CASPER THE NOT SO FRIENDLY GHOST Takes Top Prize at Riant Theatre's 28th Strawberry One-Act Festival

The Riant Theatre's 28th Strawberry One-Act Festival presented the "Best Play Award" to the comedy "Casper, The Not So Friendly Ghost" written by Domenic Servidio, a senior at New World School of the Arts in Miami, on August 24 at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space.

Over 30 short plays and ten videos competed for top awards in the 28th Season of the Strawberry One-Act Festival at both the Tato Laviera Theatre and the Poet's Den Theatre from August 5 - 23. "It was a very strong season of plays," said Van Dirk Fisher, founder and director of Riant Theatre and Strawberry One-Act Festival, which is over 20 years old. "Everyone seemed impress with the work and were captivated by the strong writing, directing and acting in the festival."

"Casper The Not So Friendly Ghost" is a slapstick comedy about a misunderstood spirit that's haunting a home recently purchased by a newlywed couple. The spirit, who just wants to hang out and watch TV, doesn't understand why his roommates want to kick him out. The play was directed by Christopher Ferrer and featured Aly Pentangelo, Christopher Michaels, Krystel Mills and Alfie Ramirez.

It is Servidio's first play and the result of a playwriting class assignment to put a twist on a pop culture icon. "I thought it would be funny if instead of Casper being a nice ghost he was a complete and total jerk," said Servidio. "I'm also very inspired by farce and Jim Carrey is my idol so I tried to implement a lot of his style of comedy into my writing."

"What made Domenic's play, 'Casper The Not So Friendly Ghost,' so unique, was that he put a new spin on a beloved cartoon character and made him very current, relatable-- a young adult, bold, brash, funny, loud and a lovable jerk," said Fisher. "I found myself nearly falling out of my seat and laughing out loud when I first read the play. The show was truly over the top, a farce and hilarious. It was a true crowd pleaser."

The other top winners of the 28th Strawberry One-Act Festival are:

The BEST DIRECTOR winner: Armando Santana for "Poor, Poor Eleanor," a macabre satire about the horror faced wife as she sits down to dinner with her husband. Santana was also the co-star and playwright.

The BEST ACTOR winner: James Lentini for "Forgive Me, Brother," where he portrayed a small time gambler with terminal cancer who asks his alienated brother, a priest, to help him die.

The BEST ACTRESS winner: Sarah Murdoch for "i am so so so lonely, or, the omegle play" about internet dating.

The BEST VIDEO DIARY winner: Anthony Marinelli for "Another Famous Dead Artist" where a famous artist threatens to kill himself when his longtime protégée/muse reveals she is leaving him for another woman.

The 28th Strawberry One-Act Festival judges were from the literary and casting fields. Alexis Williams is a literary agent with Bret Adams Ltd who works with playwrights. Maria E. Nelson and Ellyn Long Marshall, founding partners of Orpheus Group Casting, specialize in theater, film and television production. Orpheus' casting credits include: Michelle Rodriguez in "Girlfight" and America Ferrera in "Real Women Have Curves."

The voting was based on theatre audiences, judges and On Demand. "On Demand viewing was up this season," said Fisher. "There were hundreds of On Demand voters. Many of the plays received great comments. So it's very encouraging to know that people enjoyed watching the plays On Demand as well as in the theatre."

The 28th Strawberry One-Act Festival also presented six full length plays, a special LGBT film and play program and "Lovers, Strangers and What Some People Call Family," a group of nine plays from the of The Best Plays from the Strawberry One-Act Festival.

This year, the festival is also presenting five full-length plays. Fisher has produced over 1,500 one act plays at theStrawberry One-Act Festival, which was established in 1995. Under Fisher's direction, seven anthologies of The Best Plays from the Strawberry One-Act Festival have been published. Several of the plays have gone on to be produced at college and regional theaters. Acting alum include Eric LaSalle "ER," Ving Rhames "Mission Impossible 5" and Jessie Eisenberg "The Social Network." The Strawberry One-Act Festival has been called "The American Idol for Playwrights" by the New York Daily News.

For more information on the Strawberry One-Act Festival's 28th Season, please check out the website atwww.therianttheatre.com, Facebook or call 646-623- 3488.

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