SPARKy: Summer 2014 Overvu

SPARKy: Summer 2014 Overvu

SPARKy Productions is the non-profit founded by Jennie Franks, a playwright and actor, to bolster the diverse cultural life of rural communities like Telluride through theatre, film and the written word.

The sun at the center of the SPARKy universe is the Telluride Playwrights Festival, now in its 9th year.

Telluride Playwrights Festival:


Good drama survives because it has little to do with what’s new and hot. A good play finds poetry in the flotsam and jetsam of our lives and survives because it extrapolates what is universal and eternal – and generally unfixable – from our mundane muddles and does so  in a way that heightens an audience’s self-awareness produces a sense of catharsis.

The new plays, all works-in-progress, Jennie includes for her annual staged readings and small productions tend to focus on current themes and offer up an intoxicating cocktail of dramatic ideas, comedy, commentary and raw emotion. Collectively they make a very convincing argument for the vitality and importance of theatre as a form of entertainment and a staging point for moral telegrams.

For the Telluride Playwrights Festival, playwrights, actors, directors, volunteers and interns gather from all over the country to work on new plays. It is a week filled with exploration, reflection and, well, much play culminating with staged readings, for 2014 season readings and productions take place from Tuesday, July 22 – Sunday, July 27.

Plays that got jump-started at the Playwrights Festival have gone on to major productions in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Denver under the banner “Made in Telluride.”

“New plays are absolutely vital to the future of our art form,” says Jennie. “Otherwise that art form quickly morphs into a museum, a hallway of relics, stories that were pertinent to an audience some time in the past. Sure those old scripts can be re-envisioned to have meaning for a modern audience, but none hold the impact that a current playwright can bring as they speak to our times and our sensibilities.”

Talk-backs between playwright, actor and audience,follow each reading.

“As audiences react – or don’t react – the plays change.No other art form relies so heavily on direct feedback as theater.We playwrights need it,” continues Jennie.

Telluride Playwrights Festival, 2014 season:

HOW NOT TO TURN INTO A TREE, a one-person show by Daniel Glenn.

The modern-day myth follows four characters trying to navigate our contemporary chaos. Climate change, gun control, and the Tea Party wreak havoc, but it’s an illicit affair that changes them all forever.

TONIGHT AT NOON, a staged reading by Jeff Tabnick.

Should Tim and Emily, Millennials have children? Tim doesn’t know what he wants, and Emily isn’t sure that it’s ethical to procreate at all. Their uncertainty in the world and themselves is stultifying. But one night, they are both overcome by dreams that fill them with confidence and purpose. Tim wakes up knowing that his purpose in life is to save his attractive co-worker from a man in a black mask, and Emily wakes up knowing that she must save humanity by convincing them to stop feeding the death machine (aka stop having children).

Suddenly messianic in his confidence, Tim convinces his co-worker to flee with him down the Jersey Turnpike. He has foreseen in his dream where he must take her so she will be safe: the high-tension wires. Emily follows them so that she can convince Tim to accompany her to Washington DC where she will hold a large “stop having babies” rally. And Tim’s friend Paul is, rather inexplicably, traveling with them, too. Have I not mentioned Paul yet? See, he and his wife are having a baby, but time is moving very quickly for Paul—he’s living in a dream of his own future.

In fact, as they approach the high-tension wires, it becomes clear that everyone in America has succumbed to his or her own nighttime visions.

Reality rends, the future is foretold, lust is sated, and ideals are lost– and somewhere alone in the rubble, Tim finally understands why he might want to start a family. But in a world where everyone is consumed by his or her own delusions, is reconnecting with his wife even possible?

AYN/SISTERS, a staged reading by Jennie Franks

During the 1970’s in the era of Jimmy Carter, the cold war, escalating interest rates and the advent of disco music, Ayn Rand’s younger sister Nora comes to visit her from USSR. The sisters haven’t seen each other since they were both young girls.  Now, as women, both sisters are forced to reconcile their beliefs and their love for each other.

Playwright Festival week also includes an Open Mic & Karaoke Night at the Bean (Wednesday, July 23) , a SPARKImprov night at the Sheridan Opera House (Friday, July 25) and the staging of a brand new play being put together by the company.

SPARKfilm:lawnchair_movies_logos copy

During the year, SPARKy and the Michael D. Palm Theatre present NT LIVE, simulcasts, bringing the best of British theatre to local audiences. In the winter, SPARKy presents a film series featuring award-winning professionals in the film business to present and discuss great movies. This July, SPARKy teams up with the Wilkinson Public Library and the Telluride Conference Center to present free, open air Lawn Chair Movies in the Mountain Village. In support of the event, Mountain Villages restaurants will be open to take orders for food and drink. Audience members are asked to bring warm clothes and a lawn chair, hence the name of the series, Lawn Chair Movies.

The first movie in the series is John Waters’ cult hit film HAIRSPRAY. An iconic movie in which a “pleasantly plump” teenager teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show. This is John Water’s at his best, starring Divine, remember her/him? “People” magazine called Divine “The drag queen of the century.” John Waters broke new ground by casting a man in a female role.

The following Tuesday, July 15, features the 1940’s psychedelic movie FANTASIA, a classic Disney animated film for adults and kids alike. This rarely seen movie is a musical masterpiece starring – who else but Mickey Mouse?

The third film is Steven Spielberg’s thriller JAWS, scheduled for July 22. How great it will be to watch dangerous sharks thrashing around in sea, scaring the tourists, when we’re sitting cozily wrapped up, surrounded by the mountains? JAWS, an actor-centric film, opens the week of the Telluride Playwrights Festival.

“I can hear everyone humming the shark’s theme already,” says Jennie.

Last up, the great sing-along MAMMA MIA screens Tuesday, July 28. Come and sing to Abba pop songs of the 70’s and watch Meryl Streep dance. Is there anything that woman can’t do?

SPARKyencourages both adults and kids to dress up, play the part. There will be prizes for the best costume. As long as it’s not pouring with rain, join SPARKy with your lawn chair for outdoor movies just outside the Conference Center.

For more about SPARKy, go to and

Admittance to SPARKy events year-round: Act I, $129/person; Act II, $253/two people; Act III, $550/ three people (and one community pass for  “starving artiste”).

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