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Huntington fest gives a read on new plays

The Huntington Theatre Company announced plans yesterday for its first new-play festival, a four-day program that will offer a sampling of fruits from the Huntington's two-year-old Stanford Calderwood Fund for New American Plays.

The Breaking Ground Festival, which runs from March 18 through 21, will feature readings of works in progress by writers commissioned through the Huntington playwriting fellowship program, along with a reading of a new musical, "Lily," based on Edith Wharton's novel "The House of Mirth."

The readings kick off on March 18, with "Stabbing," a Calderwood-commissioned work by Stephen Belber, a playwright and screenwriter whose new play "Match," directed by Huntington artistic director Nicholas Martin, opens on Broadway this spring.

The March 20 lineup includes readings by three of the four Boston playwrights who received Calderwood commissions last fall: Melinda Lopez, who will read from her play-in-progress, "Sonia Flew"; John Kuntz, from "Jasper Lake"; and Sinan Unel, from "Pathetique."

Ronan Noone, whose "The Gigolo Confessions of Baile Breag" is having its world premiere this month in a Sugan Theatre Company production at the Boston Center for the Arts, won't be taking part in the festival, according to Kuntz. Noone, who finished writing "Gigolo Confessions" while a fellow, isn't far enough along with another play to participate.

"That's the only bummer -- that Ronan won't be part of it," said Kuntz, who was on his way yesterday to a meeting of the four fellows.

The festival wraps up on March 21 at 3 p.m. with a reading of "Lily," a new musical by Peter Flynn (book) and Brooks Ashmanskas (music and lyrics). As an actor, Ashmanskas has appeared locally in the Huntington's 2001 production of Moliere's "Amphitryon," and in Kuntz's "Jump Rope," which New Stages mounted in 2002 at Boston Playwrights' Theatre.

All events will be held in Studio 210 at 264 Huntington Ave., adjacent to the Boston University Theatre. There is still one more play to be chosen, which will be read on March 19 at 7:30.

The readings are free; there is a suggested donation of $10. For reservations, call the Huntington box office at 617-266-0800.

Maureen Dezell can be reached at dezell@globe.com

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