The ArtsCenter’s 13th Annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle, which bills itself as “an international festival of new ten-minute plays,” is a staple at the Carrboro arts center. This year’s lineup of short plays, performed for an appreciative crowd, includes 10 plays performed by a total of 10 actors.
Each play is 10 minutes long and sure to pack some kind of punch, whether it be humorous, heartwarming, silly, or dramatic. This year’s program offered all of the above and even a bit of the surreal, just for good measure.
The Triangle’s theater crowd is pretty strong, but this particular show has established a home fan base, causing showgoers to line up half an hour before the theater doors opened. Seats at The ArtsCenter are first-come-first-served, with very few exceptions, so the earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of a great seat.
The show is split into two sets of performances: five before intermission and five afterward. The 10 plays are written by 10 playwrights and directed by 10 directors. The amount of time that must go into this production is amazing, especially when one considers that each of the actors is performing at least twice and often as many as four times in one 10 by 10 performance.
The evening opens with Vincent Van Buren (played by David Berberian) delivering his philosophies to the audience, often reminding them “I make my living in the theater.” As “master of the local stage,” he brags about his legendary acting skills and pits them against Terry Melden, a Shakespearean-type actor played by Fred Corlett. As an introduction to the rest of the plays, this 10-minute production called “What the Theatre Is All About: A Master Class with Vincent Van Buren,” penned by Corey Rieger and directed by Jason Tyne-Zimmerman, the founder of the Exquisite Corpse Festival, opened the evening with a tongue-in-cheek statement on the theater.
Bridget Erin’s “The Interpreter” is a satirical take on social media and features Caroline Strange, Jim Moscater and Terra Hodge. Strange acts as the interpreter for newly dating couple Moscater and Hodge. Erin has written a statement on the culture that takes the social out of social and it makes its point with a few quotable lines and a clearly defined message, and director and UNC-Greensboro grad Laurel Ullman’s deft hand determined which pregnant pauses were worthy of a true pause and which could simply be part of a riff that the interpreter is prone to throughout the play.
“Going Viral,” written by Brandon M. Crose and directed by Tony Lea, the resident director at the Deep Dish Theater Company, features a very difficult conversation that a set of parents (David Berberian and Page Purgar) is having with the teenage son (Jorge Donoso). The parents give the boy the Facebook page they made and have kept for him throughout his whole life. As the parents try to point out how much time the boy spends online, the conversation disintegrates.
Jordan Rawlins, creator of “Canyon,” is LA-based and recently made the point that a play is totally different depending upon the actors and theater company. His “Canyon” is both a physical and psychological metaphor on the trust that exists (or does not) between friends. The actors Jillian Lea, Lazarus Simmons, and Caroline Strange bring this piece to life with a comfortable sense of chemistry and physical space with each other, which is more likely a testament to the direction of Lori Mahl, an ECU graduate who has taught, acted, and directed on and off Broadway.
Actress Elaine Smith created “Ten Minute Life,” which was directed by Chris Chiron, an active Carolina thespian and director, and featured Fred Corlett and Mary Rowland. The story centers around an adult couple having an argument, and the take-home phrase from this little gem is that “Life can happen in ten minutes.”
After intermission, the theme seemed centered upon making direct or indirect references to the making of the play as a genre; and the five plays that rounded out the evening made it clear that the selection committee did a good job to winnow their 750 proposed plays down to the evening’s top 10.
In “This is Not a Play” by Chas Belov, actors Jillian Lea and Page Purgar are directed by 25-year vet-of-the-theater Jerry Sipp. This pithy, quip-laden play riffs on all of the standards of playwriting: Anton Chekhov’s rule that if there’s a gun on the mantle, it must be shot by the end of the play; the use of a McGuffin and the mystery it provides; similes, metaphors, strong protagonists, and villainous antagonists. All of the standard props and formats are either referenced or directly utilized in this play written specifically for playwrights.
Amanda Petefish-Schrag’s “The Wisdom of Pirates,” a woman played by Terra Hodge is chided by her husband, Jim Moscater, for wearing a patch over her eye like a pirate. Though married-couple jokes abound in this little gem, it turns on a phrase uttered at the end when the woman admits the reason she wears the patch is so she doesn’t see the other woman and that everyone else sees her (the wife) as tough instead of wounded.
Flashbacks drive the plot in “Lost in Thought” by Christopher Lockheardt. The play opens on a guy (Jorge Donoso) washing dishes while a woman appears around his perimeter, playing bits of what appears to be the couple’s life together. Directed by Hope Alexander, this play also ends with a bit of nostalgia with Caroline Strange, the girl the guy is thinking of, entering into a new relationship with another guy (Lazarus Simmons). As they consummate the new relationship, she admits that she could never imagine the first guy as someone who would be thinking of her.
“Recess at Our Lady of the Bleeding Heart, Mind, and Spirit — Once Reformed,” written by Terence Patrick Hughes and directed by Gregor McElvogue, features Page Purgar and David Berberian as two teachers of sixth graders who gather in the faculty room and discuss their students and their parents. Both raucous and raunchy, this vignette aroused laughs because the audience could imagine the conversation taking place at any local middle school.
The evening closed with Carl A. Rossi’s “A Streaker Named Desire.” Not only was the title a perfect play on the Tennessee Williams’ classic Streetcar Named Desire, but it held its own as another statement on the theater and its history. This last piece featured the largest cast and was an appropriate close for the evening. Actors Jorge Donoso, Fred Corlett, Mary Rowland, David Berberian, and Terra Hodge followed the direction of Josh Benjamin, a freelance director from Mebane, and created a fairly zany 10 minutes.
Though one would imagine that a good portion of the audience came to celebrate the productions of these 10 playwrights, 10 actors, and 10 directors, the audience also consisted of students on assignment for a drama class, theater aficionados, and those just seeking entertainment. For all of the above, it was a good night. And then some. Ten times the usual fare.
SECOND OPINION: July 13th Chapel Hill, NC Chapelboro.com review by Aaron Keck: http://chapelboro.com/columns/aaron-keck/10-10-takes-artscenter/; July 12th Raleigh, NC CVNC preview by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=6900; and July 10th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Annie Piotrowski: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/07/artscenter-presents-13th-installment-of-10-by-10-festival.
The ArtsCenter presents 10 BY 10 IN THE TRIANGLE at 8 p.m. July 17-19, 3 p.m. July 20, 8 p.m. July 24 and 25, and 3 p.m. July 27 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.
TICKETS: $16 ($14 students and sneiiors and $12 ArtsCenter Friends).
BOX OFFICE: 919-929-2787, ext. 201, or http://www.etix.com/.
SHOW: http://www.artscenterlive.org/artscenter-stage/10-by-10/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/754015754643126/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.artscenterlive.org/, https://www.facebook.com/artscenterlive, and https://twitter.com/ArtsCenterlive.
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.