The Ashland New Plays Festival will return Wednesday, Oct. 20, with four, new American plays.

The Ashland New Plays Festival will return Wednesday, Oct. 20, with four, new American plays. A longtime showcase for playwrights from around the nation, ANPF was on hiatus last year. But new artistic director Doug Rowe says there's a new board of directors and new energy.

"We're back in full swing," he says. "This group is totally dedicated."

About 200 new plays were submitted to the festival for this year's event, and in a nearly yearlong process, four were chosen to be presented in readings. Rehearsals are going on now, with four directors and more than 30 actors, including actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The nonprofit festival was founded in 1992 to help playwrights develop new works through public readings and offer a forum to the community through discussions and workshops. It underwent some changes in the past year, with some board members leaving and others forming a new board.

"They're committed to helping out writers," says Rowe of the new board, "offering them the chance to work with the directors and some really good actors."

There were three fundraisers for this year's event, including a sold-out reading of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" at OSF's Black Swan that reunited virtually the entire, original OSF cast of several years ago, when Lowe played Willy Loman. Rowe says OSF's Bill Rauch gave his blessing to use OSF actors and even offered the Black Swan for the reading's venue.

In addition to the slate of play readings, ANPF and host playwright EM Lewis, a 2008 ANPF winner, will offer a playwriting workshop open to experienced and budding dramatists. The workshop is set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, in the Ashland public library's Gresham Room.

There is no fee, but a donation is requested. Bring paper and a pen or laptop. Call 541-512-1001.

Rowe says this year's playwrights — two from the East Coast and two from the Los Angeles area — are due in town Sunday so they have the chance to join rehearsals with directors and actors.

Rowe says good plays are being written these days. He says in addition to looking for excellence, ANPF tries to pick plays that represent a variety of styles and subjects.

The winning plays this year are "Technicolor Life," by Southern California playwright Jami Brandli, "The Insidious Impact of Anton," by New Yorker David Hilder, "A Gold Star in the Window," by Southern Californian Harlene Goodrich and "The Exceptionals" by New Jerseyite Bob Clyman. Each will play twice during the festival (see

In "A Gold Star in the Window," a women mourning the death of her veteran son — who tragically killed a small boy and his mother in the war — is outraged by the government's refusal to honor him with a gold star for her to display in the window.

"The scars of war," says Rowe.

It's directed by Lenny Neimark.

Another play with the theme of war is "Technicolor Life," in which a veteran of Iraq nursing her anger gets surprise aid from a flamboyant grandmother who throws the family into chaos. Caroline Shaffer is directing.

In "The Exceptionals," directed by John Stadelman, two women meet at a research institute that has matched both of them with a sperm donor whose IQ tops 180. Both have secrets, and as the institute imposes control over their children, each must make a decision.

"This Insidious Impact of Anton," directed by David Salsa, is about a hip, audacious urbanite whose friends have grown tired of her insults, and what happens when she meets a mysterious stranger.

"It's about the conversion of a woman," says Rowe. "How we can affect each other."