Krista Bjorn: Homespun plays take center stage

Area writers, actors reflect on hometown

Sun-Star correspondentMay 3, 2013 

— The creative works of local writers take the stage in "Merced Born and Raised: One Act Plays by Local Writers" opening at Merced County Arts Council this weekend.

Presented by Playhouse Merced, the event features seven one-act plays written by local writers, directed by local directors and performed by local actors.

More than 20 submissions for play ideas were received, and from that group, seven were selected, put through workshops and will be fully produced with sets, costumes and lighting.

The winning plays are "Out of Time" by Lauren Miller, "Merced Reflections" by David Hambley, "The Worker of the Strings to Jerk the Fools at my Hellhound Jamboree" by Matt Robinson, "The Bus Stop" by Jenell Barnes, "The Comic-Con Adventures of John Trekson," by Jack Bankson, "A Beautiful, Intelligent, Talented, Charming Human Being" by Jonathan Whitaker, and "Merced Noir: Taxi Man" by Zachary Ellis.

"I've always enjoyed writing, ever since I was very young," Ellis said. "I've never written for submission into a contest or anything where my work had the chance of being chosen out of a group of people's writings. That both excited and scared me. I had performed in the one-acts the past two years and when the opportunity came around this year to write, I didn't want to let it pass me by."

His play, "Merced Noir: Taxi Man," was born out of his own experiences as a cab driver in Merced.

As a writer, he is thrilled to see his story performed on the stage, but admits that as a director and actor, it's difficult for him to give the reins to someone else.

"When I write something, I can't help but picture how I as a director would set the scene or what choices I would make for the character as an actor," Ellis said. "That said, I am whole-heartedly looking forward to the choices Sheila Noel as director and the cast make to create something I could never have thought of."

Thirteen-year-old Jack Bankson's play, "The Comic-Con Adventures of John Trekson," evolved from his reflections on his love for the eponymous comic convention and how that made him a target for mockery from classmates.

"I thought back to my life in previous years of junior high and I felt that people didn't understand me," Bankson said. "I thought to mesh these ideas and it exploded into my play. I've always had stories in my head and now this is a chance to vent them on paper."

Other plays tell the stories of a young woman caring for her elderly mother, a woman talking to others waiting at a bus stop and a psychiatrist treating his patients as the outside world goes crazy.

David Hambley found inspiration for his play, "Merced Reflections," in the writings of his grandmother.

"I have a copy of my grandmother's diary from 1914 when she was 20 years old, along with pictures from that period," Hambley said.

"I was fascinated with the picture of her life in Merced that emerged from reading it."

He's looking forward to seeing if audiences find the story as resonant as he does.


WHAT: "Merced Born and Raised: One Act Plays by Local Writers"

WHEN: Today through May 12; Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Merced County Arts Council, 645 W. Main St.

TICKETS: Adults $20, seniors $19, students $10, and children $8.

CALL: (209) 725-8587

ONLINE: www.playhousemerced.com.

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