The second annual San Diego International Fringe Festival is entering its final week. The local performing arts event wraps up Sunday, July 13. Don’t let the warm weather keep you from enjoying this showcase for local artistic talent.
Bonita playwright Jeanne Becijos has two plays in this year’s festival.
“Heartquakes: A California Love Story” had its world premiere last Saturday. The play closes with additional performances Friday, July 11, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m. Both performances will be held at the 10th Avenue Theatre (cabaret space), located at 930 10th Ave. in downtown San Diego.
Becijos’ “The Big Break” opened July 5 and continues with performances Friday, July 11, at 5 p.m., and Sunday, July 13, at 8 p.m. Both shows are at the RAW Space Off Broadway, located at 923 First Ave. in downtown San Diego.
“I like to write plays because I love the dialogue and the plot,” said Becijos, a longtime teacher at Castle Park High School. “It’s one of those things when I get an idea in my head and have a desire to complete it.”
Becijos describes “Heartquakes” as “a comedy with heart.” The 45-minute play follows with breakneck speed the unlikely romance that develops between the impetuous Zoë and the more grounded Axel.
They meet in a bookstore and, while it’s not exactly hate at first sight, opposites do end up inevitably attracting in this decidedly modern romance. Like tectonic plates pushing against one another, the couple creates plenty of seismic activity.
Quite appropriately, the play is set in San Francisco.
Sean Doughty plays Axel while Lena M. Jones portrays Zoë. Susan Stratton, a Chula Vista resident, serves as director.
Zoë definitely knows what she wants and does not hesitate to seize the opportunity; Axel takes more coaxing after experiencing the pain of a recent divorce. He is cautious and doesn’t want to rush into anything too quickly.
But when Zoë pulls out a bag of assorted condoms on a subsequent date, there is no turning back — and the quakes intensify in magnitude.
“Axel is very fearful of getting hurt but he’s very intrigued and confused about himself when meeting Zoë,” Doughty explained in describing his character. “As their relationship develops, he begins to take some of her qualities into himself and vice versa.”
“Zoë is a lot like me — pretty weird and comfortable with being weird,” Jones offered. “I think Axel and Zoë very much balance each other out. They’re very complementary — they serve as a counterbalance to each other.”
“The Big Break” is a comedy detailing the antics when four actors show up at an audition for a show they know nothing about but will do anything for — and to — anyone for a chance at fame. The play features actors Jack Cassidy, Olivia Diaz, Eric Olson and Nandini Umesh. Olson also serves as director.
Becijos’s first play produced on stage was “Cyrano and Roxane” as part of the Sweetwater district’s Summer Theatre Institute in 2004. She served as writer and co-lyricist.
She describes it as her most rewarding theater experience so far.
“I was always interested (in being a playwright) when I was growing up,” she explained. “When I saw the musical ‘Chicago,’ I wondered if I could write a musical and what it would be like. It was kind of beginner’s luck.”
Much of her work has since focused on comedy.
She’s had plays performed in New York City and New York state as well as in San Diego. Her plays have also won awards.
“It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life,” she said of being a produced playwright.
Becijos taught English and psychology at Castle Park High School for 28 years and retired three years ago after 40 years in the teaching profession. However, she still teaches part-time at the community college level.
And now has a bit more time for writing.
She said having plays performed in the local Fringe Festival presents a great outlet for developing her work in the future. “You’re always editing yourself once you see it performed,” she noted.
Another enticing aspect of being involved with the Fringe Festival is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the artists.
According to festival staff, perks of producing, presenting and/or performing in the festival include exposure on a local, national and international level, reviews by critics to help perpetuate bookings, awards to help with artist profiles, resume/profile boosting opportunities, international-level networking opportunities, shared expenses of production and an unparalleled platform for presenting new works.
“It sounded like fun and it was less of a risk to put on financially, so I said why not?” Becijos said. “It has been a fun thing to do.”
Chula Vista’s community theater company is presenting the licensed San Diego premiere of “Disenchanted!” through July 26. The production is based on the book, lyrics and music by Dennis T. Giacino. The OnStage production is directed by Jessica Brandon, with musical direction by Amanda Ku and choreography by Johnny Gaylord. The musical comedy is produced by Nick Williams. Details: www.onstageplayhouse.org.