OC-Centric Puts the Spotlight on Local Playwrights

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It's said that every bad decision results in a good story. That may be why there is  a theme to the five plays that are part of the second annual installment of Orange County's original play festival, OC-Centric, which concludes this weekend at Chapman University.

“I think if there a theme, even it's just by happenstance, it's that  the plays are relatable to the human condition,” says festival founder, and co-producer, Tamiko Washington. “Even though each play is about something completely different, it seems like they are all about the decision-making process and what happens when (characters) make the wrong decision.”


This marks the second year of the festival, inspired by Washington's realization that Orange County, though continually marginalized in most artistic discussions, is a hotbed for dramaturgical expression.

“Most people seem to think that (most interesting new plays) come from other places, like New York, but there are some fabulous writers working in Orange County,” says Washington, who has taught theater at Chapman University for the past 14 years. After seeing a play by Orange County-based playwright Jordan Young five years ago in Laguna Beach, Washington said “it really opened my eyes to starting a new play festival that showcases Orange County writers'  work and actually produces those plays so people can actually see their quality.”

Unlike new play festivals that focus on staged readings, OC-Centric focuses on full productions. This year, one full-length play, The Dirt and its Harp in Her Mouth, by Tustin's Megan Breen is featured, along with four one-acts by OC writers Colleen Bevacqua, John Lane, Ken La Salle, and Sydney Nikols.

The goal of the festival, Washington said, is two-fold. First, it gives OC playwrights a forum to see their work produced in full-fledged productions. Second, it affords them the opportunity to display their talents to a wider audience.

 “I think it's important for (local writers) to collaborate with other local artists, because if you don't know what other people are doing, how can you develop partnerships with other community-based artistic organizations,” she said. “But it's also a way for local writers to get more recognition and to show what they're capable of. In terms of new plays, people don't think local. They think, 'what are you doing regionally or nationally?' But a lot of our local playwrights have had plays produced across the United States but there's still (this stigma) that since people don't know their names, they are not as serious.”

The reality, Washington says, is that OC playwrights have as much to say and, just as important, the talent to say it, as writers in any other part of the country.

“There is so much quality to OC playrwrights, something that a lot of people don't know about because there aren't a great deal of local productions,” she said. “But OC playwrights are smart, they are savvy, they have great ideas and, most important, they know how to tell stories. And that's what theater is all about. To tell stories.”

This is the second year of OC-Centric and Washington says she and co-producer Eric Eberwein are committed to making it a long-term affair

“We're not going anywhere,” she says. “At some point we may open the festival to writers from Los Angeles or other (neighboring communities.) But right now, this is an Orange County new play festival and we're committed to continuing that.”

Chapman University's Studio Theater, Moulton Center Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,. 2 & p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (714( 902-5716. http://occentric.weebly.com/

Joel Beers has written about theater and other stuff for this infernal rag since its very first issue in, when was that again???

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