I've noticed a common thread among amateur playwrights, in general, that gets me cringing a bit at the thought of seeing a locally-written play - or, in the case of the one-acts for New Ground Theatre's 2014 Playwrights Festival, several locally-written plays, which I viewed on Saturday evening. All too often, I've found these writers struggle with dialogue, particularly in regard to writing phrases and conversations in a manner in which people actually speak. I'm happy to say, however, that this is not the case with New Ground's presentation, as all four of its playwrights manage to provide believable dialogue and discussions, removing from the equation the distraction of annoyingly obvious and unrealistic speech.

author Dana-Moss Peterson (left), with Jessica Denney, in New Ground Theatre's Mr. MarmaladeOver the years, Davenport's New Ground Theatre has prided itself on the presentation of new works by emerging authors. But this year, even Artistic Director Chris Jansen is shocked to find the company not only producing eight new works in a season, but eight new works - the majority of them by local authors - over a two-night span.

Melissa McBain

(The following is the sidebar to the feature story "Love Letters: Melissa McBain Pays Tribute to Her Mother in New Ground Theatre's Going Back Naked.")

In addition to playwriting and performing, Melissa McBain also teaches in Augustana College's theatre department, and currently serves as coordinator and producer for the Quad City Playwrights' Festival, an annual evening of short plays by local writers, directed and acted by Augustana students. (This year's festival will take place at Augustana's Wallenberg Hall on Sunday, May 10.)