by Emily Dodi

A sign that the Apocalypse has been averted: Playzapalooza! is back. After a two-year hiatus, Santa Paula Theater Center’s signature festival returns with six one-act plays that were actually selected back in 2020 (aka The Before Times). The selection committee explains, “We read and selected these plays in 2020, just as the pandemic was ramping up, with no idea that the next two years would be interrupted.” Thankfully, Playzapalooza’s time for waiting in the wings is finally over — but with only one weekend left, time is running out to see the fabulously fun event, onstage through July 31. 

Produced by the Creature Company members Elixeo Flores, Leticia Mattson and Lisa Mirabelli, Playzapalooza! is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The festival sprang from a writers’ group that met regularly at SPTC. Flores explains that one day John McKinley, one of the group’s members, got a great idea. 

Performers at the Santa Paula Theater Center. Photo submitted

“Hey, we’re all writers and we are meeting here at a theater, why don’t we try writing some plays?” McKinley is reported to have said.

Over the years, the event has grown in size and prestige — from being a showcase of the group’s work to becoming a popular festival featuring plays from “anywhere and everywhere.”

This year’s lineup includes an eclectic mix of works by established and up-and-coming playwrights alike. 

The evening opens with Leslie Vitanza directing Bethany D’Ambra and Anthony Baldonado in Hitch, written by the prolific Houston-based playwright and actor Michael Weems. 

Playzapalooza! is back after a two-year hiatus. Photo submitted

Adrienne Dawes’ Run. Hide. Fight., directed by Dave Clintron, features Jared Lantiegne, Cathy Tran and Scott Blanchard. Originally from Austin, Dawes is a writer, producer, teaching artist and member of Austin’s Salvage Vanguard Theater.  

B-Movie, written by Joe Carlisle, stars Anthony Baldonado, Beltane Howden and Christine Adams, and is directed by Leticia Mattson. A founding member of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Carlisle’s work has been produced on the New York stage and in other venues around the country.

Sindy McKay directs When Mom Swipes Right by Thomas J. Misuraca, an award-winning writer who has had more than 150 plays produced across the country. The cast includes Christine Adams, Scott Blanchard and Byron Fraser. McKay also directs A Night Out by Michael P. Adams, an award-winning playwright based in the Los Angeles area. His work has been produced from New York to L.A. and many points in between. Bethany D’Ambra, Byron Fraser and Beltane Howden star in the one act that has been called “a masterpiece of quirkiness and sarcasm with all the feels.”

Sex and the Mailman was written by local playwrights José Torres and Larry Nadler, who sadly passed away in 2021. It is directed by Leticia Mattson and stars Dolores Britton, Elixeo Flores, Nancy Hullihan and Mitch Stone.  

Filled with humor, sass and great fun, SPTC’s one-act festival is a great way to spend a summer evening or afternoon. So, welcome back, Playzapalooza! Your return has been worth the wait.  

Playzapalooza! through July 31 at Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. Seventh St., Santa Paula. For tickets and more information, call 805-525-4645 or visit www.santapaulatheatercenter.org/backstage.html