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A blind date hits a speed bump in ‘Blind Date,’ by Eric Alter. From left:
Ryan Gabriel, Artistic Director Eric Alter, James Hartmann, and Christine Rauschenbach. ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Couples Therapy
Apricot Sky Productions
The Grove Street Theatre
At the Deron School
130 Grove St.

April 27-29; May 4-6

Tickets $20 at door, $15 if on list in advance

Apricotskyproductions@gmail.com, 201-321-0760 

By STEFANIE SEARS
For Montclair Local

While producer Eric Alter includes some of his own plays in “Couples Therapy,” a collection of one-act plays at the Grove Street Theatre this weekend and next, putting up his own plays isn’t the point.

For Alter, who runs Apricot Sky Productions, the festival is an opportunity to bring the artistic community together, both the audience and artists.

“Couples Therapy: An Evening of One-Act Plays and Monologues” consists of nine 15-minute plays written by local playwrights. Each scene follows the general theme of relationships, but that’s nearly all they have in common. Some works are comedies, others are serious, while some are sad.

Alter has been producing shows at Grove Street Theatre at the Deron School for about 18 years. But he’s not involved in directing the four plays included in the festival. Having someone else in charge gives him a new perspective on his work, he said.

Chris Robertson, who plays one of the salespeople trying to sell a consumer the promise of salvation in Alter’s piece “Selling God,” particularly appreciates Alter’s comic perspective on religion.

“I believe as a society we should be able to find the humor in serious subject matter and, through that humor, connect with each other on common ground,” Robertson said.

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AlexaLynn Alessi, left, doesn’t want to let her older brother, played by Joe DeGise II, stop her from writing a news story that would embarrass her family but get her out of Alabama, in Gwen Ore’s “News.” Elaine Molinaro, right, directs.

Capturing parts of her own life in her piece “News” is Montclair Local Culture Editor Gwen Orel, who is also directing Alter’s “Blind Date” for the show. After working for The Montclair Times, and during the hiatus before her current position at Montclair Local, Orel got involved with Apricot Sky Productions as a director. It was through this experience that she decided to resume her playwriting, finding that writing and directing plays has made her be a better culture writer.

“Now that I found it again, I don’t think I’ll ever leave,” she said after a rehearsal

Elaine Molinaro, the president of Montclair Arts Alliance, a new service organization for arts groups, directs Orel’s play. “There’s a need in Montclair for space and government funding for the arts. By banding together, we can both advocate for the arts and be a stronger voice,” Molinaro said. Individual organizations like Apricot Sky will still exist, but the MAA can offer other opportunities, she said.

Like Orel, Lisa Annitti, of Pompton Lakes, has drawn on her own life in “Internally Unresolved” written by Lisa Annitti. The monologue is based on an email that she never sent.

It began, Annitti said, as a letter to a friend. “Things transpired that caused the individual to walk away from the friendship. Things that I had no clue about and still don’t have a clue about. I was legitimately hurt and upset. For one reason or another I couldn’t get past it. Other friends who know who it was about kept telling me not to send the email. One friend said to turn it into a monologue, so I did. Very important to note, I didn’t want this to be some pity party or seem petty. I’m a very passionate person. This was more of a catharsis for me.”

Elizabeth Quiñones of Montclair performs the piece. Both she and Annitti are members of Montclair’s Studio Players.

“I would like people to walk away and think, ‘Wow, I know exactly how she feels. I’ve been there.,’” Quiñones  said. “Or think, ‘Wow, I haven’t had that happen to me before, but after seeing this, I understand what it’s like.’”

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