Folks who’ve been following local theater for any amount of time hear Equity actor Angelica Howland’s name and think of her performances in The Yellow Boat at Childsplay. Or her turn in Quills at In Mixed Company. Or one of her personal favorites: as the sexy ingénue in The Vibrator Play at Actors Theatre. Dessert connoisseurs know her from Scrumptious Angel, the all organic, theme-cookie bakery she launched in 2012. But few people are aware that Howland moonlights as a playwright.
All that’s about to change. Forward, Howland’s latest play, is receiving a full-on workshop production this week, as part of the Caleb Reese Theatre Festival of New Plays and Musicals at Phoenix Theatre.
“I’ve been writing since I was a child,” Howland says. “The organizers of the theater festival were short a playwright for the 24 Hour Theater Festival a few years ago, and they asked me to write something, so I wrote a 10-minute piece called The Nothing Place. They loved it and wanted to know what else I had.”
What else she had was Forward, which Howland workshopped at last year’s Caleb Reese festival. When Phoenix Theatre asked patrons to vote on which festival entry they wanted to see produced, they chose Forward.
“It’s about two souls who meet in a beach house,” Howland says of her play. “They find out they’re soul mates, but it’s impossible for them to be together. It’s about letting go, learning from that, and moving on.”
The production features an impressive cast, including David Barker and Maren Maclean, who’s playing the role Howland wrote for herself. “After watching her play Claire, I couldn’t think of anyone else in the role. And David Barker’s voice was in my head while I was writing the character he plays. So this is perfect.”
It’s fascinating, Howland admits, to watch a story she envisioned come to life on the stage. “It’s bizarre how the actors know what I meant without me telling them anything that’s not on the page. The story stands on its own feet because they’re making it happen. I just wrote it.”
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Forward is at Phoenix Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and 7, at 7:30 p.m. and on Monday, May 8, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 through Phoenix Theatre's website.