'Moonlighting' short plays pack a punch

It’s time for the annual “Moonlighting” presentation of short plays by creative locals, half of the plays produced, costumed and blocked, the other half just read. They're a cultural snapshot that take you on an adventure, “confounding your expectations.”

Presented by Ashland Contemporary Theatre, the event features direction by longtime Rogue Valley thespians Peg Rubin and Jeannine Grizzard, the latter writing and acting in “Emmeline Pankhurst,” about the heroic suffrage campaigner who won the vote for women in Britain. Directed by Rubin, it’s a produced monologue and comes from Grizzard’s play, which opens next April.

“The plays are character-driven,” says Grizzard. “Who they are pushes the boundaries of what people might expect.”

Grizzard directs playwright Molly Tinsley’s “It Is What It Is,” a lampoon of two women who are singers for peace in a supposedly worldly town like Ashland, but events force them out of their comfort zones and pull the covers off their purity. It’s one of the produced plays.

In the futuristic “Give” by Cynthia Rogan, four women are shoved in a room, but don’t know what is happening to them. They are free to speak their minds, be suspicious and bicker, as prisoners do. To escape their world, which is controlled by an oppressive government, they must team up and go through an exit door.

The message, she says, is that “when women work together, we can make things happen."

"With the election, we started to slide," she says. "We realized we were headed to a place we’ve already been, and it’s going to take women working together to get out of it and move forward … . We have to break through our need to compete against each other. We hurt each other by not working together.”

In “Playthings,” by Mark Saunders, three dolls, Barbie, Teddy Bear and GI Joe, are being sold at a garage sale. They have been owned by the family for ages and want to stay together. They are a metaphor for long-term employees who get laid off unexpectedly. Saunders knows whereof he speaks, as he laid off many people in the dot.com bust.

The message? “We all have values and are valuable,” he says.

In Bob Valine’s “The Other Side,” we see a grieving widow whose husband dies suddenly. A friend tells her to see a fortune-teller. His message: “Love when you can.”

In David Copelin’s “Quite Contrary,” directed by Michael Meyer, we have the Virgin Mary (after her son dies) giving an unexpected lesson to two monks, reminding them that she and her son are Jews. The two monks are stripping cathedrals of their “bling” as Henry VIII converts Britain to Protestant ways. Mary is a statue that comes to life.

The playwrights form the Rogue Playwrights Circle, founded by Copelin, who teaches college-level playwriting courses. They meet and create twice a month at Camelot Theatre in Talent.

The shows are at Ashland Community Center at 8 p.m. Saturdays, Nov. 11 and 18, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 12 and 19. A matinee is at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Grizzly Peak Winery at the end of East Nevada Street. Wine will be available.

Tickets are $15 at Paddington Station, Grocery Outlet and ACT’s website, http://ashlandcontemporarytheatre.org/.

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