That boy could charm a dog off a meat truck, Barbara says as she recalls her sons elusive charm. In the play Ronnies Charger, mother Barbara quotes a tough non-commissioned officer. And she adds that the older officer was not a man prone to smiling, let me tell you.
Played by Maureen May with warmth and tenderness, the role of Barbara is central to one of the 10-minute plays to be performed Friday and Saturday nights at the Durango Arts Center.
May and Freddie McDaniel portray the parents, Barbara and Wayne, in Ronnies Charger, the Peoples Choice winner for 2011. Written by Boston playwright Lawrence Kessenich, the plays title refers to a car, a Dodge Charger. Its presence on stage may be imagined, but its meaning is unmistakable. Ronnie bought the car in 1970 following his high school graduation. The play is set 15 years later at the family home in Staghorn, Wis.
The rest of the story will be revealed this weekend in 10 minutes.
Called the haiku of the American stage, 10-minute plays may be unfamiliar to Durango audiences. But the form has been around for a long time. In 1977, the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, KY, introduced the 10-minute genre. It caught on, and Humana has repeated the 10-minute festival every year since.
Twelve years ago, I attended a critics conference in Louisville. We saw a number of new full-length American plays and thoroughly enjoyed one evening of 10-minute works. The form lends itself well to modern, high-speed living. Since that time, large and small cities have inaugurated 10-minute festivals with considerable success.
Now Durango has joined the list of forward-looking theater cities. Last year, Dinah Swan, who started a 10-minute play festival in Oxford, Miss., before returning to Durango, suggested DAC as a venue. DAC board member Rochelle Mann, professor emerita at Fort Lewis College, agreed to chair a competition. Not surprisingly, 92 entries arrived from established and aspiring playwrights all over the country.
A committee of readers selected semifinalists. After an evening of readings late last spring, finalists for this falls staged performances were chosen.
Ronnies Charger won the audience award. The panel of readers gave Lynne McMahons Grief the grand prize. Youll see both plus the three other finalists this coming weekend at DAC.
In addition to Kessenichs play, youll see McMahons tender mother-son drama Grief. DAC board president Terry Swan directs. Local actors Albert Carlson and Sara Friedman bring to life familiar family issues in a tiny drama that will echo for many playgoers. Chicago-based playwright McMahon is a seasoned professional with works performed in her hometown as well as New York and Louisville.
Belonging, by New Yorker Laurence Klavan, is a light-hearted venture into the life of a psychic and a bewildered client. Directed by Wendy Ludgewait from Durango Lively Arts, it features Lisa Zwisler as the psychic, Carlson as the client, and Susana Jones and Mike Amato as spiritual guides. The work is full of surprises, and this group of actors have a natural feel for comedy.
Checkmate, Soulmate, by Mad Hester from Brooklyn, centers on two teenagers and a relationship dominated by serious chess. Directed by Ludgewait, it stars Clara Gray-Stallings and Boone Grigsby.
Local writer Suzanne Tyrpaks play, Dating My Vibrator, is based on the authors comic novel of the same title. Directed by Mandy Gardner from Durango Lively Arts, the play version is breezy and only slightly longer than 10 minutes. The lead role will be played by Linda Mack. Yes, that Linda Mack. Its something of a coup to have her back on stage. Mack thought she had retired from the Fort Lewis College Music Department but is back conducting again this semester. The inimitable, happily married Mack-Berven plays a middle-aged divorcee who has returned to cyber dating. Gordon Thomas appears in a number of male roles ranging from an accountant to a guy who calls himself Dante.
The call for scripts for a 2012 festival has already been posted. Go this year, and youll be able to compare next years roster and performances.