A community onstage

Yellow Springs Theatre Company hosts
10-Minute Play Festival

Chuck Dunn, Aiden Shakleford, Carlos Lamdauru, and Brian Upchurch rehearsing for Pizza Western

By Victoria Ferguson

The Yellow Springs Theatre Company is holding its annual 10-Minute Play Festival at the end of this month. The festival is a collaborative effort between the theatre company and other members of the Yellow Springs community. 

Miriam Eckenrode Saari, one of the producers of the festival, began producing it four years ago along with co-producer Ali Thomas. Along with directing one play each, Eckenrode Saari says that, as producers, she and Thomas “take on the heavy lifting” that comes with organizing the festival. The process begins with submissions from playwrights in the community. From there, the company gets together and selects the submissions they like. 

Eckenrode Saari says they do not take all the submissions they get, but they try to. The festival encourages the less experienced and first-timers to come out and give theatre a try, whether that be in writing, acting, or directing. She even worked with one playwright whose original submission would have been twenty-five minutes long and helped them get it down to ten so that their submission could be included. 

At the heart of the festival is the idea of sharing theatre with the community. It gives many people who have no experience in theatre an opportunity to expose themselves to theatre in a more manageable dose, and some even join the Yellow Springs Theatre Company after their experience. 

According to Eckenrode Saari, the festival sort of acts as an unspoken “audition” for community members interested in joining the Yellow Springs Theatre Company. She says her favorite parts of the festival are “the community aspect and camaraderie,” adding that “you don’t have to get that worked up about anything” as some might in larger theatre productions. 

After the submissions are pored over and the scripts are selected, a member of the theatre company is assigned to direct each play. It is then their job to cast the play, again pulling actors from the Yellow Springs community. For some, this will be their first time acting on a stage. Others have been participating in the festival for years, or are even seasoned actors in the company. After casting is finished, rehearsals last a few weeks before the final performances.

Due to the nature of their form, most of the 10-minute plays performed tend to be comedies. “It’s hard to express a dramatic art in ten minutes, but you can get to the joke really fast,” says Eckenrode Saari. The short play time also makes it hard to change sets, so any individual play will pretty much happen in the same setting throughout the entire duration. The sets available to players are a living room, a restaurant, or an office, so setting is also limited to one of those three places.

It is undeniable that these constraints present a challenge and foster creativity. A description of any one of this year’s seven plays promises a theatre experience imbued with comedic entertainment and meaningful ideas:

Bar Car—written by Carol Stoner, directed by Colton Pitstick

A contemplative conversation taking place in the bar car of a train about the choices one makes in life, the times that come when someone decides to change their future, and where it all leads. 

Good Riddance—written by Amy Magnus, directed by Amy Wamsley

A comedy about women in the office and the dynamics of office politics.

Exceeding Purchasable Calories—written by Rhea MacCallum, directed by Miriam Eckenrode Saari

A story about a Sam’s-Club-like membership-only retail warehouse that limits its customers to purchasing items totaling a certain amount of calories.

The Major and the Colonel—written by Jeremy Holtgrave, directed by Ali Thomas

Written by an ex-military veteran, this play pokes fun at the red tape, ranks, and policy silliness of the military.

Flumberta—written by Anthony Fife, directed by Thor Sage

Described as “sort of indescribable,” this play within a play features a monologue being spoken as silent characters act onstage. 

Juice—written and directed by Jo Terrell

A play about African American women, language, and the issues they face.

Pizza Western—written and directed by Colton Pitstick

A humorous twist on the Spaghetti Western, this is an absurdist play that you have to see to believe.

While the 10-Minute Play Festival gives opportunities for members of the Yellow Springs community to participate or be entertained, it also functions as an important fundraiser event for the Yellow Springs Theatre Company. Because the company is a non-profit group, the 10-minute time constraints aren’t the only limitations they face in putting together this festival, or in putting together their productions throughout the rest of the year. 

Eckenrode Saari stresses the importance of the festival as a fundraiser. 

“We’re trying to get the village to make a move on a performance art space,” she says, “When we did a production of Julius Caesar, we built a stage outdoors and tore it down after the show. We are dedicated to getting the shows out there but it would be great if we didn’t have to do that.” 

Because the company does not have their own performance space, they rehearse in houses, meeting rooms, and libraries. They have access to the performance space in the church they will use for the festival for two days the week before. In between Boy Scout meetings and church services, the performers and directors have a few hours to build their sets, do their sound checks, and rehearse their performances. Eckenrode Saari says hiring a sound technician is an important part of the production because having sound effects makes up for what the sets and costumes are lacking. 

“We do what we can to make the environment seem realistic, and then the audience can fill in the blanks with their imagination which is really part of the fun,” she says. 

100 percent of the ticket sales will be put toward new things for the company’s productions. With the money raised, the company could afford to purchase better costumes and lights, and even their own performance art space, says Eckenrode Saari, adding that “someday maybe they could even get paid” for the theatre performances they provide for the community. 

“We are committed to doing interesting, new, well-produced theatre despite our obstacles,” she affirms. Lucky for the Yellow Springs community, that much is true. Along with the 10-Minute Play Festival, the Yellow Springs Theatre Company offers year-round productions and Shakespeare in the Park performances. If this festival does well, it will ensure that they are able to continue to do so. Attending the festival is a great way to support local arts while also getting some creative, unique entertainment.

The Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival will be held one weekend only at the First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs on January 26th and 27th. Tickets will be sold for $10 at the door and the show begins at 8:00 pm. 

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