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East Georgia presents 'Works in Progress'


April 19, 2016

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    Last August, Professor Sebastian Verdis of East Georgia State College put out a call for playwrights to submit to his sixth annual 10-minute play writing contest, "Exit Stage Right." Friday, April 22, the three winners of that contest will see their plays read onstage in the winners' showcase, "Works in Progress."
    "Works in Progress" strives to "capture the talent, imagination and creativity of the students, faculty and community" of East Georgia State College, according to the school's press release about the event. Verdis developed and launched the event several years ago "to showcase the talent and creativity of local actors and playwrights." Though smaller than Georgia Southern University and the Averitt Center, EGSC and Verdis' competition give local artists a valuable opportunity to refine their crafts.
    "I Never Did," by Sue Jarriel Garcia of Claxton, is the evening's most touching offering, telling the story of a caretaker in charge of a person with dementia. Nijer Reaves, of Savannah, takes a completely different tack with her submission, "Chicago's Best," which depicts a conversation between two twenty-somethings  — a college student and a barista — in a coffee shop. And the final piece, by East Georgia State College professor Kenneth Homer, is a sci-fi comedy titled "The Man with Two and 1/2 Brains," which Verdis described as a playful throwback to the B-movies of the '50s.
    These three pieces made it through a judging process that considered 22 pieces from all throughout the Southeast Georgia region. This year's panel was staffed by EGSC humanities faculty: Dr. Sandra Sharman, Professor Kathy Whitaker and Assistant Professor Linda VonBergen. 
    The prize for the three playwrights is to have their scripts read onstage. As soon as the panel named the winners, Verdis held auditions for readers from the community and netted actors from as close to home as Statesboro and as far as Hinesville and Pooler. 
    "Basically, everyone who came out and auditioned got a role, because I didn't have that many," Verdis said. "Luckily, the right people showed up. And that's all that counts."
    "Works in Progress" will not stage the scripts as full-fledged productions with sets and costumes. The actors face the unique challenge of performing "reader's theater": a stark, minimalist performance medium in which the actors act only from the neck up, with facial expressions and line delivery to highlight the playwright's scripts rather than an overall production. It is a different theatrical experience, but it gives the audience free reign to imagine the play's trappings for themselves. 
    "The great thing about this is that it really draws attention to the writing of the playwright," Verdis said. "It brings out the words and the craftsmanship of the playwright."
    A question-and-answer session will follow the show, allowing playwrights to react to the performance of their work and for all participating members — audience included — to discuss the play-writing process, from pen to performance.
    The show will begin at 8 p.m., although audience members are encouraged to arrive early to ensure good seats. Tickets for the performance are $5 and can be purchased at the door of Statesboro's EGSC campus the night of the performance.

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