Here Come The Tens

by on March 10, 2014

See more posts about: The Tens 2014

The Tens, the Apprentice/Intern Company’s annual presentation of an evening of ten-minute plays, is just about to kickoff. This week’s post explores some of the reasons why we love producing ten-minute plays.

A side-by-side comparison of the ten-minute play and a handful of potatoes.

A side-by-side comparison of the ten-minute play and a handful of potatoes.

The ten-minute play is a notoriously tricky medium. Ten-minute plays are expected to accomplish just as much as full-length plays, and to do so in the same time that it takes to microwave the more exotic varieties of Lean Cuisine—as my fellow literary intern Eric Werner puts it, “If the full-length is potatoes, the ten-minute is vodka.” Producing a series of tens involves more than a few logistical complexities, as well; each one of the plays needs all of the personnel, design, direction and quality expected of, well, a play. Nevertheless, Actors Theatre takes a deep-running interest in ten-minute plays, both through an evening of tens in the Humana Festival and through the annual production of short plays presented by the Apprentice/Intern Company, The Tens. So why do we produce ten-minute plays?

Beer and coffee make for the perfect accompaniment to a mid-morning discussion of ten-minute plays.

Beer and coffee make for the perfect accompaniment to a mid-morning discussion of the excellent ten-minute plays you watched last night.

Ten-minute plays are engaging and thoroughly entertaining for the sheer variety of material that they can offer an audience. In a little over an hour, the Apprentice/Intern Company’s upcoming edition of The Tens will range from the contemplations of crewmen on a salmon-processing barge to the marital difficulties of exceptionally tall men to relationship advice from the glam rock community. This constant variation does more than satisfy our YouTube-driven cravings for endless novelty; it allows the theatre to take on challenging or experimental works as a part of the evening. This year’s festival features several plays that spurn linear timelines and eschew naturalism in favor of unique, genre-defying style. And whatever sort of plays you prefer, you can count on something completely different to come your way in ten minutes! The wide variety of plays and audience tastes makes for thought-provoking connections and juxtapositions within the evening itself, not to mention excellent post-show discussion over a beer or a coffee (or, better yet, a beer and a coffee).

The Victor Jory Theatre, home of The Tens

The Victor Jory Theatre, home of The Tens

Most of the scripts for The Tens are selected through the National Ten-Minute Play Contest.  Each year, Actors Theatre’s Literary Department combs through hundreds of contest submissions to identify up-and-coming playwrights, choose finalists for the Heideman Award (which comes with a cool $1,000 prize), and establish a pool of potential scripts for The Tens. We also draw plays for The Tens from the Small Starving Artists Contest, which accepts submissions from Actors’ staff and visiting artists—Eric Werner, my aforementioned literary colleague, penned Through the Grit and the Grain, one of this year’s Tens. Of course, the final selections for The Tens depend on the resources of the theatre as much as literary merit—for instance, whether appropriate actors are available for a given script—and are chosen with a careful curatorial eye toward unleashing a variety of tones, stories and energies in the space of a single evening in the Victor Jory Theatre.

The Tens presents an opportunity for Actors Theatre to get to know emerging playwrights and form relationships with them early in their careers. Playwright Lucas Hnath is a prime example. Since his ten-minute play The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith appeared in The Tens in 2010, Hnath has twice premiered new work in the Humana Festival, and received a full-length play commission from Actors to write The Christians, which will make its debut at the Humana Festival this year. Established writers are often featured in The Tens as well; this year’s lineup includes Gary Winter, a member of the Obie Award-winning playwrights’ collective 13P, and Patricia Cotter, who won a Daytime Emmy for her writing on Comedy Central’s Win Ben Stein’s Money.

The results of this extensive search for the very best ten-minute plays, and the hard work of the Apprentice/Intern Company, will be on display this weekend. Catch a fast-paced, wildly diverse night of theater with The Tens, running Saturday, January 11 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, January 12 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Monday, January 13 at 7 p.m.

Actors Theater of Louisville
316 West Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
Box Office: 502.584.1205
502.371.0956 TDD

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