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If You Go

What: “Time Stands Still”

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 20. 22 and 28, and Oct. 4 and 6 ; 2 p.m. Sept. 30

Where: Raven Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg.

Admission: $10-$25; $15 all seats Oct. 4

Information: 707-433-6335, raventheater.org

What: “Church & State”

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 21, 27 and 29, and Oct. 5; 2 p.m. Sept. 23 and Oct. 7

Where: Raven Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg.

Admission: $10-$25; $15 all seats Sept. 27

Information: 707-433-6335, raventheater.org.

NOTE: There is a $10 discount for those who buy tickets for both shows.

For its fall offering, the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg offers not just one live stage play, but two — running on alternate nights in a format the company calls “Mini-Rep,” as in miniature repertory.

Both plays, each to be performed just six times, are timely and topical, with a sharp edge.

“Time Stands Still,” about a photojournalist and a foreign correspondent who are changed by the Iraq War and find life as a couple challenging, opens Thursday, Sept. 20, and closes Oct. 6.

“Church & State,” about a Southern Republican senator running for re-election who publicly doubts his in faith in God after school shooting, opens Friday, Sept. 21, and closes Oct. 7.

“It started because I wanted to do a politically oriented play just before the mid-term elections,” said Steven David Martin, artistic director of the Raven Players, the theater’s resident stage company.

When Martin told Tom Brand, executive director at the Raven, that he had two plays in mind, but was wary of using two spots on the season schedule for similarly topical shows, Brand suggested the Mini-Rep format.

“I thought that was a great idea,” Martin said. “We’ve haven’t done it before, and it’ll be something different for our audiences, and it’ll give them a good taste of two very strong contemporary plays.”

Martin stepped up to direct “Church & State” himself, and Caitlin Strom-Martin, a busy local stage actress, was tapped to direct “Time Stands Still.”

“The two plays are very contemporary, and they complement each other very well,” Strom-Martin said. “They’re both four-character plays, so they’re pretty intimate.”

“Church & State,” a 2016 drama with comic moments, was written by Jason Odell, originally inspired by the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007.

The Raven production stars Matt Farrell as Sen. Charles Whitmore, whose faith is shaken by a school shooting in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, is in the midst of his re-election campaign when he admits his doubts to a blogger.

“Gun violence is one of those issues that I feel very strongly about, and I’ve been looking for a play that would do justice to the issue,” Martin said.

“This was the first play that dealt with the issue that I thought had actual, three-dimensional characters. I chose the play because I thought it dealt with gun violence in a very responsible, engaging theatrical way,” he added. “It’s very fair. It doesn’t vilify anybody. It acknowledges that there are points to be made from all aspects of this issue.”

Written by Don Marguiles, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his play “Dinner with Friends” in 2000, “Time Stands Still” premiered in Los Angeles in 2009.

It begins just after news photographer Sarah (Maureen O’Neill) has returned home from the Iraq was, where her face was scarred in a car bomb explosion. Her boyfriend James (Rusty Thompson) is a reporter struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and guilt over Sarah’s injuries.

“It’s a character study about these two people,” Strom-Martin said. “They’re trying to adjust to normalcy, but it’s more about their relationship than specifically the Iraq War conflict. A lot of people will be able to relate to them.”

While the topics are serious, the Raven believes both productions will engage and stimulate audiences, the company’s artistic director said.

“As a theater it’s important for us to not only put on fun, entertaining shows but we also have a responsibility to reflect what’s going on in our society and our community,” Martin explained, “so this our attempt to be relevant, topical and responsible.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

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