Two Jewish playwrights, Stephen Sussman and Myron Stein, take the stage with their short theater pieces for the 2019 Festival of Plays.
Stephen Sussman has been seen in many community theater roles over recent years, and one had him in the cast of Swashbucklers, a play written by Myron Stein and staged by Playwrights@Work, a group within The Village Players.
As Sussman learned his part, he also learned about the group, formed by scriptwriters holding monthly meetings to provide feedback for each other’s projects. Twice a year, a selection committee chooses works to be performed publicly as staged readings or full productions.
Sussman, who earns his living as an architect, decided to try his hand at writing and joined the group. This summer, both Stein and Sussman will be represented as five one-act theater pieces are staged.
Stein’s play, Mystic Pavilion, has to do with a conflict between a park ranger and a politician holding conflicting ideas about the future of a popular dance pavilion. First written as a short story published in Green’s Magazine, the piece was transformed into stage material as Stein focused his attention on scripts.
Sussman’s play, Stavros’ Chili, is a comedy about a retired restaurateur interviewed by a local cable reporter who experiences unexpected results from trying the chili.
The 2019 Festival of Plays runs Friday-Sunday, July 26-28, in the Birmingham theater of The Village Players.
“I love creating characters and situations,” says Stein, 77 of Southfield. “As I’m working on each play, I think about it all the time.”
A former teacher, Stein’s entry into writing started 16 years ago with children’s books and then moved into playwriting. His short theater pieces have been staged at many festivals around the country, including A Fish Market on D Street at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre in New York City, The Haberdasher’s Apprentice at the Valley Repertory Company in Connecticut and The Pink Nude at the Magnolia Arts Center in North Carolina.
Active with Congregation Beth Shalom and the Jewish Community Center, Stein has had Jewish subjects in some of his work. Louie’s One and Only, for example, is about two men in a senior residence, and it was presented at Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park.
For this summer’s production, Stein has chosen Pam Dundas as the director.
Sussman, who joined Playwrights@Work in 2010, has been acting since 2003. He is also directing this summer’s production of his play.
“I took theater classes when I was a student at Michigan State,” says Sussman, 69, and a resident of Bloomfield Township. “It was much later when my wife and kids were in a production of Fiddler on the Roof, and they needed some men for the cast. My wife drafted me, and I got started acting once again.”
Sussman has found special value in writing.
“It’s exciting and exhilarating to hear my written words spoken on stage,” says Sussman, formerly active with the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.
Adding to his excitement and exhilaration involved with the stage is knowing that his two daughters developed community theater interests deep enough to move them into professional stage careers.
Rachel, who holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from New York University, was a 2019 Tony Award nominee for her work in producing What the Constitution Means to Me. Hillary, who earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Western Michigan University, is launching a comedy writing career in Chicago.
Other theater pieces in this summer’s Playwrights@Work festival include One Step at a Time, written and directed by Penelope Calcaterra to capture personal indignities and harsh effects of dealing with dementia; Decoration Day, written by Jackie Sue Salter and directed by Roberta Campion to introduce adult sisters learning about their dad before he was a dad; and Family Portrait, written by Barbara Schmitt and directed by Jane Burkey to express the feelings of a dad left out of a family portrait.
The 2019 Festival of Plays will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, July 26-27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at the playhouse of The Village Players, 34660 Woodward, Birmingham. $10. (248) 664-2075. birminghamvillageplayers.com.