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Posted on Fri. May. 30, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Playwright still over the moon

Civic Theatre to stage first-place piece at festival

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If you go

What: “Whispers to the Moon,” part of the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival

When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; also showings Thursday, June 6 to 8 and 13 to 15

Where: Auer Center ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.

Admission: Prices vary for performance, theater readings and special speaker and reception; go to for information

Special event: Donald Margulies, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, will attend post-show “Whispers to the Moon” reception today and speak at 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Playwright Kris Bauske has submitted her play, “Whispers to the Moon,” to a number of festivals, and with every stage reading, she admits her story of two hopeless lovers causes her to bring a tissue for her inevitable tears.

So with the award-winning play transformed into a full-on stage production for the first time today at the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, Bauske should be prepared to bring the entire tissue box.

“Think of it as being the parent who is standing outside of the house, waiting to put their kindergartener on a school bus for the first time – that’s what it like,” Bauske says from her home in Orlando, Florida. “Each play is really a part of you in the way your own children are, so when you see them get up there with people you never met before who completely understand what you scratched out on paper at 2 o’clock in the morning, you think to yourself, ‘I can’t believe it’s all come together like this.’ ”

The Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival showcases the unpublished work of emerging and professional playwrights who are looking to produce one-act or full-length plays. As the first-place submission, “Whispers to the Moon” will be a stage production that continues to run after the weekend festival, while the second-place submission, “Tinfoil Memories” by Emily Farris, and third-place submission, “The Teapot Collector” by Jack Petersen, will be stage readings at the festival.

Although Bauske was born in southwest Michigan, she says she has always had a soft spot for northern Indiana. She spent her summers 30 minutes north of Fort Wayne in Spencerville, horseback riding with her cousin and her teenage years working summer jobs while visiting her father, who moved to northern Indiana after her parent’s divorce. She says the weekend will be partly a family reunion, as well as the premiere of her play, directed by Fort Wayne Civic Theatre Executive Director Phillip Colglazier.

“I am really excited. Colglazier has been just awesome. As he went into rehearsals for the play, if he or the actors had any questions, he would call me the next day,” she says. “It’s been a fabulous symbiotic relationship where even though I’m far away, I feel like I have been a part of the whole process.”

Bauske says “Whispers to the Moon” depicts the story of Marcia and Charles, who engage in a love affair every August for 42 years even thoughboth are married to other people. However, with Marcia’s daughter visiting unannounced, and all the mounting years between them, the two may have reached the last year they will be able to spend together.

“At the very end, there is a pretty emotional section and even though I wrote it and I know it’s there, each time it’s done by a different actor and actress, it still chokes me up,” she says. “It’s so funny because usually they ask the playwright to come up to do a talk, and after this play, I’m always wiping mascara.”

Donald Margulies, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and adjunct professor of English and theater studies at Yale University, will lead the post-show discussion today. He can understand where Bauske is coming from. The writer behind the award-winning play “Dinner with Friends,” says he writes plays that he would want to see.

“For me, the primary criterion is that I must never be bored. I think that is the rule I live by,” he says from Los Angeles. He is currently preparing for his new play, “The Country House,” starring Blythe Danner, which will premiere Tuesday at the Geffen Playhouse.

“If I get kind of restless, even with my own stuff, my tendency is to move the story forward as quickly as possible. Not dwell on passages that I may love, but are not advancing the story.”

“My self-criticism has certainly grown over the years, which is to my advantage as a writer. It’s served me well,” he adds.

Margulies says that as the festival’s guest speaker on Saturday, he will be sharing his experiences in regards to creating plays, as well as pursuing and managing a career in theater. As a visual artist who transitioned into a successful writing career of more than 20 years, he says that the challenges for each writer can vary. However, as he tells his students, it’s better to write with urgency, to find a story that you’re compelled to tell. Margulies says if the writer is not invested, it’s hard to expect the audience to be invested.

“It’s always a matter of timing, synergy, subject matter and talent, so it’s so hard to predict,” he says. “Perseverance is the most important thing. I think being talented is not enough; you also have to demonstrate this sort of endurance.”

With 10 plays written since 2008, Bauske has the endurance, but it took her a minute to find the time. Living in a house with two teenagers, Bauske has found the best time to write is in the “dark, wee hours” before sunrise.

“It’s really quiet. I know no one is going to come in and need my time or my help or my input. Just five minutes ago, my daughter, who does Irish dance, comes in asking ‘What do you think of this and that for costumes?’ It’s those kinds of things that when you’re a mom, you just have to roll with it, but when it’s early, it’s so peaceful and so it’s easy for the voice of your character to really come through loud and clear.”

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