Angels Theatre Company’s First Flight Festival a Gift to Playwrights and Audiences Alike

by Julia Doerr

Take my advice: Definitely check out the First Flight Festival presented by the Angels Theatre Company, playing from July 18-29 in the Studio Theater at UNL’s Temple Building. I attended the B flight (last) evening, and now I’m eager to see the other flights as well.

Don’t be scared off when I tell you that Flight B consists of eight plays and only one intermission. These are small gems lasting 10-15 minutes each. The overall production is well-coordinated to move right along. (Shout out to the incredibly efficient set crew!) The performances were over by 10:00 PM, and each one was thoroughly entertaining. I was impressed by the evenness of the quality of writing and acting over the course of the evening.

While the quality was consistent, the scripts were varied, ranging from sweet and sentimental (“The Last Tooth,” about a 7-year-old and the Tooth Fairy) to the absurd (“Tenderly Redux,” about a comically dysfunctional family) to the tragic (“Rainy Thursday Afternoon,” about an HIV test with unexpected results). The other five plays are equally diverse in theme, mood, and plot.

Ranging in age from a second-grader, to high school students, to retired folks, the actors were all good and well-cast in their roles. In fact, they were good enough that I feel no need to call anyone out for especially strong or weak performances. A special Bravo, however, to 7-year-old Penny Carter for holding her own among this crop of talented people. And to Amber Nore for carrying the whole load of one play with no one to “dialogue” with except a pumpkin.

The Flight B playwrights were Andy Dillehay, Robin Buckallew, and the mother-daughter team of Willow Statmore (age 12) and Jillian Carter. Dillehay and Buckallew contributed multiple pieces, while Statmore and Carter’s single piece was a captivating and bittersweet look at a teenager’s angst as she anticipates coming out as a lesbian to her somewhat conservative parents. I had two favorites among the other seven, appealing to me largely for their complexity.

Buckallew’s “One Old Grouch,” is an encounter between two sisters with a problematic relationship, made more problematic by the fact that one of them is dead. Their meeting at the edge of the elder sister’s open grave leaves the audience wondering if the younger sister is seeing a ghost, a hallucination, or a memory.

“A Continual Feast,” by Dillehay is about a family unit of two mothers and two daughters, gathered for the Thanksgiving holiday but also brought together to deal with the ongoing mental health problems of one of the mothers. Much of the mother’s problem stems from their presence a decade earlier at a mass shooting, and there is additional unexplained bad blood between the sisters. I was very pleased to learn, in the enlightening post-performance discussion session, that Dillehay plans to turn this short play into a full-length one.

Probably the best thing about the First Flight Festival, now in its fourth year, is its celebration of the creative process. Flight B’s playwrights are part of the Angels Playwriting Collective, which meets monthly from September to April, and it is no small thing that those whose plays are selected get to see them performed. Likewise, it is no small thing that actors of many ages get to perform in them, receiving what is apparently very good direction. Those are gifts that local writers and actors don’t always get.

It is a HUGE thing that audiences get to see them. Be sure to open this gift!
Get your tickets now!

If you go – all plays are performed in UNL’s Studio Theatre located on the first floor of the Temple Building, 12th & R Streets, Lincoln. Tickets are available one hour before the show at the box office or you can buy them online at First-Flight-Festival-2018

General admission ticket price is $15.00 for one Flight, $25.00 for two Flights, or $35.00 for three Flights. OLLI and student discount is $5.00 off the general admission price

Performance Schedule:
Flight A – July 18, 20, 26 @ 7:30pm, Sunday July 22 @ 2pm, and Saturday July 28 @ 8pm
Flight B – July 19, 21, 22, 27 @ 7:30pm and Saturday July 28 at 4pm
Flight C – July 24 & 25 @ 7:30pm and Sunday July 29 at 2pm

Julia Doerr is a retired high school English teacher with a lifelong love of plays, both as literature and performance. She assisted, as dramaturg, with the direction of several Shakespeare plays during her tenure at Lincoln High School, where she spent 27 of her 33 years teaching. Julia loves to attend the theater, to write, and to share her opinions. That makes writing reviews her dream assignment.

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