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Munroe Saturday Nights event to feature four works

New works by playwrights Alicia Velez of Watertown (pictured here) and Emily Kaye Lazzaro will be among four given staged readings Saturday at the Munroe Center for the Arts in Lexington. The free event will include audience feedback. Seana Murphy

Writing a play is challenging. Just ask Alicia Velez, who has been working on hers ever since she decided to submit it in lieu of a final paper as she finished her course work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education last spring.

But finding a venue, director, audience, and actors to transform the play from paper to live action is even more challenging than the writing process. And so Velez remembers being thrilled when she received an e-mail last May saying that her work-in-progress, “The Living Proof Project,’’ was one of four chosen by the Munroe Saturday Nights program in Lexington to be performed at a staged reading this Saturday.


As coordinator Deborah Weiner explained recently, the program, now in its second year, was created to bring live performing arts to Lexington and surrounding communities “with the goal of enriching the quality of life in our town.’’

“The fact that we have a number of talented playwrights, directors, professional actors, musicians, and other performers living in Lexington contributes to the rich cultural mix we’re able to explore during the Munroe Saturday Nights series,’’ she said.

The monthly series sometimes features live music or poetry; this will be the second time an evening of staged readings of plays has appeared on the calendar. Along with Velez’s play, works to be featured this Saturday include “Saving Deshawn, or the Carrot Play,’’ by Emily Kaye Lazzaro; “Amber Beads,’’ written by award-winning playwright Melinda Lopez; and “DNA,’’ by June Bowser-Barrett. Each play features a different director as well; Lopez is the only one who will direct her own work.

Velez, who lives in Watertown, was an actor, director, and producer for several years before she decided to earn her master’s degree in arts education. So when the opportunity arose to write a play accompanied by a teaching guide rather than a final paper for her class in gender and sexuality in education, she seized it.


Her inspiration, she said, was the “It Gets Better’’ video campaign started by journalist Dan Savage. She respected the artistic and social merit of Savage’s series about homosexuality and teens, but felt that it had two limitations: The pieces were very brief, and they were all from the perspective of a young person revealing his or her homosexuality. Instead, Velez wanted longer monologues, and she wanted friends, siblings, and parents of the person who had come out to share in their own words how it affected them.

Velez’s play includes four different characters, each based on people she interviewed. Her goal was to represent the experiences of people from different parts of the country affected by a variety of social and cultural influences. One reason she put the word “project’’ in the title, she said, is that she eventually hopes to turn it into a longer work including more subjects.

Emily Kaye Lazzaro.Emily Zilm

“This production will represent the first time I’ve heard it performed from beginning to end, so I will be biting my nails from the audience,’’ Velez said. “I’ve been attending rehearsals and working with the actors a little bit, but at this point I’m happy to step back and hand it over to a competent director and actors to see how they interpret it. My feeling is that this will clue me in to whether there’s more work to be done, if something comes across differently from how I intended it.’’


Feedback will also come when Lexington playwright Don Cohen, whose “Length of Stay’’ was performed last year as part of this same series, will moderate a question-and-answer session.

For Lazzaro, the Q&A might well be the most useful part of the evening. Unlike Velez, Lazzaro, a graduate of Boston University’s playwriting program, has had plenty of opportunities to see her works performed, but “Saving Deshawn, or the Carrot Play’’ explores new territory for her: the voices of characters whose race is different from her own, which happens to be a hot topic among the playwrights she follows right now.

She is curious to see how a predominantly white suburban audience responds to the piece, compared with the more urban audience which recently saw it performed in Cambridge.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m., at the Munroe Center for the Arts, 1403 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington. Admission is free, though donations are accepted. For reservations or information, e-mail saturdays@munroecenter.org. If making reservations, include the number in your party and plan to arrive by 7:10 to claim your reservation.

SINGING AND STRINGING: The 27th Annual Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, which honors the legacy of the musician attributed with bringing bluegrass to the Northeast, convenes this weekend at the Sheraton Framingham. The program includes performances, jam sessions, master classes, lectures, and demonstrations. For tickets and a full schedule of events, go to www.bbu.org.


Tracy Grammer, a nationally touring multi-instrumentalist and singer, returns to the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse stage on Saturday. She has just released a new CD, “Little Blue Egg,’’ which is a compilation of material recorded at her and late partner and songwriter Dave Carter’s home studios. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; the show begins at 8. Beverages and gourmet desserts will be available. Admission is $20. Call 508-528-2541 or visit www.circlefolk.org to purchase tickets or for more information. First Universalist Society Meetinghouse, 262 Chestnut St. Franklin.

Irish harpist and singer Aine Minogue performs a free concert at the Robbins Library, 700 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington on Wednesday, at 7 p.m. Minogue recently released a CD of Celtic lullabies called “Close Your Eyes, Love.’’

The Alexander Children’s Theatre School presents “Fame, The Musical’’ on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Emerson Umbrella for the Arts, 40 Stow St., Concord. $17 for adults; $15 for children, seniors, and students. Seating is reserved. To purchase tickets or find out more, go to www.ACTS1.org or www.ticketstage.com/acts.

MEMORY AS MEDICINE: The Davis Museum at Wellesley College presents the Northeast premiere of “Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine,’’ an art exhibition that highlights Bailey’s experimentation and improvisation with diverse forms while drawing inspiration from African art, his family’s past, world history, and jazz.

On view now through May 6, the exhibition is free and open to the public. For gallery hours and more information, call 781-283-2051 or go to www.davismuseum.wellesley.edu. 106 Central St., Wellesley.


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