Dennis Moritz, a Germantown resident for the last 50 years, is not exactly a household name. But the founding partner of N1 Theatre has gotten some pretty impressive reviews.
Dennis Moritz, a Germantown resident for the last 50 years, is not exactly a household name. But the founding partner of N1 Theatre has gotten some pretty impressive reviews for his “probably over 40 plays; I stopped counting at 30.”
And three of his one-act plays — “Uncle,” “Blues in a Buick” and “Love Luv” — which he also directs, will be performed Thursday, Sept. 14, through Sunday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m., at Our House Cultural Center, a 40-seat venue used for community events at 6380 Germantown Ave. – the block that unites Germantown and Mt. Airy.
“Dennis has a way with words, and so the language of my character, Shelli, is pure poetry,” said Daralyse Lyons, a Mt. Airy author, yoga teacher and actress who stars in “Love Luv,” adding, “Shelli is unlucky in love, yet gritty and resilient. She grew up surrounded by siblings with an inattentive mother and has been searching for someone to love and rescue her.”
A New York editor, Maureen Owen, who has written numerous collections of well-reviewed poetry, has written of Moritz's plays, "What Theater! You can feel the breath of his words on your face. You can hear these words chewing. Moritz's stinging jumping-jellybean, rose-dropping, light-switching language takes you hostage!"
Moritz spent his youth in New York City but left in 1963 to attend the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English and read and wrote lots of poetry. He came to Philadelphia in 1967 to study English at Temple University, and he began writing plays in 1972. He later earned a master's degree in elementary education in 1977 from Antioch University and an MFA in playwriting from Temple in 2000.
“In 1972,” said Moritz, “my poet friends and I worked on a radio poetry montage for WXPN we called, 'Eating to be Followed by Sleeping.' We needed another five minutes to fill, and that's how I came to write my first play, called 'Radio Station X.'”
While writing plays, to keep body and soul together Moritz taught in the Early Childhood Education Programs of the Philadelphia public schools' Head Start Program for 34 years. For all those years, Moritz has also been immersed in both the poetry and theater scenes in this city as well as New York.
“Philly feels easygoing next to New York,” he said. “Philly clears my head, allows me to rest, easily think my own thoughts, walk at a moderate pace, say hello to passersby, chat by the Manayunk Canal, for instance, feel plants growing. In Germantown, I live in an old house with small rooms ... My wife, Phyllis, is a poet and has many books published. We debrief our dreams and cogitations in the morning. Do breakfast. Walking around Philly enables personal expansion. The day-to-day outside world makes space and does not assault...
“When I first left New York, I was addicted to and a functionary of that pace, the daily challenges of doing basic acts. Going somewhere by public transportation. Doing breakfast at a local luncheonette, where I ate growing up. A 21-story apartment building. Tight elevators up and down. Cultural maelstrom. My body ran at that clock speed. It took years to slow down and level out. Yay for Philadelphia.”
Moritz has had numerous plays performed at the Painted Bride Art Center in West Philadelphia, including “The Rise and Fall of Phineas T. Nozzle,” “Short Circuits,” “Media Blitz,” “Uncle,” “The Dorothy Stratten Story” (about a real-life murder of a movie actress) and “Just the Boys.” He has also produced others in New York City and other venues, some as far away as New Zealand.
Moritz's own favorite playwrights are Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Moliere, Adrienne Kennedy, Amiri Baraka, Suzan Laurie Parks, Robbie McCaulie, Samuel Beckett and August Wilson.
If Moritz's plays have elements in common, what are they?
“Poetry language that coheres to character,” he replied. “Mosaic self-sufficiency of scene, the tiles assembled to make the play. Humor, intensity, irony. Political commentary in the DNA. Intense American characters that do unexpected things. Provoking.”
What do the three plays that will be performed from Sept. 14 to 17 have in common?
“They arise from life in the USA,” answered Moritz. “They have jokes that make you laugh and abruptly stop laughing. They have poetry language in service of character and action. They have surprise, surprise, surprise, and actors who inhabit these works with vividness and power.”
For ticket information, call 215-413-1318 or visit phillyfringe.org/events/5-locks-5-keys or www.n1-theatre.com. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com