For Immediate Release
February 8, 2017
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A Theatrical Smorgasbord Awaits! Tenth Festival of Ten Features 10-Minute Plays Chosen from International Search
Premiering on February 24 in the Tower Fine Arts Center Mainstage
Brockport, NY – Ten festivals. Twenty years. One hundred plays. The College at Brockport’s Department of Theatre and Music Studies is producing its tenth biennial Festival of Ten later this month, and it is cause for celebration. After reviewing more than 500 submissions received from playwrights located around the globe, this year’s program of ten 10-minute plays premieres on Friday, February 24, 2017 at 7:30 in the Tower Fine Arts Center Mainstage, 180 Holley Street, Brockport. Tickets are $17/General, $12/Seniors, Alumni, Faculty and Staff, and $9/Students and are available online at fineartstix.brockport.edu. Seven of the playwrights will attend the final performance on March 4, and participate in a post-show discussion. The 10-minute format is more difficult than it might appear. As with any play, the piece needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. With less time to develop characters, the playwright is automatically challenged, as are the actors and directors, who are trying to convey the playwright’s intention. Regardless of any inherent challenges, the Democrat and Chronicle has called the Festival of Ten “a titillating offering of sophisticated, diverse and fulfilling theatre.”
The birth of the Festival of Ten stems from a similar program that Jon Jory, artistic director of the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, instituted at the Humana Theatre Festival. P. Gibson Ralph, chair of the Department of Theatre and Music Studies recalled that “since it was, and is, always so difficult for new playwrights to get their works produced, or even read, the 10-minute play was developed, allowing authors to have their voices heard.” This concept spread like wildfire, especially in academic and regional theatrical settings. “There were other 10-minute play festivals in our area, but we were the first in the region to cast such a wide net in soliciting plays,” Ralph is quick to point out. “This ensured that we would get submissions from the most talented writers in the genre and, being an international solicitation, we could occasionally receive plays about how the rest of the world views various situations.” As the Festival of Ten grew, it helped cement the department’s reputation with the Dramatists Guild of America, a professional organization that ensures the welfare of professional playwrights. The Guild became a resource for alternative methods of soliciting the plays, and were more than happy to work with a Festival in which their membership could not only be well represented, but “treated fairly.” Another affiliation that has helped increase the Festival’s stature would be that of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Ruth Childs, an associate professor in the department, chaired Region II of the KCACTF’s National Playwriting Program for several years. The KCACTF also helped solidify Festival processes, such as instituting the “blind” reading of the plays, meaning that the screener would not know who authored the play. Though individual screeners can read upwards of 100 plays, as the procedures continued to evolve, it was decided that no group of the exact same three screeners read more than the same 25 plays.
Solicitations for the short plays (which can run 7 to 14 minutes, officially) are placed in various theatrical journals, websites and listservs. Scripts are submitted to the College electronically, allowing screeners to be local, regional or national. This concept should be put in perspective: When the festival began soliciting submissions (in 1997) for the first Festival (which took place in 1999), the internet was not yet omnipresent. Trying to read scripts that may have been sent electronically could take minutes, if not hours, to download on a desktop computer, instead of instantly opening a .pdf… even on one of today’s smart phones. What has not changed much in the past 20 years is how the department prepares the production of the plays themselves. Ralph explains “the academic training we give our actors, and the rehearsal process, allows them — and the playwrights — to continue to discover the nuances of the particular play. We are able to tear every one of the 10 minutes of the play apart and examine them for extended amounts of time, in more detail than a full-length play might afford a director.” When the Festival of Ten first began, Ralph continued, “we were — and continue to be — a resource much appreciated by playwrights, who are able to see their works fully-staged, sometimes for the first time. We also didn’t realize, at that time, what a significant part of the theatre program it would become. As it has grown, more student directors and costume designers — even alumni — have been able to participate, in addition to the actors on stage.”
As a designer, Ralph enjoys looking at the 10 plays that have been selected. “Often there is a theme that helps unify the scenic design. One year, it seemed that a majority of the plays had people entering or dramatically exiting through doors, so doors became the motif for my design. Another year, it was chairs.”
Gary Musante, the department’s technical director, has coordinated Festival solicitations and submissions in the past. He remembers that, in the beginning, “submissions were not blind, and some notable names entered scripts they had written, including actor Ted Lange, of Love Boat fame, as well as Hindi Brooks,” a television scenarist who had previously written for both The Waltons and Eight is Enough. More recently, Stu Silver, the screenwriter of Throw Momma from the Train, and a writer for the TV series Soap, has seen one of his plays presented.
“The auditions and casting process are so different, and fun,” adds Childs. “Usually a director can pick and choose their cast from whoever auditioned, but with 10 directors in the casting session, these are run like a football draft. You might end up getting a first pick and a third pick amongst your cast, but everything works out for the best. It’s quite convivial in those casting sessions. The Festival of Ten is one of the rare instances where everyone in the department is involved in the same project in some aspect or another.
“The ownership that you see develop amongst the cast and crew is infectious,” Childs observed, “especially when the playwrights visit. Having the playwrights involved is special for all of us, including the directors, because the writers can be contacted for clarifications and further discussion. We can’t call up Shakespeare or Arthur Miller when we are directing one of their plays.”
Recalling favorite memories from Festivals past, Musante admits that when he was registering the plays for that first Festival — when readings were not yet blind — he read the first few plays as they arrived. “First play: A man and a woman at a bar. Second play: A man and a woman at a bar. Third play: A man and a woman at a restaurant. Fourth play: Oooooh! A gay couple at a bar. Then finally, something new, something different: Two dolphins on a beach! I finally stopped reading and just logged in the plays.” Ralph’s memory also involves animals: “The play was called ‘Guppies’ or something like that. It involved a fish — in a fishbowl! — falling in love with the cat that was staring at it, from the other side of the fishbowl, and only intending on making the fish his little snack. Try to design that!”
The memory that strikes Childs as “meaningful and special” is that of seeing the entire cast bow at the end of the evening. “People who have been on stage in 10 different plays coming together for the joy of theatre. Gets me every time.”
Performances of Festival of Ten are February 24, 25, March 2, 3, and 4, at 7:30 pm. There is also a matinee on Sunday, February 26 at 2 pm, which will be ASL-interpreted for the hearing impaired. In addition to being sold online, tickets for Festival of Ten are also available by phone at (585) 395-2787 or at the Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office. -end-
Photos: 1. “Faux First Lady” (Festival of Ten VI) 2: “Gayby’s Playdate” (Festival of Ten VII) 3: “Stuck” (Festival of Ten VII) 4: “Just Desserts” (Festival of Ten IX) 5: “The Titanic Revisited” (Festival of Ten V)
A list of the Festival of Ten X plays is attached.
Plays of the FESTIVAL OF TEN X
The Benefit of the Doubt by Annie Wood While going through her dead mother’s belongings, a woman discovers that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Cocktail Party by Thomas Misuraca A networking opportunity strikes a financial planner as out of the box. Out of the toy box, that is.
Ghost Hypothesis by Maximillian Gill An astronaut spends a year on Mars and returns against his will. Or did he return at all?
Hanna and Hal by Paul Tinsley Two of society’s castoffs find each other and help one another cope with their circumstances.
Monument by Mark Scharf Two men discuss how fine craftsmanship can be left behind, for the ages. Craftsmanship, and memories.
Nevada Johnson and the Meaning of Life by Evan Baughfman An explorer discovers that happiness is just a thing called literature.
Places by Ed Friedman Ah, the backstage shenanigans at a community theatre inspire a play!
Player of the Week by Pete Mergel A basketball player has some skeletons in his closet.
The Saddest Play About Rainbows by Callan Stout Two sisters consider what might have been.
Squirrels in a Knothole by Peter Stavros Hawks are there to remind squirrels that you should live life to its fullest. You could get run over by a bus tomorrow.
The College at Brockport, State University of New York
350 New Campus Drive * Brockport, New York 14420-2931
(585) 395-2754 * FAX (585) 395-2723 * www.brockport.edu