10 Minute Play Festival
The Assembly Hall, Pickering College
July 23nd, 2017
A Review of
By JOHN DOWSON
The Newmarket National 10-Minute Play Festival inaugural was held July 22 and 23, 2017, at the Snap’d auditorium in the Old Town Hall and the Assembly Hall at Pickering College. Ten- minute play festivals offer new or established playwrights a venue to showcase their talents. A 10-minute play is distinct from a sketch, or a skit; it is a compact play, with a beginning, middle and an end -- telling a complete story, with characters facing obstacles in pursuit of some specific goal or a conflict, rising to a climactic moment.
Artistic Director Michael Halfin and company crafted 24 original Canadian 10-minute plays into a topic of six plays over one hour which they called a ‘Pod’, thereby creating four Pods, (although the Pod I watched ‘Bare Bones’ was one hour and 17 minutes).
Watching six, 10-minute plays over one hour is like going to an Andy Warhol art exhibit -- you can easily pick out the Campbell Soup paintings but the rest of the paintings are challenging to understand or hard to put in plain words.
At the Newmarket Festival, live theatre aficionados could binge watch 24 plays over an afternoon and evening. However most of the audience selected a Pod or two and for the price of a $15 ticket per Pod you could be amused, shocked, or enlightened depending on the selection or your Pod or Pods.
Three of the four Pods cautioned the audience that the plays had “mature themes and language” suitable for ages 15 years and up. The ‘Bare Bones’ Pod I saw was listed in the program as “Raw and exposed -- bare truths that rattle the skeletons in the closet.” Raw and exposed was an understatement, little of the coarse language in ‘The Dilemma’ suited the characters and it felt like the playwright had inserted them for shock value. The nervous laughter from the audience was more of a release of tension, rather than humour. The actors used the stage well and plucked a performance out of a dilemma.
The play ‘Road’ was in my Pod, it featured four people sitting on large covered benches representing seats in a train. The audience was treated to their conscious thoughts without any interaction between the cast. The Road, won the festival prize as the best play. The question is why?
‘A Day At The Beach’ was the best play in the ‘Bare Bones’ Pod. In spite of the play’s theme, a mother and father and a mute actor as their son in a wheel chair anticipating suicide, the actors had a very good script but poor direction.
Chelsey Fawcett, the director of ‘A Day At The Beach’, should have gotten a better performance from the two good actors. As it was the actors just walked through the production. Fawcett had better results from Trevor Curran and James Evans performances with a difficult script and subject in the play, ‘The Results’. The brutal emotion from the actors left the audience to assuming the results of Joe’s STD test.
Most 10-Minute Play Festivals have a ‘theme’ and playwrights submit plays based on the theme. Next year, Artistic Director Halfin and company should shuck the Pod down to four plays and set a ‘theme’ for the festival.
Having said this, I’m looking forward to next year’s Newmarket National 10-Minute play festival with a ‘theme.’
President, The Very Useful Theatre Company
As one of the founders of the Very Useful theatre Company, John has had a long association with community theatre as an actor, and as a director at “Theatre on Main”. He was a professional musician and entertainer, a columnist with the Newmarket Era and hosted “profiles” -- a weekly program on Rogers Cable TV. John has raised funds for “Community Living Newmarket/Aurora District,” where his chief contribution was initiating and chairing their annual “Tribute Dinner”. He is a strong advocate of programs that allow people with disabilities to live a life of dignity and to have a sense of financial security.