- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Fledgling playwright Ted Groll of Bethesda knows the D.C. theatrical market is tough to crack. Even a gifted scribe could struggle before the nation's capital embraces him or her as its own.
Mr. Groll's latest play, "Run Past the Sun," is getting the next best thing — a klieg light cast upon it as part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival.
The festival, now in its 20th year, gives exposure to writers with ties to Maryland such as Mr. Groll through a network of participating theaters. It runs through Sept. 2.
"It's difficult to get your writing beyond the reading stage (in the District)," Mr. Groll says. "I'm delighted with the festival. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Mr. Groll's play runs from Friday through Aug. 5 at the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts in Brooklyn , Md. Another festival play, "The Day They Left Home" by Bob Racine of Columbia, Md., is the second of five new plays to debut with the festival this month. It runs from Thursday to Aug. 5 at the Kittamaqundi Center in Columbia, Md.
"Run" tracks the midlife crisis of an American who abandons his marriage, son and precarious business dealings for the sun-drenched climes of Thailand.
Once ensconsced in his new home, he acquires a young Thai mistress and spends his days diving for corals and shells. His bliss becomes short-lived, when a family inheritance leads his abandoned wife to Thailand in search of him, while his new Thai connections begin exerting a pull of their own upon him.
Mr. Groll says his play's scenario isn't uncommon in Thailand. He spent time in what he calls the "foreign services" and watched many an American succumb to the country's charms.
"I've seen American men fall in love with the beauty of the country and the gorgeous women," he says. "Life is easy you can get by on a small annuity."
So when he wrote the play, he figured those remembrances could fuel an intriguing drama.
"I didn't want to write about the dysfunctional family again," says Mr. Groll, who educated himself through writing courses in the Washington area after his foreign duties wrapped. "I wanted to convey the colors of Thailand, the mysteries."
The quest by the play's protagonist for his personal nirvana doesn't last long, though.
"He thinks he's found his perfect spot," Mr. Groll says. The past and a brewing typhoon alter his plans.
"Sun" director Wayne Shipley says the challenge of presenting a credible typhoon onstage, on top of the complexity in the characters, drew him to Mr. Groll's material.
"There's ambiguity in every character," Mr. Shipley says.
"The Day They Left Home," by Mr. Racine, also deals with a midlife crisis, albeit one with a less tropical flair. His lead character, a lieutenant in a Tidewater, Va., police juvenile division, suffers a work crisis that forces him to confront lingering problems in his marriage and his struggles with sobriety.
Mr. Racine, who earned a divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pa., in 1963 and remains active in the nondenominational Kittamaqundi community where the play will be performed, says he based the lead characters' relationship loosely on the interplay between his parents, though the narrative itself is fiction.
"The relationship they had would make a good, exciting drama," says Mr. Racine, who began penning plays in 1988.
For Mr. Racine, the simple act of putting idea to paper means his craft is maturing.
"The more you do it, the more you open up," he says of the process. "In the past, I tended to be more gloomy in the way I portrayed a drama." Now, even his darker pieces enjoy moments of humor.
The late-blooming playwright sees his writing as a "divine calling," one he is eager to share with his artistic brethren.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity for my play to be presented," the 68-year old says.
Mr. Groll, who has had a one-act play produced in Pittsburgh, understands that the festival's generous exposure doesn't offer his play any guaranteed future engagements.
"It might go nowhere after this, but it's given me some recognition," he says. "I've enjoyed it who knows where it goes from here?"

WHAT: "The Day They Left Home" and "Run Past the Sun," part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival
WHEN: "Day," Thursday through Aug. 5 at the Kittamaqundi Center, 5410 Leaf Treader Way, Columbia; "Run" Friday through Aug. 5 at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts , 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn
TICKETS: For more information, call 410/276-2153


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