"Talking Wales," a series of four monologues by Utah playwright and Welsh native Mike Dorrell, will have its world premiere this week, staged by Utah Contemporary Theatre in the Patrick Moore Gallery (formerly the Forum Gallery), 511 W. 200 South.

Dorrell, who is dramaturg at Salt Lake Acting Company, comes out of the Welsh tradition of storytelling. "All my family tells stories. My grandfather was a storyteller in Wales, and I also have an Irish grandmother who is a storyteller. I'm bringing back storytelling in a different way."

Although Dorrell moved here 16 years ago, he still has a home and family in Wales. "My parents live there, and I return home at least twice a year," he said, adding that he met his wife Heather in Wales nearly 25 years ago. "Her family was among the original Mormon immigrants. They're on the This Is the Place Monument, and homesteaded what is now part of Sundance Resort."

Dorrell has written several radio plays for the BBC. "I write these all the time. There's a bunch of them."

Three of the four short plays being staged as part of "Talking Wales" were originally part of a BBC series of stories, which Dorrell has adapted to be told from a first-person perspective.

"Catwoman" is the only one of the quartet being told by a Welshman, and Dorrell himself will perform this piece. Directed by Kurt Proctor, it's about a young man who encounters a woman who does chalk-drawings of famous people as cats on the pavement, and how this becomes a life-changing experience.

"The Pole," directed by Adrianne Moore, is told by an American woman (played by Artemis Preeshl), who has relocated to Wales in search of peace and solitude.

"An Afternoon in the Chapel," directed by Kirstie Rosenfield and featuring Proctor, is about an Irish antiques dealer who finally finds something he can't "acquire" in a Cockney craftswoman.

"Castles," also directed by Rosenfield and newly written especially for Daisy Blake, is told from the perspective of a British "east ender" whose Cockney family has moved to Wales. She is a sort of amateur — but unpublished — writer, who conjures up Arthurian romances in her head. She is also attempting to learn Welsh because her school-age daughter is now attending a school in Wales.

Dorrell is also responsible for the development of new works at SLAC. He was one of several regional playwrights to be involved in SLAC's Winter Olympics project, "Cabbies, Cowboys and the Tree of the Weeping Virgin," a collection of short plays dealing with the West. He has also worked at the the University of Utah and Westminster College, where he teaches part-time.

Dorrell is a prolific writer. "If I see somebody and they start talking, then I write it all down, although most of the time the writing is done well past that first encounter."

Proctor — who, with Rosenfield is a co-founder of Utah Contemporary Theatre — explains that while the four short plays are about completely different subjects, "what they share in common is that their stories involve a point of epiphany in the characters' lives, and where their lives go from there."

Proctor said UHC will utilize a "modified thrust and traverse stage," exploiting the fact that they're being presented in an art gallery. "It's a nontraditional staging in a nontraditional space. We will let the space be what it is — a gallery — and these people's stories are works of art."

The next major project for UHC is the company's annual fund-raiser — a Tony Awards gala scheduled for Sunday, June 5, the night the Tonys are presented in New York City. The cost is $40 per person, including food and other related festivities.

Utah Contemporary Theatre focuses almost entirely on presenting new and unknown works that might not otherwise be staged locally. The company hosts an ongoing series of play readings at Cucina, a deli in the Avenues.


If you go

What: "Talking Wales"

Where: Patrick Moore Gallery, 511 W. 200 South

When: Wednesday through May 7

How much: $15

Phone: 355-2787

Web site: www.arttix.org or www.utahcontemporarytheatre.org


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com