High Noon at the Rialto, Burning Coal Theatre Company, Rialto Theatre, Oct. 12

One of the best-kept secrets in regional theater until it was discontinued in 2001, this Saturday series of edgy, staged readings served a number of purposes. It gave regional audiences their first glimpse at a number of important modern playwrights–and it encouraged North Carolina playwrights to pursue their craft. It allowed seasoned theater artists a chance to stretch and experiment in a collegial workshop setting. It exposed local audiences to fresh new talent, giving a series of innovative performers and directors their first break in regional theater. In the process, it also gave theatergoers a rare chance to peek behind the scenes, and witness a theatrical work in process.

Thankfully, it’s back. “High Noon at the Rialto” resumes Saturday, Oct. 12 with Roar Lions! Roar!! In T. Cat Ford’s script, a university production of The Bacchae collides with varsity football in an exploration of the power of language. Regional newcomer Joe Megel directs.

On Nov. 9, it’s the New Millenium, and Elian Gonzalez has grown up to become the new Cuban dictator–and a minor divinity to boot. The world is different now, populated by false prophets, deadly paparazzi and a bizarre Mormon faith healer. Director Joe Megel returns to direct The Brat Monologues, an intriguing one-person show by Guillermo Reyes.

Finally, it’s Dinner with Jobita and La Chacha, in which a grandmother and her cranky domestic servant prepare a Caribbean meal on stage while reminiscing about lives and losses during a visit by Jobita’s family. Jose Ochoa, another regional newbie, directs. Dinner is served Saturday, Dec. 7.