Something new … really new

River Stage’s annual Playwright’s Festival of New Works starts this weekend, so mark your calendars for premieres of new plays directed by artistic director Frank Condon. The Dyer’s Hand by Doris Baizley runs this weekend (Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.) and takes as its point of departure a line from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. What delay in Mexico costs Antonio his ability to repay Shylock? Baizley takes a crack at answering that hypothetical. The other featured play takes off from a very real White House meeting between President Theodore Roosevelt and Samuel Clemens—otherwise known as Mark Twain. In T.R. and Twain: Luncheon at the White House, playwrights Frank Denson and Allen Freeman get two mountainous egos to poke at each other about issues that will sound surprisingly familiar. T.R. and Twain will run July 31 and August 1, also at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5-$7; call (916) 691-7364 for reservations.