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Six finalists set to do battle in Famous for 15 Minutes

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the Daylesford Theatre is due for a heck of a battle when local writers compete for a BMDS play writing trophy this week.

Six finalists in the tenth annual Famous for 15 Minutes competition will have their plays performed by amateur actors of the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society. The acting has no bearing on who wins.

This year's playwrights include Owain Johnston-Barnes, Adam Gauntlett, Kevin Comeau, Mark Lavery, George Morton and Deborah Pharoah-Williams.

The performances start tomorrow with the winner announced on the final night, February 18.

The prize is the (very heavy) Golden Inkwell trophy. Competition founder and former Bermuda resident Tom Coash is a judge this year. The American playwright now lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Mrs Pharoah-Williams has won the competition twice before. She has acted in many local theatrical productions and also does radio voice-overs. It was Mr Coash who originally encouraged her to broaden her focus.

“I was in a play directed by Tom Coash,” said Mrs Pharoah-Williams. “Tom asked if I was going to write anything for Famous for 15 Minutes, and it felt like a challenge.”

Her entry this year is called 'One Size Fits All', and is about a couple competing to get each other the perfect anniversary gift.

English teacher George Morton entered his play, 'Straight from the Horse's Mouth'.

“It is about three men trying to buy a horse. A few problems get in the way. There are three distinctly different characters but each of them has traits of my personality.

“That's quite horrifying, because my characters are all quite horrible. It has been fabulous taking part. The actors in my play have been really dedicated. The casting has been great.”

Adam Gauntlett, a building surveyor, said he had deliberately avoided watching the actors rehearse his play. He was afraid that he might get too heavily involved in the performance process and start to take over.

“That is not what I want,” he said. “I want to see the other people's interpretation of my play. I also want to see the audience's appreciation. The first time I am going to see it is this coming Thursday on opening night.”

His play, 'Still Life with Book', is about a reader trying desperately to eek out some quiet time so he can enjoy a good book.

Kevin Comeau, a retired lawyer, has entered the competition twice. His play was picked as a finalist last year, but he lost to

The Royal Gazette reporter Owain Johnston-Barnes, who has won twice.

“He always wins,” Mr Comeau joked. “Same with Deborah. They are stiff competition. I was thrilled last year to have my play performed. I loved watching it.

“We have some very dedicated and talented actors. I saw my play being performed [Monday during rehearsal] for the first time. They gave it a lot more life than I did on the written page, so I am thrilled about the whole thing.”

Mr Comeau's play is a comedy called 'A Little Bit of Heaven'. It is about two men debating unhappiness and the merits of various cures.

“I just thought in Bermuda we could all use a laugh right now,” said Mr Comeau.

Ironically, Mr Johnston-Barnes will be performing in Mr Comeau's play. Joking around, Mr Johnston-Barnes said it wouldn't do any good for him to try to “throw” the play by performing poorly as the plays are judged based on what's written and not the acting.

“It would just make me look like an idiot,” he said with a laugh.

“There didn't seem to be any weak links in the performances. I think it is an open playing field at this point. I never really think I am going to win once I entered and I wasn't even a finalist. Mine is called 'A Thousand Words' it's not 1000 words in length. That's what people always ask.”

The plot of his play is that a girl sets out to find photographs lost in an estate sale after the death of her aunt. She drags her friend along for the ride. Unfortunately the pictures' new owner, a bitter man with a nearly unpronounceable last name and a heavy chip on his shoulder, doesn't want to sell.

This was the first time Mark Lavery, a communications manager in an accounting firm, entered the competition.

“I always find it interesting how flawed our language is at articulating an experience, emotion, or even the simplest idea that we are trying to get across to another person,” he said. “Yet, in our current world of instant text messaging, and e-mails, we rely on it almost exclusively to interact with each other.

“I started to think about this in the context of memory and the objectivity of truth and the play sort of took shape from there.”

His play 'The Appointment' is about a man who goes to the doctor to alleviate chronic anxiety.

Proceeds from the shows will go toward the BMDS Charitable Trust, a charity that aims to promote and develop local theatrical arts, in the form of scholarships or bursaries, or through drama, music and dance workshops.

Tickets are $25, except for Thursday's gala performance and the finale night when tickets are $75. There will be no performance February 12.

Tickets are available at the Daylesford Theatre box office or by calling 292-0848 between 5.30pm and 7pm tonight, and one hour before curtain on performance nights. Tickets can also be purchased at www.bmds.bm outside of box office hours.

Adam Gauntlett, George Morton, Deoborah Pharoah-Williams, Kevin Comeau and Owain Johnston-Barnes. Missing is Mark Lavery.

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Published February 08, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 08, 2012 at 8:55 am)

Six finalists set to do battle in Famous for 15 Minutes

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