| 03.24.2018

Succinct stories


Ten-minute Play Festival features UI playwrights

Going big in show business doesn’t necessarily mean going long, as the plays featured in the University of Idaho’s 10-minute Play Festival this week proved.

Alyssa Baugh | Argonaut Michael Brandt and Shawn Hunt starred in "The Interview," a short play written by Sam Opdahl and directed by Anita Packwood, on December 9 in the Forge Theater as part of UI's 10 Minute Play Festival.

Alyssa Baugh | Argonaut
Michael Brandt and Shawn Hunt starred in “The Interview,” a short play written by Sam Opdahl and directed by Anita Packwood, on December 9 in the Forge Theater as part of UI’s 10 Minute Play Festival.

Fourteen plays — each 10 minutes in length or less — debuted on stage for three nights this week in the Forge Theatre. Each play was written by a UI undergraduate or graduate student, or alumni, and the actors were members of the UI community chosen from open-call auditions held in September.

“It’s such a great experience working with peers and getting to go through the process with them. It really takes a group effort,” said Lo Miles, who performed in “Pin It,” written by Sondra Williams. “It’s my third time and I’ll do it forever, as long as I can.”

Writing, directing and performing in such short plays can be a blessing and a curse, said David Lee-Painter, the festival’s faculty adviser.

“It forces them to be really lean and mean in terms of how they’re going to tell that story,” Lee-Painter said. “We used to do scenes, where the directors picked scenes from full-length plays, but it’s a huge advantage to be working on a complete play, so you’re not pulling anything out of context.”

Though the playwrights and performers may have played the most obvious roles, directors interpreted the scripts, working with both the writers and actors. Directors came from Lee-Painter’s upper-division directing class and each picked a play early in the semester to take the lead on.

Lee-Painter said his goal is to teach the directors how to lead and inspire a group of people. They also get hands-on experience managing a production, which can be a lot of work.

One play, Robin Brooks’ “A Thousand Little Cuts,” was performed twice — with two different casts and directors. Lee-Painter said after seeing the two interpretations in rehearsals, they are completely different plays.

The playwrights stay involved with the production throughout the process. Playwrights who attend the university frequent the rehearsals, and those who don’t use Skype to stay connected, Lee-Painter said.

“The playwrights are always pleased just to have a production of their play,” he said. “I think the process helps it be a little less ‘That’s not the way I would’ve done it’ and more that they’re having a dialogue all the way through. One of our alums, who lives in Pendleton, Oregon, comes every semester to see his play.”

The 10-Minute Play Festival’s defining characteristic is that it features students and graduates from all experience levels, Lee-Painter said.

Open-call auditions get a good mix of new and returning actors and he said the plays come from a combination of established writing students and rookies. The playwrights can come from anyone who is willing to submit their work to Robert Caisley, who is the head of the Dramatic Writing Program at UI. Lee-Painter said the festival is a good way for new writers to get involved because it’s a pretty finite experience, whereas full-length plays are much bigger tasks.

Students from the Virtual Technology and Design (VTD) program also put together an introduction that ran on all three nights of the festival. The four students involved, Miguel Almeida, Shane Bruess, Taylor Kirkham and Rachel Midence, created a virtual actor who interacted with performers on stage.

Lee-Painter said that he and Caisley have worked with VTD for a number of years to find a place for them in the shows. Last year VTD worked on ‘A Christmas Carol’ and before that worked on a project called DNA for the 1-Page Theater Festival.

“We get to see actors who have never had their face seen on stage before,” Lee-Painter said. “It’s really exciting to watch them grow and to feel like they really belong here.”

Alyssa Baugh can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu


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