The Soul of Everything

Storytelling is more difficult than it appears. Flow and pacing are everything, and there is an art to saying a lot with very little. Shakespeare’s enduring line, “Brevity is the soul of wit” speaks to the crucial importance of pithiness. Ironically, the shorter the allotted time, the more the artist must stretch his or her artistic ability to accomplish everything that a complete story demands.

Nearly every art form has a format that celebrates this skill. Literature has the short story. Cinema, the short film. Haikus allow for a mere 17 syllables. Theatre and playwriting have their own as well: the ten-minute play. Continuing this week, The Bard’s Town Theatre has its fifth annual “Ten-Tucky Festival of 10-Minute Plays,” an event that theatre owner Doug Schutte calls the highlight of the season.

Let’s take a look at why that could be. The Bard’s Town is dedicated to the production of new work. It’s right in their mission statement. This year’s “Ten-Tucky Festival” presents eight 10-minute plays by eight Kentucky playwrights, directed by eight Kentucky directors and featuring over two dozen Kentucky actors. It’s a true showcase of local talent and artistry, and the work doesn’t get much newer than that. In terms of mission, “Ten-Tucky” is the heart of the company.

For those who have never attended past “Ten-Tucky” festivals or anything similar before, here’s what you’re in for. You take a seat – perhaps having gotten yourself a beer or cocktail from the bar downstairs – and the aforementioned owner Doug Schutte takes the stage. He serves as your host for the evening, congenially guiding you through the festival’s potentially whiplash-inducing thematic shifts and genre-changes.

Like most 10-minute play festivals, each of the plays is vastly different from the others. It’s a blessing and a curse, as there’s no guarantee that you’ll enjoy all of the content. Having said that, if an individual play is not your particular brand of bourbon, it’s only 10 minutes and odds are you’ll be satisfied by the next piece. It’s a gamble to be sure, but that’s what makes 10-minute plays and their festivals so exhilarating. At the end of the evening, you vote for your three favorite plays, and if past years are any indication, that task is much more difficult than you might think.

In terms of content, this year’s festival runs the gamut. There are plays that discuss the significance of life and death, ponder the existence of an afterlife, question the endurance of love when the mind is nearly at its end, parody the film noir genre, comically debate the relationship between art and artist, and posit life in a post-apocalyptic world where a single surviving Superman comic book has become the basis for an entire religion. There’s even a play that is about…well…nothing. You’ll have to see the festival to know what I’m talking about, of course, but as trite as it may be, “Ten-Tucky” has something for everyone.

Ten-minute play festivals are fun. They’re sad. They’re frustrating. If each play is its own universe, a 10-minute play festival is a multi-verse of laughter, tears and everything in between just waiting to be experienced. Maybe brevity isn’t just the soul of wit but, well, everything.  So many minds collaborating on one thing is a beauty to behold, and even more so than a typical, full-length play, a 10-minute play festival is a unique celebration of what makes theatre so special and so unlike any other art form. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. There are only a few remaining performances of this year’s iteration that you do not want to miss.

“The Ten-Tucky Festival of 10-Minute Plays” runs through September 27. Tickets are available at thebardstown.com and at the door.

Photos Courtesy of The Bard’s Town