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The Risk Takers

New works on the rise at local theaters

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SIDE SHOW It’s OK to drink Merlot, despite what ‘Sideways’ author Rex Pickett says.
  • SIDE SHOW It’s OK to drink Merlot, despite what ‘Sideways’ author Rex Pickett says.

The hard truth about running a theater is that, for the most part, companies tend to be just one or two low-performing shows away from shutting the doors. Popular plays tend to put butts in seats, so it takes real guts to program a new or little-known show—and something akin to insanity to schedule a world premiere.

Despite this, several local theaters remain committed to new works, and many have announced that premieres will continue to be a part of their upcoming seasons of shows. One small theater—the Guerneville-based Pegasus Theater—has devoted its entire current season to original works.

This is cause for celebration, and audience support. Without new works, especially from young, up-and-coming playwrights, the future of American theater is dim. The best way to assure that theater does not die is for more theaters to take those risks, and to find new and creative ways to sell those new plays to the next generation of theater-goers.

Pegasus, which just completed a run of Merlyn Q. Sell's Tempestuous, a breezy, Russian River homage to Shakespeare's Tempest, will be presenting a staged-reading of Richard Manley's new play A Fish Story (July 16 at the Rio Nido Roadhouse). Pegasus then continues its 16-year-run of Tapas (a series of original one-acts), Aug. 11–27 at the Mount Jackson Masonic Lodge, and concludes its season in November with the world premiere of It's All Relative, a collaborative work by Scott Lummer, Maureen Studer, Jacquelyn Wells and Russell Kaltschmidt.

Left Edge Theater in Santa Rosa has announced the world premiere of Sideways, a new stage adaptation of the hilariously dark, Oscar-nominated movie, with a new script written by Rex Pickett (pictured), on whose novel the movie was based. It runs Sept. 8–Oct. 1, kicking off a series of shows that, if not entirely new, will be receiving their Sonoma County premieres.

6th Street Playhouse, which last year presented two world premieres, plans to include a Bay Area premiere this September, though the title and author have not yet been announced. And in Sebastopol, Main Stage West continues its own string of doing at least one premiere a year with the one-woman show Mary Shelley's Body (Oct. 13–30) (disclosure: I wrote the novella), featuring Sheri Lee Miller as the ghost of Mary Shelley, who authored the groundbreaking Frankenstein.

Finally, in December, the Raven Players in Healdsburg, will present the world premiere of Tony Sciullo's A Vintage Christmas, described as a cross between A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life, set in contemporary wine country.

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