ArtsATL > Theater > Preview: One-Minute Play Festival challenges playwrights to sum it all up in 60 seconds flat

Preview: One-Minute Play Festival challenges playwrights to sum it all up in 60 seconds flat

Critically-acclaimed Atlanta playwright Topher Payne
Critically acclaimed Atlanta playwright Topher Payne penned a one-minute play.

Playwrights participating in the One-Minute Play Festival don’t have the luxury of gradual character development — or second-act twists. Basically, they have 60 seconds to introduce their protagonists, tell their story and wrap it all up before another play swoops in and knocks them offstage.

Now in its second year in Atlanta, the One-Minute Play Festival will run over two nights at Actor’s Express, June 10 and 11. It’s the creation of Dominic D’Andrea, founder and artistic director of One-Minute Play Festival, a theater company based in New York. He began producing in 2006. Buoyed by his success, he slowly began taking the festival around the country, and 10 U.S. cities now host their own local versions.

The participating playwrights in each city are chosen by what D’Andrea calls osmosis — by contacting those writers he knows and knows of, and by getting advice from theater folks he’s worked with. “I look to see whose voices we need to hear,” D’Andrea says. He also stresses diversity among his playwriting group. When he has chosen the group, he doesn’t tell the playwrights what to write about — that’s their call, and he wants the finished works to reflect the playwrights’ community. After reading through all the scripts, he might work with individual playwrights in terms of clarity or brevity, but that is his only interposition.

D’Andrea was quite pleased with last year’s festival, also held at Actor’s Express, and not just with the content but with the enthusiasm of Atlanta playwrights, actors and directors.  “Of all the new stops last year, this was my favorite,” he says. “I was very impressed by how engaged the community is.” He says he wasn’t really familiar with Atlanta until playwrights and former Atlantans Lauren Gunderson and Steve Yockey told him about the depth of local talent and suggested he stage an event here. As it happens, one of the crowd-pleasers at last year’s festival, D’Andrea says, was Gunderson’s “Y’All.”

Some of the nationally known playwrights who have contributed to the One-Minute Play Festival are Neil LaBute, Donald Margulies and Craig Lucas.

The Atlanta festival will feature works by some of the top playwrights in the area, including Topher Payne, Margaret Baldwin, Yockey, Lee Nowell, Phillip DePoy, Peter Hardy, Hank Kimmel, Robin Seidman, Michael Haverty, Jon Ludwig, Vynnie Meli, Grant McGowen, Suehyla el-Attar, Marki Shalloe, Travis Sharp, Matt Myers, Katie Grant Shalin, Jordan Pulliam, Sherri Denise Sutton, Michael Henry Harris and Gabriel Jason Dean. In all, 40 playwrights are included, compared with last year’s 30, and 70 plays will be performed.

D’Andrea has lined up Justin Anderson, Jaclyn Hofmann, Grant McGowen, Ellen McQueen, Sherri Denise Sutton, Veronika Duerr, Christina Hoff and Nichole Palmietto to direct.

Gabriel Dean, a former Atlantan now living in Brooklyn, is participating in the event for the first time. He and D’Andrea met through Sean Daniels, a mutual colleague of both men who led Atlanta’s Dad’s Garage for several years. Dean has seen many 10-minute plays but not any one-minute ones and he feels he has learned a lot from the creative process. “You have to cut to the essentials,” he says. “This is about a moment that can be contained in one minute.”

He has two plays in the fest — one dealing with racial struggles and another about the thin line between being a homeowner to being homeless. He spent about three weeks on the two shows, at times obsessing over them and making changes from his original concept. “I’m an Atlanta boy,” he says. “Although I am not living there anymore, it’s where I got my start as a playwright. I want my pieces to be good.”

Dean is hoping to persuade D’Andrea to start the festival in Austin in 2014 and is hoping to participate in next year’s Atlanta and New York gigs as well.

Actor’s Express is an ideal locale for the festival, D’Andrea feels, because of the theater’s reputation, flexibility and embrace of new work.  “It’s kind of a sweet spot for this kind of thing,” he says. Some of the proceeds from the event, will go towards the Express’s new play programming.

View a recording of one of last year’s one-minute plays here

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