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S.S. plays are one-act but definitely not one note

Silver Spring Stage Marilyn Millstone Headshot Playwright Marilyn Millstone’s “Compos Mentis” will be staged during the second weekend of the Silver Spring Stage One-Act Festival. COURTESY PHOTO      Irwin and Anna Leder had been Marilyn Millstone’s next-door neighbors and surrogate parents for 14 years. So, it was not surprising that their departure for a senior facility impacted her.

But it also inspired the news-and-feature journalist and essayist turned dramatist to write another play.

In “Compos Mentis,” (which is Latin, meaning “of sound mind”) Millstone has added the child of an elderly couple, who pressures them to go to an assisted living facility while the couple resists and wants to retain independence.

A Kensington resident, the playwright has seen her comedies and dramas produced in Massachusetts, New York State, and even Dubai and Australia. Now “Compos Mentis” will be presented much closer to home – as part the Silver Spring Stage One-Act Festival, which takes place over three weekends this month: Aug. 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27.

Millstone’s play will be staged during the second weekend of the festival.

“I love the democracy of the festival,” she said. “It asks for blind submissions, which are judged solely on the basis of the work.”

She also credits her husband Bill Apter for pushing her “to persevere” in her playwriting.Silver Spring Stage CleanRob Gorman and Maura Suilebhan starred in the play "Clean," staged during the first weekend of the Silver Spring Stage One-Act Festival. COURTESY PHOTO BY HARVEY LEVINE    

Silver Spring Stage has sponsored the One-Act Festival as long as it has been in existence, said Seth Ghitelman, co-producer of the festival this year and chair of the theater. “Our call for scripts this year brought in more than 300 responses, which is typical.”

Silver Spring Stage is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

In recognition of that, the theater asked playwrights it had worked with before to submit plays for the opening weekend. A total of 14 dramatists participated altogether.

“We’re excited at the variety of the plays we received,” he said. “All the plays are very good, but this year tend to be heavier on comedy. We have a lot of good ones.”

The opening show of the festival this year was “Clean,” by Audrey Cefaly.

“She is a local playwright who has had many of her plays premiered at Silver Spring Stage,” Ghitelman said. “Her plays been recognized and performed nationally and internationally, and Samuel French recently published a compilation of several of her one-acts under the title of ‘Love is a Blue Tick Hound.’ The Stage is honored and proud to be the incubator for Audrey and her touching and funny plays, which draw on her Southern heritage.”

Rockville resident Dean Fiala presents his play “One Click Away” on the third weekend of the festival. Fiala came to playwriting in a different way than Millstone. For the fulltime software writer and director for Ankura Consulting in D.C., playwriting is at this point, “still an avocation.” “But I try to write every day, though I’m not always successful,” he said.

He composed his first play five years ago after appearing onstage in “A Flea in Her Ear” at Rockville Little Theatre – a flame lit by the creative process of putting together a show.

“Laura Andruski, the show’s director, was very encouraging and even arranged for RLT to host a staged reading of my first attempt.”

Fiala found inspiration for his play in his daughter’s spring performance at the Maryland School of Dance.

“One of the modern dance numbers was set to a song that featured a lyric, ‘You can get anything on the Internet,’ " Fiala said. “I nodded my head in agreement, and wondered what would be the most unexpected thing could be.”

Turns out it’s the search for a romantic match.

Ghitelman wants the community to know ahead of time that on Oct. 15, Silver Spring Stage will host a gala at the Civic Center downtown to celebrate its Golden Anniversary.

“We would like this to be a reunion for those who have performed or otherwise volunteered with us and maybe have fallen away,” he said. “There will be food, fun, and of course, some entertainment.”

Silver Spring Stage is located at 10145 Colesville Road, in the Woodmoor Shopping Center. Tickets to the One-Act Festival can be bought at www.ssstage.org. Call 301-593-6036.

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