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8 Tens @ 8 Opens This Friday, January 20th

After nearly 3 years, the 8 Tens Festival is back! We’ve got two great shows with 16 different plays, and a wide variety of characters and situations coming your way.

This year’s Festival explores topics ranging from how to choose the perfect pet, to appropriate occasions for bringing a casserole, to why you should always be nice to Alexa. Returning actors from past years are joined by talented new faces to bring you this smorgasbord of short-play goodness. Here’s who’s who and what’s what.

A man in a church trying to pray
Ward Willats in the 2020 production of "Press Pray."

Ward Willats, who delighted audiences in the 2020 pre-pandemic show with his struggles with God’s answering service in the play “Press Play,” takes on two very different roles in this year’s Festival. As a wise and world-weary older priest, he counsels his newly ordained colleague played by Tristan Ahn in “Confessions a Deux” by Stephen Cooper, directed by Helene Simkin Jara. Lee Ann Grey, a long-time Santa Cruz performer who is new to the 8 Tens, joins Ward in Madeline Puccioni’s “Wonder People,” directed by Hannah Eckstein, and takes on the title role in “The Tree” by Barbara Anderson, directed by Evan Hunt. “The Tree” also features Gino Danna and Mary Ann LoBalbo, who have both acted with the Festival in past years.

Tristan Ahn takes on multiple roles this year, in addition to a young priest, he plays an uncertain but sincere spiritual guide in “The Most Precious Thing” by Amy Dellagriarino, directed by Sarah Albertson, sharing the stage with Manirose Bobisuthi, who we are excited to welcome back to acting after many years spent starring in her offstage role as a mom. Tristan is also in “Honest Abe Mazulu,” also by Stephen Cooper, directed by Rebecca Haley Clark, who joins the Festival directors team for the first time this year after directing at Santa Cruz Shakespeare this summer.

A man and woman sitting together with the woman laughing and the man looking amused
Avondina Wills and Sarah Cruse are both acting in the Festival again this year

“Honest Abe” features Festival favorite Avondina Wills in the title role, along with Thomas Webb, who is new to the Festival, but not the stage, having performed with both Cabrillo Stage and Cabrillo College recently. Thomas also plays a frustrated pet owner looking for a boon companion in “Man’s Best Friend,” by Tim Lehnert, directed by Buff McKinley. Acting with Thomas in “Man’s Best Friend” are Naomi Rollins, Karin Babbitt, and a special guest performer. Karen Babbitt also appears along with Karen Schamberg in “Father Michael’s Doing Mass” by Kevin Broccoli, directed by Jim Schultz. And, in addition to her acting work this year, Karin is directing playwright John Bavoso’s “An Awkward Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah,” perhaps the ultimate father-son dilemma, starring Thomas Arns and Andrew Yabroff. Andrew plays another son dealing with a parent’s surprise in “Everything Happens for a Reason…Right?” by William J. Royce, directed by Cathy Warner, which features Mindy Pedlar as his mom. This veteran actress, appearing in her first 8 Tens, also stars with Steven Capasso, an actor very familiar to 8 Tens audiences, in “Eddy & Edna” by Donald Loftus, directed by Andrew Davids.

A homeless man holding a dollar bill
Steven Capasso in "The Anonymous Donor" from the 2018 Festival

In addition to “The Tree,” Gino Danna plays a beleaguered school principal dealing with an interesting proposal from the skateboarding student played by A.J. Davey Ouse in “Youth for Dark” by Keith Whalen, directed by Kathryn Adkins. Well-known MCT director Kathie Kratochvil, who recently presented “Now & Then” at the Actors’ Theatre, directs “Unreasonable Situations” by Lindsey Brown, starring Lyndsey Marks and Evandra Aurelia; and director Marcus Cato takes on “Something Holy in Croatia” by Steven Haworth, featuring Scott Kravitz, who has been seen in many roles in 8 Tens over the years, and David Leach, an actor well known to MCT audiences who is making his 8 Tens debut. David also learns a lesson from Sarah Cruse’s character in “Slave Trade” by Ian Patrick Williams, directed by Gerry Gerringer. “Death Brings a Casserole” by Dan Borengasser, directed by Peter Gelblum, starts off Part 2, Act 2, with Martin Sampad Kachuck surprising Kostas Guzman-Gieseken with both a casserole and some unexpected news. Martin and Kostas, along with Hannah Eckstein and Helene Simkin Jara, close out the evening with “An Adventure in Forms” by Christian Neuhaus, directed by Wilma Marcus Chandler, who captained the 8 Tens Festival as its Artistic Director for many years.

There’s the run-down: 16 plays, presented in two shows, for the next 5 weeks, brought to life for you by 16 directors, 26 actors, as well as talented lighting/sound designer Lyndsey Gould, who also serves as stage manager; set designer Suzanne Schrag; and our amazing tech crew: Gaby Teresi, Holly Boyd, Buff McKinley, Siid Bobisuthi and Kalea Jenkins.

For tickets visit where you can also see the list of shows in each part and check out the performance calendar.

Enjoy the show(s)!


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