Three young directors from New York are running the plays for the University's Words Afire Festival.

"They sent us the plays, and we wrote about them - our vision for them, and we were interviewed by the playwrights in New York," said director Lauren Keating, who worked with playwright Mars Mraz on "The Big Come," about a sex-change surgeon. "It was exciting. (He) is so imaginative, and he puts stage directions in his plays like, 'The roof blows off the house.'"



Beginning Friday, the two-weekend festival will feature three full-length plays, three full-length directed readings and a late-night blackout performance of 10-minute plays.

"The Big Come" plays Friday at 8 p.m. in Rodey Theater, Saturday at 1 p.m., May 2 at 8 p.m. and May 3 at 2 p.m.

Keating said Mraz based his idea on a sex-change doctor in Colorado.

"Dr. Beaver has a son, Jason, who's obsessed with playing video games," she said. "Jason has a mermaid girlfriend who wants to be a real woman. Dr. Beaver gives her an operation. We watch them grow and live and learn to become a family."

Mraz said Keating was especially successful at securing the actors into their roles.

"She's a very inventive director.. The roles aren't simple, everyday roles for these actors," Mraz said. "It is surreal. It's absurd. It's comic. It's poetic."

He said the Words Afire Festival sets UNM's Theater and Dance Department apart from other programs around the nation.

"We have the ability here to write plays in

classes, workshop them in classes, do readings of them and then give them full productions," he said. "Other programs in the country keep the plays in the classroom and don't take them out to produce them."

One of the main perks for actors is dealing one-on-one with the playwrights.

"It's better than the playwright being dead and lived long ago, and now you're trying to interpret this person's work," Mraz said. "The playwright is there and a part of the production. It really benefits everyone."

Aaron Frale's mistaken-identity comedy "Profiles," about online dating, is one of the directed readings at Theatre X on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.

Good-guy Grant has his bad-boy best friend Seth set up an online dating account for him.

"So comedy ensues," he said. "It's a romantic comedy that I strongly believe both females and males can enjoy. It has guy humor as well as girl humor. It's the kind that a guy would want to go with his girlfriend, not the kind the guy is dragged to see."

Frale had work in Words Afire when it was starting, he said.

"An audience is a true test because it's people you don't know, and they're completely unfamiliar with you," he said. "They'll let you know if they like or dislike your work."

Frale said he looks forward to seeing the "Big Come" and "Deception Pass," the latter because the play's director also directed Frale's piece.

"I'm looking forward to seeing (Mars') piece," he said. "He has a very good sense of surrealism. I think he not only is funny but very poignant. It's such an intense, crazy world that he has created. Just to see it staged is pretty much an amazing feat."

Words Afire Festival

Friday-Sunday, Through May 3

Entry ranges from free to $15

For more info, call 277-4332 or visit

UnmTickets.com