When actors take the stage this weekend to perform during the ninth annual 10-Minute Play festival, Arizona-based playwright Mike Solomson will see two of his pieces come to life on stage.
Solomonson, who is chairman of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Northland Pioneer College in Show Low, Arizona, has been working on 10-minute plays and decided to submit a few to the Durango festival, which will be held today (Friday), Saturday and Sunday at Durango Arts Center.
For Solomonson, playwriting kicked into high gear for him in 2015, when he was on a sabbatical from the college. He said he used the time to write a play, which he submitted to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference. The play made it into the semifinalists’ round, which encouraged Solomonson, who also teaches classes in theater, speech and film, to continue writing.
“For the last three years, I’ve been focusing on trying out scripts and submitting them to different contests and theater opportunities,” he said. “It was really this year that some of my 10-minute plays have been picked up nationally at different theaters, with the Durango Arts Center being one of them, so that was really exciting. And then to win the contest, which came with a cash prize, it made you think, ‘Ah, you’re finally earning some money as a playwright,’” he said, laughing.
Ten-minute plays were officially introduced in 1977 by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, when the genre was promoted as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Often referred to as the “haiku of the American stage,” as well as “a streak of theatrical lightning,” 10-minute plays have become an engaging and popular genre for today’s audiences and playwrights.
It’s a multilevel contest, with volunteers anonymously reviewing submissions. Readers go in completely blind – authors’ names and hometowns are unknown. The plays are winnowed down to five, which are read in front of an audience, which choses the ultimate victors. The winners’ plays are then staged, which is what you will see this weekend.
This year’s winners are:
“Just Desserts” (grand prize winner), by Solomonson, Snowflake, Arizona.“Speed Dating” (people’s choice award), by Nedra Roberts, Brookhaven, Georgia.“Ring of Truth,” by Marsha Roberts, San Rafael, California.“Thank You for Your Service,” by Solomonson, Snowflake, Arizona.“Waiting for God-Knows-What,” by Mario Rivas, Sherman Oaks, California.And for Solomonson, the 10-minute format offers both audiences and theaters a way to help keep theater current.
“I think it’s a great format for audiences because sometimes they can go for two hours and watch a single play, but 10-minute plays kind of give you an opportunity to see a lot of different playwrights’ works and to see an original work,” Solomonson said. “I think that theater companies are giving opportunities to have contemporary playwrights have their work produced. I think it kind of helps with the health of the American theater scene, and it also gives audiences an opportunity to see kind of what people are writing about in their current time.”