Thingamajig’s Playwrights Festival to feature new works from award-winning playwrights

Heidi Kraay

Jay Koepke

By Bill Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company’s 2019 Playwrights Festival this year will feature new works — still in development — by two award-winning playwrights, Heidi Kraay and Jay Koepke.
Under the guidance of internationally known director Melissa Firlit, the nearly three-week-long festival will also present short plays by Pagosa teens in a special reading on Oct. 26, as well as three weekends of Jaclyn Backhaus’ 2015 play “Men on Boats.” A crew of professional actors from around the U.S. will be assisting the playwrights in their script development.
“Men on Boats” opened last weekend, while the exploration of two original plays by Kraay (“See in the Dark”) and Koepke (“After Owen”) began on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts with an initial public reading of the fledgling works.
Tickets for the 2019 festival include the opportunity to watch the development of these two new plays; visit pagosacenter.org for tickets or call 731-SHOW (7469). Tickets can also be purchased as part of winter 2019-2020 season tickets.
Kraay was a top finalist at the Women Playwrights’ Initiative with her play “Cloudmelt”; a finalist at Creede Repertory Theatre’s Headwaters Festival with “How to Hide Your Monster”; and has had her work supported by grants from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the Alexa Rose Foundation, and the Boise City Department of Arts and History. She teaches at Boise State University.
Her new play, “See in the Dark,” portrays a time in the indefinite future, with the arrival of a young girl in Juneau, Alaska — now a struggling and desolate village — where the surviving community embraces her as their new hope until a boy shows up with brutal accusations. Set in Alaska after all the glaciers have melted and the ice fields have vanished, “See in the Dark” presents a mythic look at the value of compassion over suspicion.
Koepke has seen his past work staged in New York, Chicago, New Jersey and Pittsburgh, and has been a finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Contest and the New Jersey Playwrights Contest, and has twice been a semifinalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He also works as a photographer and talent agent in Chicago.
“After Owen” tells the story of David, who finds himself suddenly widowed and alone before the age of 30, after the death of his celebrity chef husband, Owen. But Owen’s spirit won’t let David rest until he has finished repairing Owen’s relationships with his ex-wife and child. By asking us to suspend our disbelief, “After Owen” leads us to deeper truths about growing up, fortitude and forgiveness as David takes ownership of his new life.
The festival will also present readings of past award-winning plays by the two playwrights, including Koepke’s “Adrift” and “The Oak Tree,” and Kraay’s “How to Hide Your Monster.” You can learn more about these additional plays at pagosacenter.com.
Firlit writes: “If you participated in the festival last year, we’re glad to have you back. If you are new to these events, we are so pleased you are joining us. Developing and workshopping new plays is a process, and a very sacred journey … During this year’s festival, we will be working to hone and strengthen the pieces that are in residency. We look forward to you, the audience, watching the progress each play makes …
“Journey is an appropriate word for the festival, the act of traveling from one place to another. In this collaborative journey with the playwrights, we hope that where we end up is different than where we start … It takes a village to get a play where it’s going.
“We are embarking on the journey together.”

This story was posted on October 19, 2019.