It has been going on for a number of years now – a summer treat at Silver Spring Stage in which original short plays are presented.
“By calling on playwrights, actors, directors and producers, we bring in new people to the theater,” said Alika Codispoti, who is co-producing this year’s festival. “We also bring in new audiences.”
Out of a total of some 210 submitted plays, the theater selected 14 to produce. “We have enough for three full weekends,” said Codispoti.
Brad Tehaan has the distinction of directing the play with the longest title: “The Mysterious Life, and Even More Mysterious Death, of That Guy Who Lived Below Max and Beth.” Its playwright, Mark Staufenberg, described the work as an “absurd crime story, a comedy.”
“The Mysterious Life” is playing the second weekend of the festival, Aug. 22-25.
Though he majored in theater with a focus on directing, Tehaan stepped away for a while, turning to film and video production. In the process, he got to know Jeff Mikoni, who is active at the Stage.
After assistant-directing there a few times, Tehaan felt encouraged to answer the one-act festival’s call for directors.
“‘The Mysterious Life’ premise,” Tehaan said, “is that Max and Beth live above another tenant they do not particularly like, but when he is killed, they are determined to solve the mystery.” Of course, complications ensue.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of the three-character murder farce. One is a cop; the only guideline to the character is that he is called “inscrutable.”
“There’s a lot of leeway in playing him,” Teehan added.
One challenge to directing “The Mysterious Life” is that Tehaan would like to do the larger set pieces and elements justice, but can’t for budgetary reasons. The satisfaction comes from “an excellent cast, with excellent chemistry,” he said.
Featured the third weekend, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, is Agyeiwaa Asante’s play “Help Wanted,” which concerns a woman with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside the uterus grows outside it, making intimacy with her husband painful. Trying to find a solution beyond medication or surgery, they hire a sexual surrogate. The inspiration for the play came from a real-life story.
“But it’s really about how normal everyday people try to handle everyday life,” Asante said. “It asks, are we logical when we think we are?”
Asante started out as a writer of poetry and short fiction, but she also did theater in high school and college.
While still at the University of Maryland at College Park, she had the opportunity to submit a proposal to produce a play. The result was “Swirl,” a play about an interracial couple having dinner with a friend. Asante’s production of her first play was included in the Page-to-Stage New Play Festival at the Kennedy Center in 2018 as well as in the Watermelon One-Act Festival.
“Help Wanted” had never been formally produced, and Asante said she was “so excited” when Silver Spring Stage got back to tell her it had been accepted.
It is performed during the third weekend, when “the more-serious adult work” is being presented, she laughed.
“But I’ve never been good at shock theater, which can be a distraction from what’s going on,” said the playwright, headed for an MFA program in the winter. “There’s nothing visually explicit.”
The final Sunday includes an awards ceremony.
The One-Act Festival takes place at Silver Spring Stage, Woodmoor Shopping Center, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. www.ssstage.org.