This Is What My Theatre Community Looks Like
When Dominic mentioned I should try to write a blog post he suggested I consider finding a way to tie in some of the recent and contentious theatre issues I’ve been writing about lately on my own blog. That is, to somehow connect back to the Motherf**ker in the Hat casting blow up and the on-going discussion about cultural appropriation in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing production set in Cuba.
These two separate (yet, I think connected) issues have me thinking a lot about casting, who we see on stage and the stories they get to tell.
Relating these complicated and nuanced conversations to the One Minute Play Festival seemed quite a challenge to me at first, but then I learned that NewPlay TV is going to broadcast the San Francisco One Minute Play Festival (awesome) via Livestream. So if you aren’t in SF you can watch the festival live or view it later in NewPlay TV video archive.
That’s when it hit me. I realized the connection.
You see when Dominic asked for us playwrights to write submissions for the festival he had a few guidelines and a few specific rules. The rules are to keep our plays under a minute (of course), no sound effects, no props beyond say two chairs and a table, and write parts that anyone can play.
Truth be told the characters in my two plays (This is a Test and Only a Test and The Proper Handling of the Dead) don’t even have names. I did this intentionally because I knew that my directors would have little time to cast and therefore needed as much freedom as possible when it came to finding actors to participate.
Now I know the vast majority of the artists involved in the festival (playwrights, directors and actors), either personally or I know of them—actually, for what it’s worth, here in the Bay Area theatre community it seems like you’re only about two degrees away from anyone else. What I’m trying to say is that I have a good sense for what the San Francisco One Minute Play Festival is going to look like. And as I took a moment to visualize our festival broadcasting on NewPlay TV all these threads came together for me: issues of representation and diversity, the festival’s restrictions due to time, and the diverse group of artists both on and off stage that are participating.
Maybe it’s the nature of this festival, the fact that all collaborators have to act quickly (whether that’s to write their plays or to cast it). But somehow, while the festival strips away production values such as sound cues and set design, it seems to strip away some of the casting barriers that plague full productions that have more time for planning. And let’s remember what they say about best-laid plans.
Perhaps instead we should take a page from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his “First thought, best thought” credo. I know I did when I was writing my plays. The concept favors spontaneous writing to following traditional poetry structure and form. Ginsberg was searching for a way to break free from the past and as a playwright I applied this principle to give myself permission to just move forward. To realize that with limited time I don’t have the luxury to second guess myself, I should just write and let the words fall where they may.
So maybe there’s something to this festival with its playwrights under time constraints, its directors scrambling to find actors whose schedules align with rehearsals and the festival, that inhibits us from falling into familiar and comfortable patterns.
Or maybe it’s a sort of math equation. Reduce Time which then diminishes Planning and perhaps, just perhaps that allows Opportunity to somehow increase.
I don’t know the answer.
And perhaps I’m just seeing these connections because I’ve been thinking non-stop for the past two weeks about casting, diversity and representation. But I do feel pretty confident that if you tune in to watch the San Francisco One Minute Play Festival you are going to witness a spectrum of playwright voices, varied directorial points of view and a range of talented actors.
I hope you do tune in because if you do, you’ll see exactly what my theatre community looks like.
–Marisela Treviño Orta
The Second Annual SF One-Minute Play Festival, in partnership with Playwrights Foundation at Thick House is Sat Dec 17th at 8 PM, and Sun Dec 18th at 2PM and 7PM. 60 Plays. 30+ Playwrights. 20+ Actors. 1 Minute. Tickets are $18 dollars online and available here.