The ArtsCenter has for the eighth time pored over more than 400 submissions and now presents its 10 by 10 in the Triangle Festival through July 19th. Each year, plays pour in from around the world to vie for a slot in the annual summer festival. As in years past, the production team reads all the submissions, and chooses only 10 for the bragging rights each year.
Emily Ranii, the artistic director for ArtsCenter Stage, introduced an SRO crowd to this year’s festival on Saturday night. The evening included the introduction of five of the playwrights, who fielded questions from the enthusiastic audience and joined the production team for a reception after the show.
The festival has become quite a draw for local actors and directors, many of whom are returning from across the Triangle to recreate this annual tradition. Ten actors play multiple roles, and work under a dedicated and noteworthy group of directors from across the Triangle, including Burning Coal Theater Company’s Jerome Davis, Transactors Improv Company director Greg Hohn, and StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance’s Joseph Megel.
This year’s brave cast of characters includes return visits by John Boni, Barbette Hunter, Morissa Nagel, and Julie Oliver; returning with them are Jeri Lynn Schulke and Eric Swenson, as well as newcomers Jason Powers and Marianne Miller (both from PlayMakers Repertory Company), Brad Schnurr, and music man Billy Sugarfix. Sugarfix, known to his friends as Bill McCormick, adds guitar, drums, and sound effects live onstage as each of this year’s top 10 of 10-minute plays unfolds.
This year’s theme is Water, as many of the plays incorporate the element, whether it is in the form of bathwater, booze, ice, or milk. The cast doubles as crew, making set changes and adding props that include Froot Loops, knitting, walkie-talkies, and silverware. The plays come in rapid succession, five on either side of an intermission, and cover any and all subjects from childbirth to sending oneself through the U.S. Mail.
“This Side Up” is by Lisa Soland of Los Angeles, who tells us of the plight of a young woman who sends herself packing, in a great cardboard box, through the mail in hopes of landing a man. James C. Ferguson gives us “Ori & Addison,” two regular Joes out in Ori’s garage, checking out the new baby furniture he has built for his firstborn. Next, Lauren Yee tells us about “Fallingwater,” as it rains down from the apartment above us. Matt Casarino, in his fourth play at 10 by 10, combines theater with Dr. Seuss in “Green Eggs and Mamet.” And Mark Harvey Levine, who has had six shows produced by The ArtsCenter, this year reduces everything to numbers in “LA, 8 AM.”
Pregnancy is the subject of Jennifer Maisel’s “Fissshhh,” opening the second segment. Steven Schutzman then tells us that “Normal Is a Country,” where a man tries to forget his past. Chuck Keith, who hails from right here in the Triangle, peeks inside the male anatomy as he tells us about “Love and Taxes.” We then travel to a glacier, where a scientist and his daughter fight the elements in Stephanie Alison Walker’s “Melt.” The last show of the night is a fully-encapsulated musical by Noelle Donfeld and Bonnie Janofsky, “Carjacked,” sporting the biggest cast of all with six members.
Matt Casarino steals the first segment with “Green Eggs and Mamet,” as two men match wits in a bar. Brad Schnurr is accosted by Sam (Eric Swenson), who comes in all smiles, wearing a suit and carrying a leather briefcase. What follows is Dr. Seuss, a la David Mamet, as Sam tries to get his drinking buddy to try the famous green eggs and ham he has stashed in that case. The drunken exchange had the packed house rolling with laughter, as Sam tries to unload his concoction for a cool ten grand.
But the jewel of the festival this year was Chuck Keith’s “Love and Taxes.” Morrisa Nagel attempts to complete this year’s taxes, but she is constantly interrupted by Eric Swenson. Nagel plays the Brain of a man who has just fallen in love; Swenson plays the Heart. The two argue delightfully as Swenson wallows in his newfound emotion, much to the consternation of Nagel, who has heard this all before. Keith presents a hysterically funny debate, as these two battle over whether Heart trumps Brain in one man’s quest for his Heart’s desire.
This is the eighth year in a row that The ArtsCenter has brought us this one-of-a-kind festival of 10-minute one-act plays. The show keeps actors and directors returning year after year, and the combination continues to pack The ArtsCenter with appreciative audiences. The Triangle’s many different theater troupes -- which include PlayMakers, Wordshed Productions, Burning Coal, and StreetSigns -- have been collaborating with The ArtsCenter to produce an evening of theater that you just cannot find anywhere else; and these cagey short plays continue to grow in popularity. Emily Ranii has already announced next year’s festival, and more and more playwrights are joining the ranks of competitors. If you want to experience these delightful shorts of live theater, call now for your reservations; the remaining shows are guaranteed to sell out.
The ArtsCenter’s Eighth Annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle Festival resumes its two-week run on July 16-19. See our theatre calendar for details.