Friends of Chautauqua Theater to present staged readings of one-act plays

David Zinman has two interests: cinema and writing. For the former, he has been hosting the Classic Film Series at the Chautauqua Cinema since 1983. For the latter, he was a journalist and he now writes one-act plays.

Two of his plays, “Mr. Know All” and “The Opera Maven”, will be performed in a staged reading at 1 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. The event is sponsored by the Friends of Chautauqua Theater.

“Mr. Know All” will star Chautauqua Institution’s Vice President and Director of Programming Marty Merkley, Chautauqua Opera Company General and Artistic Director Jay Lesenger and Associate Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno.

“The play is about a guy with a terrific ego that everybody finds obnoxious,” Zinman said.

Mr. Know All is about a man who bumps into his old college date at an alumni party to find her wearing a beautiful string of real pearls. Her husband claims that the pearls are fake, but Mr. Know All figures out that the necklace is real and from his college date’s lover.

“He does not tell the husband about his wife’s affair, and, by the end of the play, his character changes,” he said.

A Somerset Maugham short story inspired the play.

The inspiration behind the second play, “The Opera Maven”, is Zinman himself. The work is about a man who is dragged to the operas by his wife and is always mocked for being so ignorant.

“So he bones up during an opera — learns everything about it,” Zinman said.

The play stars political satirist and comedian Mark Russell, among others. Jared Jacobsen, Institution organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, will play the piano for this piece. Vocalists Joseph Musser and Mary Ellen Kimble will accompany him.

It takes Zinman about a month to pen his one-act plays, he said. He has been writing plays for about 10 years, and his process includes a lot of writing and rewriting.

Bob McClure will direct both plays.

“I think the plays are funny and perfect for a Chautauqua audience,” McClure said. “They have little twists that may amuse and amaze people. There will be a lot of laughs.”

McClure first came to Chautauqua in 1990. Together, he and Zinman have been putting on shows for about 10 years.

Directing these plays is McClure’s way of “giving back” to the Chautauqua Theater Company.

“Chautauquans like the unusual, and they will enjoy these two plays because they take different directions than normal life,” McClure said. “They like their thinking to be challenged and charred, and these plays will do that.”