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The Source Festival is to playwrights as Chicago’s Second City is to comedians. Now in its fifth year since its 2008 revival, the summertime festival has become a reliable wellspring of new plays in D.C. But getting there isn’t easy: An open call for 10-minute plays yielded nearly 700 submissions, all of which had to be read, graded, and whittled down by a massive team of volunteers. In sum, Source will unveil 24 brand-new pieces, including three artistic blind dates and three full-length plays helmed by established local directors. It all kicks off today with a set of 10-minute plays centered on “Redeeming Demons,” one of three themes in this year’s festival (alongside “Rites of Passage” and “Ethereal Encounters”). Next week, the first full-length work on view will be Gabriel Dean’s The Qualities of Starlight, about a cosmologist who finds out his parents are hooked on meth; June 14 brings the opening of Norman Allen’s The House Halfway, based on a group of people working in a euthanasia center in the Caribbean. For a dose of the contemporary, try F2F, Jennifer Barclay’s shorty about the impact of a sext on a group of teens, which debuts June 10. But Source Festival, despite its penchant for darkness, is a life-giving force: This year it introduces a new mentorship program that pairs new artists with experienced directors, providing an opportunity “to strengthen everybody’s product,” says producer Jenny McConnell Frederick, and “plant the seed for later collaboration.”

The Source Festival runs June 8 to July 1 at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets $10–$20. Passes available. sourcefestival.org. 202-315-1305.