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Astoria Arts Collective Starts Local Play Reading Series

ASTORIA — For years, Meredith Packer found herself having to leave Astoria for Manhattan or Brooklyn for most of her theatrical arts pursuits, only to discover she was surrounded by fellow neighbors once she got there.

"Why is there this seemingly endless amount of talent I'm constantly meeting from Queens, but not in Queens?" Packer recalled asking herself. "Wouldn't it be nice to produce work and not have to get on six trains to do it?"

Last year, the 29-year-old — who has a background in theater but works for a Manhattan financial firm by day — got together with three other local playwrights and actors to start Mission to (dit)Mars, an arts collective for the creative community in Western Queens.

One of the group's first projects kicks off on Monday with a free play reading at Chain Theatre in Long Island City.

The event is one of several planned for this year, part of Mission to (dit)Mars' Launch Pad Reading Series that aims to showcase the talents of neighborhood writers, actors and directors and give playwrights the opportunity to hear their news works read aloud.

Monday's reading will feature a play by Astoria playwright Courtney Lauria called "Bridge and Boundaries," which tells the story of a young protagonist forced to deal with her phobias, set in a brick house under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

Mission to (dit)Mars also has a writers group that meets every month to share their work and workshop pieces.

"We're starting with just curating what we have, which is writers and playwrights," Packer said, adding that they're open to forming other programs, like an actors or photographers group.

"We're always welcoming new work," she said.

The Launch Pad Reading Series will present "Bridges and Boundaries" on Monday, April 1 at the Chain Theatre, 21-28 45th Rd. in Long Island City at 7 p.m. The event is free. Reservations can be made here.