Got something to say and want to say it quick? That’s the idea behind Theatre Odyssey’s Ten-Minute Play Festival, marking its 15th anniversary performances in the Bradenton Kiwanis Theater at Manatee Performing Arts Center, now rescheduled to Sept. 17, 18, 19 and 20 after original dates in May were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The notion of a 10-minute play was not a new one when Theatre Odyssey co-founder Tom Aposporos and others, most of them first coming together during a prize-winning Manatee Players production of Metamorphoses, established the group. “Some years ago, I picked up two volumes of 10-minute plays, never knowing there was such a thing,” Aposporos recalls. “Some were by people like Norman Mailer, Jimmy Breslin. I was fascinated, and thought, ‘Why don’t we produce plays like this here?’”
The idea to create a local company to produce new work, and to compensate the creators with modest stipends, was born. For a number of years, the plays submitted for possible production during the festival were primarily by local writers, but entry is now open to playwrights across the state. All entries are perused and judged by three qualified readers who winnow the final list down to eight. Directors are selected, auditions are held, and the short shows go on.
Aposporos says the range of genres includes everything you can imagine, although for Theatre Odyssey’s similar playwriting festival for area students, held earlier in the year, “They tend to be more dramatic. Often for this festival, we seem to end up with four comedies and four dramas, but almost every play has some humor in it somewhere.”
Along with the terseness of the plays themselves (and it’s hard to write a 10-minute play, Aposporos says; “There’s no room for fluff”), the Theatre Odyssey works are presented with minimal production values onstage. “Our set tends to be four or six cubes that can be moved around and used in various ways,” he says. “As far as costumes and props, we provide what’s absolutely needed, but in general, we want to focus on the words, and the acting, with casts of no more than five. We are bringing the plays to life, and simplicity does a wonderful job.”
Over the years, Theatre Odyssey has produced between 160 and 170 10-minute plays, all new, original work, often with sold-out or nearly sold-out audiences. And some of the festival winners (first place receives $500, runner-up $300) have gone on to have productions of their works at other venues around the country.
Selected for the festival in September are these plays:
Apocalypse by Arthur Keyser of Sarasota, about a long-married couple living as though stuck in a time warp.
Final Curtain by Marvin Albert of Sarasota, about a dying comedian confronted by the ghost of his dead ex-partner.
Finding Help by Marj O’Neill-Butler of Miami Beach, about a mother and daughter at loggerheads regarding a choice between assisted living and a caregiver.
Happy Mother’s Day by Fredric Sirasky of Sarasota, depicting a couple at a restaurant whose waitress becomes their amateur therapist.
Single Rider by Michelle Pascua of Celebration, wherein two riders on a rollercoaster connect at Disney World.
Solastalgia by Sylvia Reed of Palmetto, in which a husband tries to cure his wife of her depression over climate change.
The Trial of Anne Hutchinson by Bernard Yanelli of Bradenton, about a heroine in the history of religious freedom who must choose between saving herself and her family or becoming a martyr.
What I Got Nobody Wants by John J. Kelly of Deland, where a young teen and an elderly woman share their life experiences at a Pride parade.
For more details, head to theatreodyssey.org.