Short, Sharp, Again
The Northwest 10 festival returns
by Suzi Steffen
Kim Donahey and Richard Leebrick star in Dorothy Velasco’s “Lady Macbeth and Harold Hill: A Love Story”
|Jackie Stollar in “gods” by Richard Leinaweaver|
About a month ago, I got a pony.
True, it was a plastic pony, and more of a horse, but it sits on my computer reminding me that “The Northwest 10 Rides Again!” as the tagline for the 10-minute play festival says. Last year’s hastily produced but deeply enjoyable actor/director/playwright mashup returns with more forethought, playwrights who know better what they’re doing and a vast array of excellent Eugene actors and directors.
“We learned a lot,” executive producer and playwright Paul Calandrino says. Calandrino, who started an MFA in playwriting program in the time between last year’s festival and now, says, “I personally am becoming a better playwright, working on play structure and playwriting theory.”
Co-producer Connie Bennett, whose “A Gathering of Monkeys” from last year’s festival has been produced several other places since the 2009 opening, has one 10-minute play premiering at the Leebrick on Friday and a different play opening in Portland the same night. “It’s so weird!” she says, but she adds that it’s about time to think about writing a full-length play. The idea of 10-minute plays, she says, is to do something that doesn’t take a year to produce. But, she adds, “if you can do the shorter form, it prepares you for the longer.”
Ten-minute plays have their own special form, Calandrino says. “The formal constraints lead to compression of action and character.”
That means the actors and director have to “hit the ground running,” says Carol Horne Dennis, who’s directing Kato Buss’ “Freebox” with PotPie Theater’s Russell Dyball and Angie Riley. “You’ve only got one shot to make the characters likeable and make the audience care about them,” Dennis says.
Humor and poignance mark the plays. Playwright Dorothy Velasco contributed a short piece about the marriage of two actors; it’s clearly modeled on what might happen in the homes of Oregon Shakespeare Festival couples and mixes Lady Macbeth and Harold Hill. The gods have a discussion about escape in Richard Leinaweaver’s piece, and in Calandrino’s lovely vignette, Ellen Chace and Bill Campbell deal with long-buried pain and loss in a half-absurd setting.
“You’re not supposed to peak until your audience arrives at the theater,” Dennis says, “and I think that’s happening. I am very much looking forward to it.”