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Tick Tock, Ten Minutes til Curtain Call

Those of you with short attention spans, tune in for a hot second. If you don't have the patience to sit through multiple acts of a two-hour production or find yourself antsy during Intermission, here's a quick fix to your thespian needs: the Durango Arts Center 10-Minute Play Festival.

Unlike many theatre terms, like Jacobean or photoflood, a 10-minute play is exactly as it sounds: a play that runs for 10-minutes. The concept originated in 1977 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky. Essentially the haiku of the American stage, 10-minute plays are the perfect opportunity for budding playwrights, actors, directors and audience members to get a taste of theatre.  

“If Rock of Ages was the big present this year, then the 10-Minute Play Festival is the stocking present,” said Theresa Carson, artistic director and theatre manager of the Durango Arts Center. “Instead of the car or diamond ring, it's like a bunch of little fun presents.”

For the seventh season in a row, the Durango Arts Center invites the public to check out this fascinating 40-year-old tradition. While the actual performances take place between October 13 through 15, choosing the plays is a year-long process broken into three acts. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into this weekend’s finale:   

Act One: The Contest

The contest between 10-minute play writers starts as soon as the Festival ends each season. In fall of 2016, 121 applicants submitted scripts to the Durango Arts Center for the 2017 10-Minute Play Festival. Playwrights hail from as far as Mexico, New Zealand and Europe but the majority are from the United States. This year, Carson said the DAC received 11 local applications; that’s more entries from the Four Corners region than ever before.  

In February, 22 "readers" are chosen by Carson to judge the scripts without knowing who wrote them or from where they came. Readers come from varied backgrounds in writing, literature and theatre. Each play goes through two readers hands, and, after three rounds of reading, the readers pick their top five scripts.

Act Two: The Staged Reading

These five script finalists are announced in April. Carson then chooses local actors to perform stage readings with the most basic movements of the script. In early June after one rehearsal, these top five plays are showcased at a free performance in front of an audience and four judges.

The judges choose the $500 Grand Prize winner. Meanwhile, the audience votes for the People's Choice Award, who pockets $100. These top two picks then have guaranteed spots in the final production of this three-part process: the 10-Minute Play Festival. The other spots are chosen from other finalists.

Act Three: The 10-Minute Play Festival

The culmination of the 10-Minute Play Festival takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 13, and Saturday, October 14, with a matinee show on Sunday, October 15, at 2:00 p.m. Because of the pleasantly-surprising number of local applicants this year, Carson and readers chose a local play by Patty Templeton to kick off the Festival.

With an Intermission halfway through, the Festival features six plays total, including the Grand Prize choice from a Massachusetts playwright, Bondservant. Other plays include Where's This Train Going?, The Truth about Spicy Cajun Curry, Crisis of Character and Good Things.

Carson, who is transitioning from the DAC to Fort Lewis College at the beginning of 2018, describes the plays as “a grab bag of comedy and drama.” While the playwrights are from California, Kentucky and other faraway states, actors and directors for each play are regional community members. Tickets are $10 for DAC members and $12 for General Admission.

Encore!

After the Festival, the three-part process starts all over again. This year, the DAC is transitioning from receiving paper entries to an electronic format through Submittable. For more information, please visit the DAC website. Entries for the next Festival are due by the end of the year.  

The DAC showcases four major productions each year: an adult contemporary play in February and March, summer camps and a big production musical every other year, the 10-Minute Play Festival in October and the holiday show in December. This year's holiday production of Annie features 68 children. Oh my goodness!

"There's nothing like live theatre,” Carson added in pure theatre gusto. “It's the essence of community felt in the relationship built between audience members and actors on stage. There are very few art forms that are really alive in the moment in front of you. Anything can happen up there.”

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