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Greenfield Recorder – Greenfield’s “On the Boards” Festival provides stage for ongoing plays

Greenfield Recorder – Greenfield’s “On the Boards” Festival provides stage for ongoing plays

Greenfield Recorder – Greenfield’s “On the Boards” Festival provides stage for ongoing plays

The On the Boards Festival of Play Readings is underway at the LAVA Center in Greenfield for the second year in a row, giving local playwrights a chance to get feedback on their plays in progress.

“The focus of the festival last year and this year was to encourage local playwrights to work on new plays,” said Vanessa Query, manager of the LAVA Centre. “So these are all new works that are being written. … They are all at slightly different stages of development.”

Mary Nelen’s play, “The Female Gaze,” began its six-week run last weekend with a “fabulous” reception.

“We had a great crowd,” Nelen said. “Really good, positive responses, and the best thing was that we had a discussion. … We got to hear from the audience what worked for them and what they loved and what they didn’t understand.”

Nelen said he appreciated the opportunity to get feedback on the piece while it was still being revised.

“I probably have two more drafts to go before it’s over, and that was a great experience for me because I got to see what really needed to be tweaked,” Nelen said. “I feel so grateful for LAVA and their dedication and organization as well – it’s pretty impressive.”

Over the course of the six weekends the series runs, 12 tracks will be shown. The plays are performed either as staged readings or table readings.

Another playwright participating in the series is Nina Gross. Her play, “The Inheritance,” is set in the antebellum South and is about identity and power. “It’s about all the elements that become our collective heritage.”

“I am very grateful to the LAVA Center for giving me the opportunity to work on this project,” said Gross. “I went with the idea that I had that felt like it would be a core of something that could be great, and I’m really glad I did that. And I feel that I had the opportunity to develop something. When something truly wonderful comes your way, you take it. That’s how I feel about it. I feel very, very grateful for the opportunity and I want it to fly.”

Last year, Gross wrote three scenes of the play — the idea for which came to him in a dream — written when he heard about the LAVA Center’s table reading series. She participated in 2023, but said her game has stepped up since then.

“Right now, I’d like this to be the release of the song,” Gross said.

“On the Boards” brings a wide variety of tracks into the spotlight.

“They are all really different from each other. There are lots of different forms of theater – there’s traditional narrative theater and then there’s stuff that’s a bit more artistic and experimental, there’s some comedy. … And there are also some deeper, really serious issues that are being addressed, and I think that’s also really great and important,” Query explained. “I look forward to them all. They are all really interesting and unique and so much passion has gone into everything.”

Another example, Beth Filson’s play “The Moon Over Us,” explores trauma and memory. It has two actors playing a character at different stages of life – one in his 20s and the other in his 60s.

“They talk back and forth, through narrative, about memory and how we construct memory,” Filson said. “What rises to the surface and is claimed as ‘story’ and what sinks below the surface and is forgotten.”

“It’s a work in progress, which is really important to know because it’s still changing and evolving,” she added. “I’m working on autobiographical material that focuses on traumatic memory and how trauma is often transformed into something quite meaningful through the process of storytelling.”

Professionally, Filson has worked for many years sharing her experiences of trauma to reform the mental health system. She came to dramaturgy out of a desire to share more of her experiences in her personal life as well.

“I was really determined to bring all my stories to my community, not just the mental health system. … About two years ago, I left like I was hiding so much of who I was and all the stories that I had from friends and neighbors and just regular people,” Filson explained.

Despite being trained as a poet, drama seemed to him the right medium to explore memory.

“I was looking for a medium that I could really play with to explore my stories in a much more multidimensional way,” she said. “It was pretty fun and interesting.”

Program

The following readings of the piece are as follows:

■ Saturday, June 22, 7 p.m. – “Happy Shabbos, Aronsteinowits!” and “The Fourth Dimension.”

■Saturday, June 29, 7 p.m. — “Phoenix in the Holy Land” and “Acacia.”

■ Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13, 7 p.m. – “The Moon Over Us” and “Cancer Mother.”

■Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20, 7:00 p.m. – “The Man and His Shadow,” “Modern Times” and “American Smellie.”

■ Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27, 7 p.m. — “Heritage.”

Tickets are on a sliding scale from $5 to $15 and can be purchased in advance at tixtree.com/o/lava. More information about “On the Boards” can be found at thelavacenter.org/on-the-boards.