Two one-act plays come to ArtSpace Studios

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ArtSpace artists, from left: Blanche Somer, Ed Schulman, Margaret Emerson, Hannah Hamilton, Sophie Mueller, Sheila Fane, and Kristen Leigh Conklin. — Photo courtesy of Kristen Leign

A new performance venue has been added to the Vineyard arts scene. ArtSpace Studios on State Road in West Tisbury has been hosting poetry readings since the cooperative art gallery’s inception in 2014. This coming week, the gallery space will add theater to its offerings, when it’s turned over to the talents of two local playwrights. On Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Wednesday, Sept. 16, Jill Jupen and Wayne K. Greenwell will present their one-act plays — one a drama/comedy, and the other a somewhat fantastic satire of Vineyard life.

“ArtSpace is an art gallery that segued into a place for poetry readings,” says Mr. Greenwell, “mainly with poets from the Edgartown Senior Center group. The readings were an extension of that group.”

Now, with the latest addition to the venue’s offerings, the gallery is further branching out into the performing and literary arts.

The two plays to be presented next week will showcase what the Vineyard has to offer in the form of writing and acting talent.

In “The 50-Minute Hour by Jill Jupen, a psychiatrist and his patient engage in a little bit of therapy and a good deal of verbal sparring. The question — Why is “Dr. Freud” discontinuing their professional relationship? — is slowly revealed through an exploration of both doctor’s and patient’s psyches.

Ms. Jupen’s play was presented as a reading by the Island Theater Workshop in 2013. The upcoming performances will be fully realized productions, with George Ricci and Martha Hudson reprising their roles as the shrink and his lively patient. This time around they will perform without scripts in hand.

This is Ms. Jupen’s first play; the writer is primarily a poet. She has been writing and teaching poetry for much of her life. Earlier this year Ms. Jupen hosted an educational poetry series at the West Tisbury library. For many years she has run a poetry writing group at the Edgartown Senior Center.

“Marth Vader: The Vineyard’s Dark Side,” by Mr. Greenwell, facetiously proposes the idea that Martha’s Vineyard needs some governance in the form of the ultimate “Island character.” Enter Marth Vader, intergalactic traveler and the Supreme Lord Top Rung of the Universe, who flips the local conservationists’ ideals on their heads by allowing all sorts of politically incorrect transgressions. Mr. Greenwell’s play, which will be presented as a staged reading, includes rapid-fire dialogue full of jokes, puns, and witticisms, with lots of Island references sure to be appreciated by the audience. The reading will feature local actors Molly Purves, Jesse Seward, and Buck Reidy.

The upcoming show will mark the first live performances of Mr. Greenwell’s comedy, although it is part of an MVTV series of short plays that the playwright has been coordinating for the past few years. That project, called “Brief Plays for a Small Stage,” was begun in 2013. All of the videotaped readings can be found online at mvtv.org.

Previously, Mr. Greenwell has had work has produced on stages in New York City and Seattle. Three of his short plays have been included in Island Theater Workshop’s one-act festivals over the years. In 2013, Mr. Greenwell hosted a Playwright’s Studio on the Island.

Painter Margaret Emerson, who helped found ArtSpace Studios and is one of the four resident artists, is one of Ms. Jupen’s poetry students. Last summer, shortly after the launch of ArtSpace, Ms. Emerson asked her instructor if she would be interested in hosting poetry readings and open mic nights there. So far the gallery/studio has held two poetry events. They hope to continue the initiative into the fall. Ms. Emerson would also welcome more readings and other theatrical events.

It’s been an evolving process, transforming the gallery and studio space into a multi-discipline performance and visual art venue. Ms. Jupen plans to continue the poetry series and Mr. Greenwell would like to host more play readings as the live version of his “Brief Plays for a Small Stage” series.

“We wanted to present various types of art from the beginning,” says Ms. Emerson,. “What we want to do is to provide a community art space in West Tisbury. We welcome other artists who are interested in using the space for a show.”

The other three artists who share the expenses and occupy studios in the building are painters Alexis Rusillo, Robert Hauck, and Les Holcomb. In the past the gallery has featured the work of other painters and photographers. The space will be expanding its scope to include ceramics, jewelry, and other artisans’ work. Ms. Emerson, who describes herself as a poet and a painter, and who has shown her work around the Island for many years, has proven herself open to providing a venue for a variety of the arts.

We’re likely to see much more happening at the burgeoning community art space, thanks to Ms. Emerson’s expansive vision and welcoming attitude. “She’s one of those people who has unlimited energy,” says Ms. Jupen.

“Marth Vader: The Vineyard’s Dark Side” by Wayne Greenwell and “The Fifty-Minute Hour” by Jill Jupen, Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 pm, ArtSpace Studios, 505 State Road, West Tisbury. Both one-act plays will be presented each night. Suggested donation is $10. For more information, call 941-441-5072.