How do you see 20 plays in two days?
For one thing, the plays all have to be little short guys. For
another, you have to be lucky with your timing.
The stars aligned in just such a fortuitous way this past
weekend, when two local companies mounted entries in their annual
one-act play productions — Island Theatre‘s
Ten-Minute Play Festival had its fifth renewal
Aug. 19 and 20 at Bainbridge Performing Arts, and
Changing Scene Theatre Northwest trundled out the
14th edition of its “Summerplay” festival Aug. 20
at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
The Ten-Minute Play Festival, a survey of the best submissions
from Bainbridge Island and Kitsap playwrights, wrapped up its
three-performance run — all shows either sold out or nearly so —
“Summerplay: A Festival of New Works” continued its
four-performance skein with an Aug. 21 matinee, and offers two more
performances (7:30 p.m. Aug. 27, 2 p.m. Aug. 28) in the spacious
TMP, formerly the Narrows Theatre at 7116 Sixth
At 10 plays each, seeing the opening night performance of each,
that was 20 plays in a little big more than 26 hours.
If you’re planning on heading across the Narrows Bridge to see
one of the remaining “Summperplay” performances, keep in mind that
the selected shows (from more than 100 submissions from the
proverbial Far and Wide) are a wildly mixed bag, both in terms of
writing quality and the acting involved.
The beauty of such collections is that short plays are like city
buses. If you miss out on one, there’ll be another along in a few
Predictably, the strongest entries in 2016’s “Summerplay” came
from the festival’s two most experienced playwrights and most loyal
“Summerplay” submitters: Los Angeles’ Mark Harvey
Levine contributed “Our Ten,” a few
minutes in the lives of people ground to a halt on an L.A. freeway
by a random tragedy. Denver’s Scott Gibson checked
in with “Meanwhile, in the Backseat,” a charming
two-character piece about siblings learning a little something from
each other on a family outing. These two stood out because of the
originality of their concepts and the cogent stories they told
Execution is key to “Summerplay’s” rendering of “Our Ten,” which
began as a jumble of radio announcements
static, then took us inside the cars of some of those who find
themselves directly affected by the news story playing out.
Lighting (by Branden Wilson and co-director
Pavlina Morris) and sound (effects by
Darren Hembd, who co-designed with Morris and the
other co-director, Karen Hauser), both were well
done, supporting Levine’s solid, thought-provoking
Gibson’s sweet little
sibling revelry “Meanwhile in the Backseat,” on the other hand, is
more actor-driven, and Tacoma teens Skye Gibbs and
Sean Kilen both do admirable jobs of bringing
their characters’ “are we there yet?” interactions to life.
The spartan settings and uneven acting in “Summerplay’s” other
offerings are no big detraction; the problems I had with much of
the material was that it seemed puffed and padded. Many of the
plays took much longer to get to their points — when, indeed, they
seemed to have a point — than they should have.
Still, there was much to intrigue and entertain in the
playwrights’ various methods and madnesses, and the first
human-to-goldfish dialogue I can remember seeing, anywhere.
Surprisingly well written — if not much longer on nuance — the
10 Ten-Minute plays leaned heavily on comedy, and in several cases
seemed elevated by the acting. Richard
Leinaweaver‘s “Sleep,” about a man taking control of his
life by planning his own death, benefitted from some wonderful
performances, chiefly Tim Tully‘s touching turn as
Ben. Jim Anderson‘s intriguing “The Royal Deluxe”
took advantage of the effective scenery-chewing of Barbara
Deering, and Paul Lewis‘ nightmare comedy
“One Night at the Hotel Barbary” got a boost from both
Jalyn Green as the long-suffering businessman and
Luke Walker as the Wacky Bellhop. Also,
Hayden Longmire put a much-needed chilly edge onto
Judith Glass Collins‘ “Of Poisoned Pens and
As often as not, I found myself thinking that I’d seen the plots
and premises in the Ten-Minute collection before, and that the
plays seemed like variations or rehashes; competently rendered, but
derivative. And some of the shows might’ve gone well longer than
their allotted 10 minutes, or at least seemed to.
That sounds cranky, but it’s not. The Ten-Minute Festival, like
“Summerplay,” is an afternoon or evening of ideas, both in the
scripts and the mounting of the plays. You’re not going to like
everything you see, but you are liable to learn something, or walk
away thinking about what you might’ve done differently.
We used to be able to see “Summerplay” in Bremerton. But at
least it’s still alive and kickin’, in what seems to be a mutually
agreeable arrangement with TMP. Because you just can’t get enough
Says the guy who saw 20 in two days.
Photos — Top: Danna Brumley, Jennifer Jett and
Bob Downing rehearse Wendy Wallace’s “Plugged In” for the
Ten-Minute Play Festival. Bottom: The cast of “Summerplay’s” “Our
Ten,” by Mark Harvey Levine, rehearse on the Tacoma Musical