Saturday afternoon proved to be the most exciting showing of the Theatre Kalamazoo! New Play Festival. Five ten-minute plays were read and staged with minimal sets over the course of an hour long production. The ten minute play is the theatrical response to the flash drama audiences have become accustomed to through years of watching television.
In a theatre there no one has a remote control, no way to fast forward or change the action. The actors read their lines and the audience listens until the curtain, and the same is true for the ten-minute, but in the brevity lies the beauty.
Not all plays are created equal, and there's nothing more grueling than trying to survive two hours of a tedious play. In the ten-minute form, all the action is condensed into a few minutes of dramatic tension. The rapid fire succession of the plays keeps the audience's short attention spans satisfied as well as their theatrical inclinations fulfilled.
It was surprising to see such a variety in the audience, packed like sardines into the black box theatre. It was not your usual company of elderly couples and artsy types dressed in black turtlenecks, but a collection as diverse as the selection of plays. Children sat quietly in between their parents, while students chatted away during intermission.
In the opening act of Chekhov's “The Sea Gull” the aged Sorin tells the aspiring playwright Treplev “We can't do without the theatre.” to which he responds “But we need to make it new. Revitalize it, make it new! And if we can't do that, we should just do without it.”
The ten-minute play does exactly that. Less emphasis is put on the sets, costumes, and other technical aspects, but in exchange the playwrights have an opportunity to create more compelling and entertaining scripts. By stripping the play down to it's most core elements the Theatre Kalamazoo New Play fest creates a casual atmosphere in which local artists can showcase their talent.
It isn't fair to say that television is better than the stage, or to say the opposite. They are different mediums and have their own distinct advantages. The TKNP uses the ten-minute play to combine elements of each to create a revitalized theatre worth watching.