festival of theatrical nibbles to tempt a variety of appetites, is back. The fifth Peck, a collection of nine works by Northwest playwrights, opens Nov. 10 at OlyTheater in Capital Mall. The festival, a collaboration between Theater Artists Olympia and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance, features plays on a broad range of styles and subjects, each about 10 minutes in length.

Theater Artists Olympia’s Improbable Peck of Plays is “A Play About Fish,” featuring, from left, Heather Christopher, Stephanie Kroschel, Jennie Jenks, Kyle Murphy and Aiden Sommerville.

“It’s quite diverse,” said TAO vice president John Serembe, who’s organizing the event and directing two plays. “There’s a kind of romantic one and kind of a mystery. There’s one that has to do with climate change in a kind of fun, bizarre way. It’s told by trees. There’s one that’s a little bit absurdist with people playing fish. It’s just a real eclectic bunch. There’s a little bit of everything.”

Serembe, the publisher of OLY ARTS, is directing both “A Play About Fish,” by Kamarie Chapman, and “New World Under,” by John Longenbaugh. “Fish” plays on the notoriously short memories of goldfish. To quote TAO’s Facebook promo: “What would the most important questions in your life be if your memory reset every 30 seconds?”

The time was right for the return of Peck, Serembe said. The festival was a local favorite in the early 2010s at the still-lamented Midnight Sun Performance Space in downtown Olympia. In the festival’s early days, Artesian Theater and Prodigal Sun Productions were involved, and the festival became a TAO mainstay when the company took over the Midnight Sun before it closed in 2017.

“We’re bringing back the tradition,” Serembe said. “We love having new works by local playwrights. There was always an intention to go back to doing this once we had an actual space.”

This year’s Peck has a celebrity connection: It includes a play by Dan Erickson, who grew up in Olympia and was nominated for two Emmy Awards for his work on Apple TV+’s “Severance.” Kathy Dorgan, who taught Erickson when he was a student at Olympia High School, is directing Erickson’s “A New Life in a Lifeless World.”

Erickson’s work has been featured in Peck before, and the screenwriter isn’t the only longtime participant who’s involved this year. Tom Sanders, who’s directing three plays for Peck V, has been part of the festival since the early days as both actor and director. (Fun fact from NWPA’s Bryan Willis: Willis directed Sanders in one of Erickson’s plays as part of a past Peck.)

Sanders said he loves the variety that short-play festivals offer; in the past, he has directed as many as four in a single festival. This year, he’s directing “Guitar Lesson,” by Dano Madden; “Smiling Cat Candy Heart,” by Jennie Webb, and “If We’re Still Single,” by Adria LaMorticella.

He feels lucky that he got to direct every play he chose from among the scripts the playwrights alliance sent for the festival. Sometimes, he said, directors are vying for the chance to direct a particular script.

“I was surprised that I got all three of the plays I asked to direct,” he said. “I thought other people would be trying for the same show. … I’ve got some good subject matter in all of the pieces I chose. Even in the ridiculous one (‘If We’re Still Single’), there’s good subject matter.”

Also part of the festival: Mia Teirney’s “Me and You Together in Cancún,” directed by Drew Doyle; Glen H.’s “The Man Who Fell Off His Bicycle,” also directed by Doyle; and Amy Tofte’s “The Vagina Read,” directed by Jonathan Hart.

In the casts are Molly Anders, Twana Beedle, Heather Christopher, Jennie Jenks, Stephanie Kroschel, Ren Miller, Kyle Murphy, McKenna Soderberg , Aiden Sommerville and Anne Tracy.

An Improbable Peck of Plays V

7:30 p.m. Nov. 10, 11 and 16-18 and 2 p.m. Nov. 12 and 19

OlyTheater, Capital Mall, 625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia. (The theater is near the cinema.)



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