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Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival returns under new management

By Tara Pettit

Photo: The Yellow Springs Theater Company gathers to rehearse selected scripts; photo: Yellow Springs Theater Company

There is traditional theatre, and then there is the unconventional “short story” of theatre, which extracts the most poignant scenes of a feature-length production into 10-minute scripts. It’s with appreciation for this speedy theatre that a beloved community-centered theatrical tradition will continue in Yellow Springs under new coordination and featuring brand new local material. The Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival lives on in two upcoming nights dedicated to celebrating local talent in theater and playwriting.

This year’s festival, recently taken over by the Yellow Springs Theater Company, packs nine original short plays and scenes from longer plays into one performance of creative, mostly comedic new works that will sock theatergoers of all types with everything from quirky romance and philosophical ponderings to enlightenment and encounters with death.

The production, performed over two whirlwind nights, will feature scripts from Yellow Springs playwrights who have submitted their original material to the theater company for review, assignment to an associating director and rehearsal by members of the theatre company and Yellow Springs community.

“We’ve got plays that are just all over the board this year,” said Lorrie Sparrow, Yellow Springs Theater Company’s artistic director. “The subject matter is really interesting.”

Sparrow is part of the new directional team that took over the coordination of the 10-Minute Play Festival after its hand-off from Center Stage, the former theatre company associated with the event. A former member of Center Stage herself, Sparrow transitioned into membership of the Yellow Springs Theater Company, taking on the coordinating role of the inherited festival with an overarching artistic vision for not only continuing it, but working toward growing the event – all while also keeping the tradition “close to its roots,” she said.

“What we’re hoping to do in the future is expand the event and make it more of a regional festival,” Sparrow said. “However, we’re not ready for that yet. Right now this all involves a connection to the Yellow Springs community…it stands in line with Yellow Springs Theater Company’s mission of supporting and developing local art.”

The Yellow Springs Theater Company was formed out of the same talent that comprised the former Center Stage company, which brought together actors that had years of experience working together. The 10-Minute Play Festival was one of the original productions that allowed today’s Yellow Springs Theater Company to first start working with one another.

“This really is a lovely event … a real sweet spot for us as one of the legacy projects of our company,” Sparrow said.

The play festival itself was first organized by Virgil Hervey, a Yellow Springs poet and short story writer, in conjunction with Center Stage as a resource to support local Yellow Springs writers, as well as provide an outlet for their original work. Since then, the festival has continued to fulfill that mission as a tool for artistic collaboration within the community, incorporating local playwriting and acting into one event that exhibits local talent and provides audience exposure to the quality, unique work coming out of the community.

Each year, the festival stays close the governing rule of keeping the selected scripts for the production connected to the Yellow Springs community or theater company in some way. Typically, the festival production is put on by the actors of the Yellow Springs Theater Company, or former actors of Center Stage, but this year’s event was opened to various actors from the community as a way to keep the event fresh by opening doors to community participation, while serving as a “great vehicle for finding and developing new scripts,” Sparrow said.

Supporting new material is exactly at the heart and mission of what the Yellow Springs Theater Company is trying to accomplish in continuing the tradition of the 10-Minute Play Festival, especially, Sparrow said, during a time when American theatres are reaching a critical 30-year mark, and asking themselves, “Can we continue, or not?”

In today’s environment, incorporating brand new material is not an easy strategy for theatres trying to survive, because it presents huge risks – particularly with box office sales, Sparrow explained. However, it is the theatres that take those risks that succeed.

“[Using new work] is something that we, as a young company in our first year, want to incorporate into our DNA – to never be afraid of the risk of a new voice on stage, to never be afraid of turning to our local communities and to never think that all the writers are ‘someplace else’,” Sparrow said.

The growing popularity of the play festival and support for the original scripts is proof alone of the talent embedded in the Yellow Springs arts community. Attendance at each annual event has continued to grow since its first year in 2011, even bringing in more playgoers from surrounding Dayton communities.

“It’s been so nice to have such a positive response to the new scripts,” Sparrow said. “We really look forward to the portion of the audience we built that says, ‘This is new and cool, let’s go and see what we think’.”

“You will get to find out what your neighbors are thinking who are putting ideas in pen and on stage,” Sparrow continued. “These plays will allow you to be apart of a warm, supportive, receptive audience who have come here to see world premieres. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

The Yellow Springs Theater Company presents The Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival Jan. 30 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church located at 314 Xenia Avenue in Yellow Springs. Doors will open at 7:15 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and will be available to purchase at the door. For more information about the 10-Minute Play Festival, please visit the event’s Facebook page.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tara Pettit at

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