One thing Matt Miller can guarantee — audience members who attend the LineStorm Playwrights' reading series at Milwaukie Chapel Theatre will not be bored.
The series, part of the Fertile Ground Festival, a Portland-area performance festival of new works, will showcase five readings Feb. 5-9. All the productions are free.
"We take a lot of pride in making sure the plays entertain and educate audiences," Miller said. "And they will be out of there in an hour."
Miller, a playwright and member of LineStorm, said the Portland-based organization is a collective of local playwrights who get together monthly to do readings of original works in progress.
The group is partnering with Chapel Theatre for the first time because it presents people with the opportunity to support local theater and "get in on the ground floor (of seeing a play in progress) that might turn into something big," Miller said.
The series kicked off Jan. 31 and continues with five new readings. First up at noon Wednesday, Feb. 5, is "Dorothy's Dictionary," by E.M. Lewis.
The plot revolves around high school student Zan Hardt, who, after a violent incident in school is forced to choose between community service and juvenile detention. He picks community service.
"But when he's assigned to read to Dorothy, a librarian who is facing a health crisis, neither of them is sure he's made the right decision. Between difficult conversations and battles over books, they build an unbreakable bond," Lewis said.
"This play is a warm-hearted and funny exploration of a friendship that forms between two very different people. It celebrates language and books and stories and libraries," she said. "I love the Fertile Ground Festival. It's a wonderful celebration of storytelling for the stage — theater, music, new work of all kinds, in all stages of development."
A special production at noon Thursday, Feb. 6, is called "Small Bites," and will showcase the work of LineStorm members Rich Rubin, Anya Pearson, Lolly Ward and Brianna Barrett, and nonmembers Heath Hyun-Houghton and Barbie Wu.
"It will be a grab-bag mix of dramas, comedies and more," Miller said.
"Songs from the Stage" a collaborative work from Lewis and Holly Yurth Richards, will take place at noon Friday, Feb. 7.
It's "a reading without a plot. E.M. Lewis and I are taking this opportunity to share songs from both new and established works of ours," Yurth Richards said.
The two will give insights into their individual writing process and the different places they find inspiration.
"E.M. has written the lyrics and/or librettos to several operas, and I write the book, music and lyrics to contemporary musicals. There will be a great mix of musical styles and subject matter," Yurth Richards said.
She feels lucky to have collaborated on this project with Lewis, who is "truly kind, insightful and inspiring to be around."
Yurth Richards added: "Anyone who has interest in writing musically for the stage will find this to be an engaging experience. I think audiences will appreciate the relaxed format while still enjoying performances of the highest quality."
Miller said incidents in Dan Kitrosser's "Hannah and Other Stories," at noon Saturday, Feb. 8, may at first seem to be random. But at the end, everything will be "tied together in a heartbreaking and sweet way."
It is set in an American town in decline, and the stories are about people in that town.
Sara Jean Accuardi's "And Everything Nice" takes place in a little, in-home day care in the town of Hoodsport, Washington, on Puget Sound during a freak snowstorm in the middle of February.
This play takes place at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, and is the final reading at Chapel Theatre.
During the course of the play, the snow piles up, the employees grow more anxious — and more trapped — as they wait for the last child to be picked up. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and the limits of sharing, caring and playing nice with others are tested.
"One of the things I'm most excited about is that it's a cast of five women. I've had a really fun time writing these characters with the goal of giving the actors bringing them to life a range of things to explore and play with," Accuardi said.
"There will be laughs, it will make you feel something, and there will, hopefully, be plenty to relate to in regard to our tendency to panic when it snows in the Pacific Northwest," she added.
"What I think audiences will appreciate the most, though, is the opportunity to witness a work in progress. They will be the very first group of people to hear this play aloud, and there's something very special about that."
This is Chapel Theatre Collective's second year participating in the Fertile Ground Festival, said Illya deTorres, technical director and co-artistic director of CTC.
"The best part of participating in this festival is the connection to the entire Portland area performance community. The shows include dance, theater, staged readings and performance art. There really isn't another opportunity like it in Portland to make such great connections," he said.
In addition, "Fertile Ground makes incredible efforts to pull off a successful festival year after year. They work hard to market these shows, to engage new audiences, to promote the arts in ways that greatly impact the artists and audiences alike," he said.
DeTorres added: "If you purchase a festival pass, you have access to so many shows for so cheap. It's the best value you'll get all year to immerse yourself in performances until you can't take any more."
Five plays, five days
What: Chapel Theatre Collective presents the LineStorm Playwrights Reading Series, part of the Fertile Ground Festival
When: Wednesday-Sunday, Feb. 5-9
Where: Chapel Theatre,
4107 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie
Cost: All performances are free.
More: Chapel Theatre Collective, chapeltheatremilwaukie.com; LineStorm Playwrights, linestormplay
Feb. 5:" Dorothy's Dictionary," noon
Feb. 6: "Small Bites," noon
Feb. 7: "Songs from the Stage," noon
Feb. 8: "Hannah and Other Stories " noon
Feb. 9: "And Everything Nice," 6 p.m.
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