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Love Talks:

Thalian Hall studio theater
310 Chestnut Street
8/3-7, 11-14, 18-21, 8 p.m.
Sun., 3 p.m. matinee • $14-$17

Wilmington boasts a full theatre scene, showcasing the talents of many actors, directors, theatre companies, musicians, and costume and set designers across town. Oftentimes, we (the audience) are treated to the classics of Broadway, a la “Ragtime” or “Anything Goes,” as well as Pulitzer Prize dramas like “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Of course, we also get cult classics, “Rocky Horror Show,” and smaller performances that do no less to convey broadened depth. Only during certain instances are we enlightened to the work of a script from local writers.

Cape Fear Theatre Arts embraces the latter this week, thanks to their inaugural New Works Festival held at Thalian Hall’s studio theater through most of August. Beginning Wednesday, August 3rd, the festival encompasses nine plays, all hashed out by various local writers—most of whom aren’t even playwrights. Known as “How-to-Fall-in-Love-in-10-Minutes-or-Less,” its director, Nicholas Gray, began molding the series a year ago around a significant theme to which most can relate.

“In my original conception, I knew I wanted to bring a cohesiveness to [it],” he says, “which is why I decided on love. It’s a loose tie we’ve found, of course, as [it] comes from so many different places, offering very different perspectives and tones.”

New Works will debut plays by Hilarie Burton (“White Collar,” “One Tree Hill”), local artist Isabel Heblich, former local thespian Ingrid Jungermann, local writer Brad Land (“Goat”), along with others, including Gray who has had plays featured in festivals in New York and D.C. Each writer was required to create his or her own love story with a few simple rules in mind: Make it less than 10 minutes, include only three characters and write within any setting. The outcome runs the gamut of storylines—from same-sex couples to prison-inmate pen pals, a down-on-her luck singleton to friends falling for each other thanks to a “murderous” cat.

“I’m pretty honored that each playwright has entrusted me quite exclusively with their work,” Gray says. “Because of that, I have felt a great responsibility . . . and take it much to heart how their work should be individually presented.”

A couple of writers have even dropped in on rehearsals and added insight to the progression of show. “That’s always an informed experience for myself and the actors,” he notes. “One of the things I’ve most enjoyed working on is the idea that in all cases but one, none of these characters have been performed before. The actor literally gets to create this character; I’ve encouraged them all to take that leap.”

The cast is 11 strong, consisting of 21 roles. Morganna Bridgers, Rachael Moser, Caleb Andrew Ward, Christy Grantham, Declan Simmons and others are working without confinement to boundaries and previous interpretations. This can be ground-breaking for the escape of raw emotion, something which can’t be denied when dealing with love.

“Love is easy for some, while not for others,” Gray, who also acts in the series, states. “Sometimes it comes from a chance meeting; other times, it can spring from a very dark tragedy. We see it all—I think it should be an entertaining ride for the audience.”

The most challenging aspects of the production have been realized within set design. Nine different plays means various locales need to be represented, all with minimal stage time to switch and maneuver, as to avoid a fidgety audience.

“Early in the game, I sought . . . to conceive projections that could be used for each piece,” Gray explains, “accompanied by a 15-piece color-coded block system that could ideally be used to make up any ‘set’ in the foreground of the space. I have had some really beautiful projections designed by local graphic artist Audrey Cregan. Terry Collins from Scenic Asylum has constructed the block system. The whole look of the show speaks to what I love most about theater: the magic of it!”

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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