“Pontiac Granville. Convertible. Midnight Blue.”
As if it were yesterday, Albert remembers the car he drove on his first date with Elizabeth. Etched in the chambers of memory, a first car is clear to an aging man, even one losing his memory.
The concept that drives “Remembering Elizabeth,” a 10-minute play by Jack Rushton, is memory loss. It’s one of five very short plays to receive full staging at Durango Arts Center this weekend.
Now in its third year, the 10-Minute Play Festival is a success and the best ticket in town. The September festival completes the process of a nationwide call for scripts. Last winter, 128 scripts came in and were read by a committee of readers. Collectively, the readers sent a smaller group to a panel of jurors. They, in turn, culled semifinalists, and a group of finalists received staged readings in May.
“That’s Amore,” by California screenwriter Arnold Kane, won both the grand prize and audience award. Kane is coming to town and will conduct a workshop from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, exploring the importance of humor in any kind of writing. Bring an idea to the workshop and he’ll help participants flesh it out. Kane is an experienced television and film writer who has worked for some big names in Hollywood: Goldie Hawn, Betty White and Jamie Farr to name three of the living. The workshop is a modest $36. Call Diane Panelli, 259-2606, to register.
Last May, Kane’s short play seemed a clear winner among the finalists. Directed by Dinah Swan, “That’s Amore” won over the audience with Terry Swan and Maureen May playing Valentino and Sophie.
For the fully staged production next weekend, Fort Lewis College Theatre Department Chairman Dennis Elkins directs with Miles Batchelder and Melanie McLean as the two would-be lovers.
Rushton’s “Remembering Elizabeth” also has a fresh cast and director. Last May, the Swans played the aging couple, and Dina Swan directed. For the fall production, two actors relatively new to Durango audiences will take on the roles of Albert and Elizabeth: Mike Amato and Dolores Mazurkewicz. Local actor-director Judy Hook has reshaped the play to find its hidden humor and humanity.
At a recent rehearsal, actors and director ran through “Remembering Elizabeth,” finding nuances in Albert’s frustrating struggle. With ease, the players slipped into the brief scene recalling their first date. Suddenly recalling his Pontiac Granville, Albert shouted with joy. That moment sets in motion a sequence linking the first date to present circumstances. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, and the actors do the script justice.
The remaining 10-minute plays on the bill each have their merits. They include “Face Time” by Donna Hoke, directed by Jeffrey Deitch and featuring Mandy Gardner and Nancy Heleno; “The Courting Candle” by Joann Yeoman, directed by Diane Panelli and featuring Jade Masterson and Aaron Stevenson; and “23 Skiddo” by local playwright Joyce Fontana, directed by Wendy Ludgewait and featuring Heather Rasmussen, Marc West and Lisa Zwisler.
email@example.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.