News Column

Got 10 minutes?

July 3, 2014

By Will Broaddus, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

July 03--The seven plays being staged at Salem Theatre Company next week are short, and most are sweet.

Each lasts about 10 minutes and was selected from 200 entries for the company's eighth Moments of Play Festival, which runs from Wednesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 12.

"This year, there's a lot of comedy in it," said Gary LaParl, managing director of Salem Theatre Company. "We do have rather serious pieces, a couple of dramas, but most of them are on the lighter side."

In a free event on Saturday, playwrights Richard Dresser, Ronan Noone and Kate Snodgrass will meet at Salem Theatre Company to discuss the plays.

"Video Death Chat" by Libby Schap of Chelsea is funny but does have a morbid streak, said director Meredith McAlister of Salem.

"It's sort of a dark comedy featuring two young girls," she said. "One's 15 and one's 12-ish.

"They're two sisters, and the older of the two is doing a video diary for when she dies. Her death is not imminent; she is just forward looking, and the little sister is kind of a witness to the video death chat."

Even 10-minute plays should have a beginning, middle and end, McAlister said, to distinguish them from a skit.

"It has a plot," she said. "Something changes, something happens. Two people standing and talking, that's more of a skit."

McAlister is from Dallas and once appeared in a play with fellow Texan David Coffee, who has played Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" at North Shore Music Theatre for 20 years.

"I was 16 years old, and I was in a play called 'State Fair' in Grapevine, Texas," she said. "He had a cameo."

McAlister got involved with Salem Theatre Company three years ago, when Schap cast her in the Moments of Play festival. The connection between the two this summer is coincidental, because LaParl withheld the names of familiar playwrights as their scripts were being read.

"We as a group selected the plays we wanted to do. Then, it came to a bidding war, where the directors put in three names of plays that they wanted to do," McAlister said.

Festival submissions are limited to New Englanders, and along with "Video Death Chat," some other plays chosen include "Zeno's Arrow" by David Susman of Saco, Maine; "Baby, It's Cold Outside!" by Jeana Grady of Rockport; "Crooked Fork" by Jonathan Yukich of Hamden, Connecticut; and "Just Your Imagination" by Leslie Moreau of Allston.

The latter play also involves two sisters, 13 and 5, and may tell the darkest story in the festival.

"The 5-year-old has supposedly been molested by her stepfather," said director Chuck Baker of Salem. "It's a very difficult piece to do in 10 minutes, but the playwright did a nice job."

The actresses in "Video Death Chat" are older than the parts they play, but in "Just Your Imagination," the age difference is extreme.

"The 5-year-old is played by a high school senior, and the 13-year-old is played by an electrical engineer," Baker said. "Part of the problem is to bridge that gap in the first two minutes, so the audience can understand what's going on.

"My job is to create the illusion of a 31-year-old being 13 years old."

To make the women seem natural in their parts, he initially thought of presenting them as adults who regress into younger selves during a course of therapy. But Baker discussed the play with John Fogle, the theater's former artistic director, who said the audience would help him solve the dilemma by using their imaginations.

"I've directed 30 or 40 plays and always try to get rid of illusions," Baker said. "He said, 'Please leave some illusion in there for the audience. They enjoy it.'"


What: Ten-Minute Play Festival

When: Performances Wednesday through Friday, July 9 to 11, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, at 5 p.m. Panel discussion Saturday, July 12, at 7:30 with playwrights Richard Dresser, Ronan Noone and Kate Snodgrass.

Where: Salem Theatre Company, 90 Lafayette St., Salem

Admission: $15; panel discussion is free

Info & tickets:


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Source: Salem News (MA)

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