There is something wonderful about a short story. The author has to convey the storyline with precision and an economy of language that must be daunting. They either grab their audience quickly, or they lose them just as fast.
PlaySlam!, presented last Saturday night at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro by the Playwrights Roundtable, challenged over a dozen local playwrights to create new three-minute plays and to go head-to-head in an elimination challenge. The actors had a mere afternoon to learn blocking and to glance over their lines, adding to the challenge. At the event, scorecards were passed out to the audience, who chose their favorite plays without knowing who had written them. The Top 5 authors would then go on to Round 2.
The plays ran the gamut: “Assigned Seating” had sports enthusiasts whipping out guns to resolve a seating dispute a la Reservoir Dogs; “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” had wife number 1 and wife number 2 “jockeying” over an inheritance that ultimately goes to a horse; and “What the Bing” dealt with the age-old question: Bing vs. Google. No, actually, this play dealt with the age-old question of men and women, Mars and Venus, and accepting differences. In fact, in a three-minute span, the author of this play (which we found out later was Annie Taft) got loads of belly laughs — so many, in fact, that she sailed easily into Round 2.
Taft’s Round 2 play, “Hazard,” which showcased a lonely boy bemoaning his sad life, gave the audience such a shock that there was a collective gasp. Lydia Craft Sbityakov similarly surprised with a slapstick rendition of an old lady’s sojourn to the mailbox.
The short rehearsal schedule meant that this would be a “staged reading” with script in hand, but that hardly affected the performances of the strong cast of actors. A few could have spoken a bit louder, but we could hear most of them fairly well from our seats in the back row.
Unfortunately, the theater itself was quite stuffy and many fanned themselves with their scorecards while viewing the action. The ArtsCenter really should figure out a way to cool those higher up in the eaves.
The audience clearly enjoyed themselves throughout the evening; however, surprisingly, the master of ceremonies never announced the Top 5 plays from the first round, but merely told the winning authors to prepare to present their new plays in Round 2. Since we did not know who had written each play until the winners were announced, the audience was left wondering which plays actually won the first round vote.
In the end, the authors took the stage and declared which plays that they had written and we learned that Lydia Craft Sbityakov and Annie Taft had tied and would split the $172 grand prize, which was based on donations from the audience.
PLAYSLAM! (Playwrights Roundtable, Sept. 19 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.