In its third season as a theatrical company dedicated to new works, Pagosa Springs' Square Top Repertory is staging a festival of recently written plays.
The company has chosen three works from among dozens submitted to receive their world premiere readings, one of the festival's founders, director Charlie Pepitone, said Thursday.
Pepiton and his fellow founder, Shane Fuller, a playwright, sent out a call for plays in the fall.
"Four readers and teachers based in Texas and Massachusetts helped us weed them out and choose the final three," Pepitone said. "The decision- making took three rounds and some considerable time, all online."
The three winning playwrights - Joseph Frost of Jackson, Miss.; Joan Dunayer of Champaign, Ill.; and John Philpit of New York City - flew to Durango on Sunday to begin their stint as playwrights-in-residence. That same night, Pepiton said, they began reading and rehearsing the plays.
The playwrights are working alongside the company's directors - Pepiton, Fuller and Felicia Meyer - and a diverse cast of local and regional talent to hone their plays for the stage.
Four Durango actors are taking part: Wendy Ludgewait, Freddy MacDaniel and Fort Lewis College drama students Ian Colson and Geoff Johnson.
The week culminates in staged readings and talk-back sessions with the playwrights.
"Anathema" by Joseph Frost will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, directed by Fuller and featuring local actors Dakota Jarvie, Jeff Reardon and Lue and Dave Armbrecht.
Set in an Irish home, the play centers on an elderly working-class couple, Olive and George, who support their son, Shaun, and his art. Olive brings home a girl, Alice, who invades the family's lives, eventually taking over Olive's role as parent and art agent. Family secrets are revealed, and the need for redemption becomes clear.
"Seeking Flight" by Joan Dunayer will be at 7 p.m. Friday, directed by Meyer and featuring local talents Emmi Greer and Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton.
The comedy-drama takes place in a psychology laboratory. The main characters, Monty and Enzi, are African gray parrots. An experimenter tests the parrots' ability to understand and speak English, name, count and classify objects. Monty and Enzi already know enough English to understand what the experimenter says, but she has no idea. "Wanna be parrot! Wanna be free!"
"Contrapositive" by John Philpit, will finish the festival at 7 p.m. Saturday, directed by Charlie Pepiton and featuring seasoned Durango actors MacDaniel and Ludgewait. The thriller focuses on Father Joseph, a dean at a Roman Catholic college and Martha, a partner at a think-tank. The two considered marriage before he opted for seminary. When Martha shows up 20 years later, their mutual affection resurfaces. The tone takes a sinister turn when Martha reveals that she has stolen the only publicly available copies of his dissertation from Harvard Library and the Library of Congress, and she plans to eradicate all knowledge of the writing. This is a play of murder, conspiracy, faith and betrayal.
The festival is also a chance for local actors to perform.
"For new works, it's best to have people who are not highly trained actors," Charlie Pepiton said. "Trained actors sometimes gloss over the words. Actors who are more raw, but talented, read it as it is."