Just as spring buds bloom into summer flowers, Scott Schwartz, Bay Street Theatre’s artistic director, intends to nurture fledgling plays into potential main-stage productions. In the works is a series of staged readings of new plays, to be held at the Sag Harbor theater every spring, with the first three kicking off the series next weekend.
On Saturday, his day off from the theater, he was going to the theater — the Broadway theater — to see a matinee performance of the musical “If/Then,” followed by an evening performance of the revival of John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men.”
The Bay Street readings begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 25, with “Fight Call,” a comedy by Jess Brickman that follows two feuding actors who are playing father and son in a production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” — which itself is about a father-son conflict. Daniel Goldstein will direct.
Mr. Schwartz’s directorial choices lean toward the play within the play, a theatrical device honed by Shakespeare, who used it repeatedly both in comedies (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and in his darkest tragedies (“Hamlet”). Another example will turn up in June in Bay Street’s main-stage revival of Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties,” which will star Richard Kind.
“The Orchard Play” by P. Seth Bauer, directed by Will Pomerantz, is the second reading in next week’s “New Works” series, on April 26 at 8. A retelling of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” it is now set on a Pennsylvania farm. “Even though this is a modern play,” Mr. Schwartz said, “it harkens to Bay Street’s commitment to the classics.”
At 2 p.m. on April 27, the reading will be of Molly Smith Metzler’s “The May Queen,” directed by Vivienne Benesch. Mr. Schwartz called the play a “dramedy,” with “a very serious heart.” It centers on the return home of a former high school prom queen, examining youthful relationships and suggesting that idols may have feet of clay.
One important aspect of both the readings and the stage season ahead, said Mr. Schwartz, is the number of women playwrights and directors. His goal, he said, is to create a more inclusive theater environment on the East End. Besides the two women whose works will be read next weekend, and Ms. Benesch, the director, the summer will bring the premiere of Carey Crim’s “Conviction,” which opens the season on May 27, and also the premiere of “My Life Is a Musical,” to be directed by Marlo Hunter. “We want to make Bay Street reflective of all the voices in our community,” Mr. Schwartz said.
Before each of next weekend’s readings there will be a 4 p.m. panel discussion, during which the audience and the three authors can explore the world of the contemporary playwright. John Weidman, a former president of the Dramatists Guild whose credits include the book for Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures,” “Assassins,” and “Road Show,”will be the moderator. Also on the panel is the co-producer, with Mr. Schwartz, of the readings, Emily Simoness, the executive director of SPACE on Ryder Farm in Brewster, N.Y., a writers-in-residence working farm.
Admission to the readings is free, but Mr. Schwartz has strongly suggested advance reservations. It is hoped that those attending the panel discussions and a cocktail reception to be held on April 26 will make a $20 donation.