A soul stolen by a photograph, a tree-worshiping Christian camper and five wildly different folks stuck in a box: It can only be the Northwest Festival of Ten-Minute Plays, the fascinating evening that feels like flipping up rocks and seeing a pulsating world beneath, then moving to the next. NW10 encompasses all the grand excitement of sharing art without any of the pretension.
Northwest Ten Goes to Washington! is decidedly stronger than previous festival installments. Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s beautiful space, professional lighting and sound certainly help. In past years there were always a few plays that seemed to be rehearsed slapdash in someone’s living room, but this year’s festival was completely free of amateurism. The direction is strong and the acting purposeful. Also elevating this production are excellent live musicians Rachel Young and Kyle Everett.
The title Northwest Ten Goes to Washington! is a nod to the move of opening up submissions to hopefuls in the state of Washington, but that didn’t have a strong impact. New York playwright Kyle Bass did the blind judging and in his selection of eight plays only one came from outside Oregon.
The Black Box, by Russell Dyball, captures five people stuck in a room forever, creating an “existential Village People.” Darlene Rhoden’s Bread Crumb Love brings down the house with a hilarious and all-too-true detailing of the love lives of modern women. Judith Roberts creates an intense, absurd piece with The Walk, illustrating one of the festival’s greatest strengths: unabashed experimentation.
As always with NW10, by intermission you hear audience members buzzing about their own intention to craft a short play. It’s inescapable: a person leaves the theater and begins to see ordinary 10-minute interactions elevated to theater and is gripped with a desire to translate them onto the stage. Fortunately, NW10 can respond to this need, offering a half-day playwriting workshop, “Writing the Perfect Ten,” taught April 12 at OCT by NW10 co-producers Connie Bennett and Paul Calandrino.
And for those who don’t aspire to authorship, NW10 offers another kind of inspiration. These brilliant, brief snapshots examine our own world for beauty and meaning. If all the world’s a stage, it is filled with myriad moments ranging from absurd to ethereal, making each of our lives a festival.
Northwest Ten Goes to Washington! runs through April 12 at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. For more workshop information, visit octheatre.org.