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Local playwrights to showcase work in Columbus bicentennial celebration

Courtesy of Aynn Titchenal

Local playwrights will see their works featured as part of the bicentennial celebrations in Columbus this year.

The Bicentennial Playwrights Festival, presented by Evolution Theatre Company in association with CATCO, is scheduled to run Wednesday through Oct. 20, presenting six short plays, with additional performances on select nights at Van Fleet Theatre.   

Written by local playwrights, the plays are also set in or are about Columbus.

Mark Phillips Schwamberger, Evolution Theatre Company’s managing director, said short plays were selected through a submission contest. About 50 plays were submitted, and a reading committee selected six winners – “Gallery 10” by Leslie Robinson, “Paperback Jack” by Kevin Lottes, “Vested” by Austin K. Steinmetz, “Shut up Mr. Mandelbaum” by Robert Cooperman, “Room Service? Send Me a Room” by Johnrick Hole and “Mother of Presidents” by Robert Flanagan and Sheldon Gleisser. Also, two additional plays, “Spurlos Versnakt” by Laura Fullerton Gillbert and “‘Maudine Ormsby’ from YOUNG LOVE,” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

“Actually, the two additional plays first came to my attention when colleagues at the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre (Research) Institute at the (William Oxley) Thompson (Memorial) Library presented them to me,” Schwamberger said.

He also said the variety of plays should give the audience a good feel for the city that is celebrating its 200th birthday.

“We have historical plays, comedy, drama and political plays,” Schwamberger said. “I think that presenting diverse plays is a very good way to entertain as well as educate people, because those can give the live view of what happened in Columbus.”

Referencing the plot of “‘Maudine Ormsby’ from YOUNG LOVE,” he said, “I’m sure that many people don’t know a cow was elected (Ohio State’s) homecoming queen.”

The Bicentennial Playwrights Festival is free to the public but accepts donations. Schwamberger credited the Columbus community for making it a free event.

“We have lots of community support for it,” Schwamberger said. “I think the community wants to celebrate the city’s bicentennial. It only comes around once. Also, (the communities) want to encourage local artists. We have at least 30 artists associated with this festival.”  

Gleisser, one of the playwrights of “Mother of Presidents,” said working with Evolution Theatre Company has been a great opportunity for him.

“It’s been a terrific experience,” Gleisser said. “I think Evolution Theatre Company is getting a reputation. It has done something special here showcasing original works of Columbus.”

Gleisser also said he is honored to be part of Columbus’ bicentennial celebration.

“It’s Columbus’ 200th birthday, (which is a) very unique opportunity,” Gleisser said. “I think a lot of plays deal with issues that (are) important to Columbus and (were) written by people from Columbus. What’s a better way to celebrate than that?”

Katelyn Matuska, a third-year in political science and women’s studies, agreed this event is a good way to celebrate Columbus’ 200th year because it is a way for people to learn about Columbus.

“I think all theater (has the) ability to be educational,” Matuska said.

Schwamberger said he also believes in the educational power of theater and hopes the audience will see that value in this event.

Van Fleet Theatre is located at 549 Franklin Ave.

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