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1st Festival by MFA Theatre Playwrights

The plays by Alvarez, left, Salinas and Gomez will be read at the Scene Dock Theatre.

Photo/Tony Sherwood

“Under Construction: The USC School of Theatre Master of Fine Arts Play Project,” a festival of plays by the first three graduating playwrights of the MFA in Dramatic Writing program, will be held from May 22-26 at the Scene Dock Theatre.

The readings, which will each have two public performances, will be presented concert style with professional actors and directors.

“We are so pleased to be able to give our playwrights the opportunity to see their works presented on stage with actors who best represent the multidimensional characters that they have created,” USC School of Theatre Dean Madeline Puzo said. “These concert readings, we believe, will provide the best showcase for their plays, focusing solely on the text rather than on elements of production.”

USC Professor of Theatre and Director of Dramatic Writing Velina Hasu Houston said, “The culmination of a playwright’s artistic journey is to have his or her play brought to life, which is why the Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing offers a three-phase process for our students that includes production, festival presentation and post-festival introduction to the profession.

“The festival allows our students to take their plays through developmental paces with professional artists who bring skill and depth to the plays, thereby allowing the students to experience their work on a high level that in turn inspires them to strive for greater excellence in craft,” she said.

The three plays and playwrights are:

Circus Ugly by Gabriel Rivas Gomez
Directed by Stefan Novinski
Tuesday, May 22 and Friday, May 25 at 8 p.m.

Circus Ugly tells the tale of a young woman with paper skin who has been made to feel disposable. When she comes to town seeking answers about her life, she meets an artist whose arm doesn’t work and who is every bit the freak she is. Together, they explore the pain and isolation that comes with being different, along with the constant longing to be normal.

Gomez’s work has been featured as part of Cypress College’s Summer New Play Festival (2006) and USC’s MFA workshop productions (2005). He lives in Pasadena with his wife, Elsie, who is his fellow storyteller. He earned a B.A. in English from Santa Clara University and, as a former high school teacher, is enjoying the transition from watching drama in the classroom to writing it for the stage.

Las Mujeres Del Mar by Janine Salinas
Directed by Luis Alfaro
Wednesday, May 23, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 26, at 2:30 p.m.

Las Mujeres Del Mar is the story of three generations of women through love, loss, violence and the process of healing and forgiveness.

Salinas moved to the United States from Lima, Peru and earned a B.A. in creative writing and women’s studies from the UC Santa Cruz. She has helped set up acting and writing workshops in junior high schools, high schools and juvenile hall and hopes to work in educational theatre. Her recent internship in the literary department of the Mark Taper Forum gave her the opportunity to learn how regional theatres make decisions about their plays. Her writing deals with the experiences of immigrants who find themselves grappling with cold, hard realities in North America.

Ruby, Tragically Rotund by Boni B. Alvarez
Directed by Nancy Keystone
Thursday, May 24 and Saturday, May 26, at 8 p.m.

In this modern Greek tragedy, plump and vivacious Filipina American Ruby Salazar longs to be a teacher. She is well on her way when her beauty-obsessed mother takes a refund on Ruby’s college tuition. The devastated Ruby must find a way to survive in a world in which being fat is a hindrance to happiness.

Alvarez earned a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA from the ART/MXAT Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. As an actor, he has worked with the American Repertory Theatre, the Public Theater, National Asian American Theatre Company, Ma-Yi Theatre and the San Jose Repertory Theatre. His play Dallas Non-Stop earned an honorable mention at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He is working on a screenplay about Filipino women in World War II.

Admission is free and will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call (213) 740-2167 or visit

1st Festival by MFA Theatre Playwrights

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