As a fourth generation Helena resident, Steve Palmer has long been a proponent of Regional Art – the idea that art from this place might be unique. Recently Palmer has been combining his longtime interest in playwrighting and years of acting experience into a series of solo works. At the 2nd Annual Last Chance New Play Fest in Helena, he premiered two solo pieces: NUMB3RS by Robert Bayuk and his own, CAT AND SMOKE. For the 3 rd Last Chance Play Fest he presented SHEEP STORIES, a storytelling based on memories of his teenage years spent on a sheep ranch in the Helena Valley in the 1960s. This past September he performed his full length, one-man comedy, BOXED in New York City at the UNITED SOLO FEST, the largest festival in the world honoring works performed by a single person. Palmer is also an artist with a pottery studio at his house. Of local interest might be the fact that he graduated from MSU with a degree in Art and Theater. He was involved with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for two seasons and was a sometime actor, director and playwright for the Vigilante Players.
The festival will feature a reading of Palmer's short play Transgressions, in which a film star of faded glory has consented to open his real life to film crews doing some segment of a reality TV show. The scrutiny of cameras brings unexpected stresses and a late-night confrontation between father and son where deep secrets begin to emerge.
Leah Joki is an actor, writer and director. She devoted most of her adult life to teaching in prison. Her prison arts program was profiled in The Los Angeles Times, American Theatre Magazine and The LA Weekly. Her one-woman show PRISON BOXING was nominated for the best Solo Performance in Los Angeles in 2015. Her memoir, Juilliard to Jail, is currently being developed into a film by Joe Manganiello and his company. Her writing credits include the plays; The Year of Baldwin, The Poppovichs, The Big Picture, Hairball, A Bad Play, and Time Will Tell which was produced by the Poetic Justice Project and toured throughout CA for over a year. Her new book, Joki Shorts (a collection of short plays) will be released in 2019. Ms. Joki received her BFA in theater from the UM, a masters degree from the Juilliard School and an MFA from the UM. She is currently the Western Regional Representative for the Montana Playwrights Network.
The festival will feature a reading of Joki's Bananagrams, a short play based on Leah Joki’s family at a gathering in Philipsburg, MT. They are a tight-knit clan from Butte. They work hard and they play harder. Ms. Joki bases much of her writing on her personal experiences because, as she says, “I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. Life is stranger than fiction.” The outcome at the end of the play is fictional, but to this day it would be the family’s dream come true.
Pamela Jamruszka Mencher
Mencher returned to Big Sky Country after working as a college professor and arts advocate in Colorado. She is an actor, director, producer, costume designer and playwright, with twenty-six of her plays performed throughout the United States. She has received many awards recognizing her playwriting, teaching and professional theatre careers. Currently, Pamela serves as the president of the Montana Playwrights Network, and non-profit organization that serves writers throughout Montana.
The festival will feature a reading of Mencher's Killing Pollyanna. In this short play, Nan desperately searches for ways to destroy her inner Pollyanna.
C.M. Webb wrote her first story when she was nine years old because there just weren’t enough horse books in the world. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication at MSU-Billings. Her work experience includes public radio DJ, production assistant for an ABC television station, and an EMT for a volunteer fire department. Combining a love of visual expression and writing, Ms. Webb crafted a screenwriting career that has resulted in numerous awards. Her screenplays have won the Sautter Memorial, Kern Film Festival, and Cash Pot Contest. They’ve been selected projects at Stowe Story Lab and the Montana Playwrights Conference. She has been a screenplay contest finalist eight times, a semifinalist twelve times, was awarded an honorable mention six times, came in 3rd once and 2nd three times. Her one-act play, Driver’s Ed was a selection at the first Montana Playwrights Conference in Helena and won 2nd place in the Writer’s Digest Writing Completion, script division. She has produced four one-woman photography shows, two of which were funded by grants from the Puffin Foundation. Most recently she learned to play a wild ukulele. Once the snow melts, she’ll be kayaking the Missouri River or staring into the sun while flying a drone.
The festival will feature a reading of the first act of Webb's full-length play Driver's Ed, which deals with two parenting dilemma. Which is scarier?...teaching a teenager to drive or answering teenage sex questions? Teaching Kiddo how to drive and survive high school, Mom wonders why, what she knows she should say, and what she really wants to say are so completely different?
Shira Hereld is a traveling playwright, actor, activist, and trail worker whose one-acts include Why the Cranes Fly, The Bluest Eyes You Ever Saw, and Howling. Her play, Way-Station has been published in the literary journal plain china. She created over a dozen short theatrical pieces while Assistant Teaching for Devising Hope, a D.C.-based social justice theatre workshop that brings together high school students and homeless individuals to created devised theatre. During college, she also spent three season working with Creative Age, which pairs low-income senior citizens and college students to create and perform devised work. She was the recipient of The George Washington University's Presidential Scholar of the Arts Scholarship Award and starred in multiple performances on the GWU stage.
The festival features a reading of Hereld's Way Station. In this play, Jeanie, a nervous newlywed, finds her life quietly turned upside-down when she meets Luisa--who has waited for years in a train station for her husband's return. As secrets threaten Jeanie's marriage, she returns daily to Luisa's side to wrestle with her intertwining fears of purposelessness, love, and loss.