For the first time, the Ten-Minute Play Festival featured work by playwrights throughout Florida rather than just Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Long story short, Theatre Odyssey’s 2019 Ten-Minute Play Festival offered a tasty sample of short-form theater. The high quality was met with a jump in quantity. The fourteenth annual festival opened up to work by playwrights throughout Florida and not just our region. Out of a flood of submissions, eight winners were staged from May 9 to 12 at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. The winner of the student festival and a play not in competition were also performed. At the conclusion of the festival, these theatrical nuggets were judged by Natalie Symons (the playwright of “Naming True”) Doug Jones (a veteran actor from the Asolo Repertory Theatre company), and Greg Leaming (Asolo Rep’s associate artistic director and the director of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training). The judges announced their decision at the festival’s conclusion. Here are this year’s winners:
Best Play: Arianna Rose’s “Family by Numbers.” This exploration of a family tragedy is originally told and heartbreaking. A man and a woman start as isolated units. They marry. Now one plus one equals two. The family grows to five — until one is subtracted. Five becomes four when their oldest son dies in a hiking accident. Rose faces the family’s pain honestly, and doesn’t paint a Pollyanna portrait. Before the son’s death, you see realistic squabbling and sibling rivalry. It makes the loss all the more painful — and the family’s ultimate reconciliation all the more true. Great performances all around with honest, stylized direction from Michele Strauss. Ren Pearson is a standout as the missing number. Featuring Ricky Bizarro, Julee Breehne, Scott Ehrenpreis, Tyler Gevas and Ren Pearson.
Runner-up: Keith Whalen’s “Coming to Town.” Santa’s death has been greatly exaggerated, at least for this play’s hero. Kenny had panic attacks as a child. His parents mollified him by saying that Santa was real — and cooked up an elaborate conspiracy theory to explain his physics-defying operations. Kenny’s still a true believer in his 30s; like Scrooge, he celebrates Christmas in his heart every day of the year. His divorced parents finally return to set him straight. Comedy ensues. Whalen (whose “Cliché” was last year’s runner up) makes the most of this whacky premise. But I would’ve changed the ending. Directed by Jamie Butrum. Featuring Sandra Musicante, Bob Trisolini and Philip Troyer.
Theatre Odyssey’s Ten-Minute Play Festival is all about encouraging new work by emerging playwrights. According to festival guidelines, these short plays are premiering in Florida for the first time. By definition, they’re works in progress. Here’s some constructive criticism to speed their progress. In the spirit of the festival, I’ll keep it brief.
Speak up. I want to hear you. Without naming names, some actors didn’t project. It might be rude in a restaurant, but it’s essential in live theater.
Keep the length consistent. A few micro plays were well over 15 minutes. A 10-minute play festival should stick to a consistent format. Especially when the plays are in competition with each other.
Don’t wear out the joke. The longer playlets were comedy sketches. As the Bard observed, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” A premise that leaves you rolling in the aisles gets old if you drag it out. Speaking from experience, cutting a bit in half usually makes it twice as funny.