Storytelling is more difficult than it appears. Flow and pacing are everything, and there is an art to saying a lot with very little. Shakespeareâ€™s enduring line, â€œBrevity is the soul of witâ€ 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 Bardâ€™s Town Theatre has its fifth annual â€œTen-Tucky Festival of 10-Minute Plays,â€ an event that theatre owner Doug Schutte calls the highlight of the season.
Letâ€™s take a look at why that could be. The Bardâ€™s Town is dedicated to the production of new work. Itâ€™s right in their mission statement. This yearâ€™s â€œTen-Tucky Festivalâ€ presents eight 10-minute plays by eight Kentucky playwrights, directed by eight Kentucky directors and featuring over two dozen Kentucky actors. Itâ€™s a true showcase of local talent and artistry, and the work doesnâ€™t get much newer than that. In terms of mission, â€œTen-Tuckyâ€ is the heart of the company.
For those who have never attended past â€œTen-Tuckyâ€ festivals or anything similar before, hereâ€™s what youâ€™re in for. You take a seat â€“ perhaps having gotten yourself a beer or cocktail from the bar downstairs â€“ and the aforementioned owner Doug Schutte takes the stage. He serves as your host for the evening, congenially guiding you through the festivalâ€™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. Itâ€™s a blessing and a curse, as thereâ€™s no guarantee that youâ€™ll enjoy all of the content. Having said that, if an individual play is not your particular brand of bourbon, itâ€™s only 10 minutes and odds are youâ€™ll be satisfied by the next piece. Itâ€™s a gamble to be sure, but thatâ€™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 yearâ€™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. Thereâ€™s even a play that is aboutâ€¦wellâ€¦nothing. Youâ€™ll have to see the festival to know what Iâ€™m talking about, of course, but as trite as it may be, â€œTen-Tuckyâ€ has something for everyone.
Ten-minute play festivals are fun. Theyâ€™re sad. Theyâ€™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 isnâ€™t just the soul of wit but, well, everything.Â 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. Donâ€™t believe me? Check it out for yourself. There are only a few remaining performances of this yearâ€™s iteration that you do not want to miss.
â€œThe Ten-Tucky Festival of 10-Minute Playsâ€ runs through September 27. Tickets are available at thebardstown.com and at the door.
Photos Courtesy of The Bard’s Town