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It was on a chilly February evening that a dozen or so actors first arrayed themselves in a semicircle at Church Street Theater to see how the screenplay for Out of Season would play to an audience.

Carol Monda, familiar from appearances at Arena Stage and other venues, played Micki, the urban, ostensibly tough lesbian who comes reluctantly to Cape May, N.J., to take care of her dying uncle. New York actress Joy Kelly played the uncle’s best friend, Roberta, who can’t imagine falling in love again, no matter how attracted she is to this newcomer. Other area performers filled out the dozen or so subsidiary roles, and as they all warmed to their dialogue, the story moved briskly and with warm, evocative humor. Though obviously a work in progress, Out of Season was rapturously received by the crowd.

This Sunday, after three and a half weeks of 14-hour-a-day location shooting in Cape May and countless additional hours of editing, a more complete view of the work—still “in progress” but much further along—will screen as part of the gay and lesbian film fest “Reel Affirmations.” And local first-time filmmaker Jeanette Buck will again be anxiously watching audience reaction.

“We clarified some exposition after the reading,” she recalls. “And we’ll probably make changes after the screening, too, so the audience can still have an impact.”

Buck has worked behind the scenes in local theater for years but opted to go back to grad school to study film. Out of Season is her Ohio University MFA thesis film but also, she says, a labor of love.

“It’s all I want to do,” she gushes. “Every morning in Cape May, I got up and directed. That was, like, the hugest gift I could ever get.”

Which is a good thing, since she financed the film with “credit cards, student loans, and every cent I earned this summer at the Folklife Festival and the Kennedy Center. I’m way, waaay in debt—more than I ever made in a year.”

Still, along the way, she’s learned the fund-raising ropes. To get a grant, she locked herself in an editing room for a weekend and made a flashy, three-minute trailer that would look right at home on any cineplex screen, with Micki and Roberta striding on beaches, sparring in diners, rocking on front porches, fuming, laughing, and making love in an attention-getting, languorously erotic nude scene.

“I’m also gonna make a shameless pitch for money at the screening,” Buck laughs. “I’ll plant [local actress] Deb Gottesman in the audience to ask a question in the Q&A, like, ‘So how can we help you? What do you need now?’”

What she most needed, though, she’s already gotten: “I’m showing it in D.C. first, because the community was so amazingly supportive. When I started making it, I had no idea I had so many resources. And most of them are in the D.C. theater community.”—Bob Mondello

Out of Season screens Sunday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. at the Embassy Theater.