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3 days, 14 plays: Beaufort festival to showcase diverse mix of playwrights

It's not "Death of a Salesman." Or "The King and I." Most of the plays haven't even been staged before. But the inaugural International New Plays Festival of the Lowcountry celebrates the new, instead of the familiar.

The showcase of 14 plays will take place June 17-19 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Performing Arts Center in Beaufort.

"We all love the tried-and-true productions," co-organizer Suzanne Larson said. "But we want to explore all of the possible dimensions of the theater with this festival."

Four or five of the short plays or monologues will be read each night of the festival by a small team of local actors. The performances are readings of the scripts, not full-blown stage productions. It allows audience members to focus on the play's dialogue, Larson said.

Some of the plays are from local writers who are well-connected with the theater scene, while others come from an application process that drew in scripts from around the world, Larson said. The selection of plays being performed emerge from as far away as Australia. The scripts range from drama to comedy, from monologues to multi-act plays.

The weekend opens with Beaufort newcomer Nicholas Nicholas' play, "In Defense of Old Men with Skinny Legs, a Pot Belly and a Flabby, Saggy Butt who Wear a Bikini at the Beach," inspired by his 30 years in Southern California.

The weekend ends with "A Tragic Comedy of Shakespeare Shake-ups" by 14-year-old Jonathan Boulon of Beaufort.

The idea for a festival formed when several members of various theater and writing groups wanted to revive the now-extinct S.C. Playwrights Festival that was held in Beaufort, Larson said. Organizers plan to make the festival an annual event, hoping to draw an even larger variety of plays. They hope it gives locals a chance to see up-and-coming plays -- some experimental, others straight-forward -- and the opportunity for playwrights to get their work heard.

"We're hoping to keep some sort of original play festival alive in Beaufort," Larson said.

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