Oregon Stage Works Playwrights' Unit rehearses a scene from 'Quarky,' by Julie Excell. From left are Brian Fraser, Mary Rexford, Scott Ford, Catherine Foster and Victoria Simone Stewart. - Bob Pennell

'Hidden Agendas'

"Hidden Agendas," staged readings of six new, short plays by the Oregon Stage Works Playwrights' Unit, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, June 28-29, at the Unitarian Center, Fourth and C streets, Ashland. Admission is $10 at the door.

"The common theme of the plays (undisclosed plans and ulterior motives) is one that the writers wanted to explore," says Peter Alzado, artistic director of Oregon Stage Works who is directing the readings. "Each piece is a sharp and witty story that is told in each writer's decisive way. What's fascinating is that these writers have taken control of their work. They share insights as a group to help develop their craft and their strengths."

Members of the Playwrights' Unit meet at least twice a month to read and critique each other's work, and occasionally actors from the community will join the meetings to read and offer supportive criticism. The members also organize their staged readings, present their work twice each year to the public and publicize their own shows.

Each of the plays in the current readings runs about 10 minutes.

Opening the evening will be "Quarky," by Julie Excell. When a candidate vies for a pastoral post, skeletons are discovered in members of the search committee's closets.

"Cuisine to Die For," by Catherine Foster, takes a look at men in a weight loss support group who find their wives strangely unwilling to help them in their effort.

"Bird in the Hand," by Catherine Noah, city editor of the Mail Tribune and the Daily Tidings, is the story of hard-boiled detective Dick Sixkiller, who did an honorable thing when he took in his dead partner's wife and child. But now he's tempted to a life of adventure by a buxom blonde.

"How to Be a Player in Reality Lit," by Molly B. Tinsley, is about a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who berates the professor who once humiliated her — and launched her writing career.

"HELP!," by Mary Rexford, is the story of a family that struggles to cope while paralyzed by grief.

"The Other Side," by Bob Valine, is about a recent widow who turns to a psychic for answers — and finds a few surprises.

Reading the plays will be actors Julie Excell, Scott Ford, Catherine Foster, Brian Fraser, Aubyn Heglie, Alexei Menedes, Josiah Phillips of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Barbara C. Rosen, Gloria Rossi and Victoria Simone Stewart.

Though Oregon Stage Works closed its theater in March, the organization lives on through the Playwrights' Unit and Ashland Children's Theatre, which is holding theater camps this summer.

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