?Future Ten,? Future Tenant?s first annual ten-minute play festival, proves yet again that necessity is the mother of invention. Those familiar with Future Tenant might feel uncomfortable spending a long play in a space that coordinator Brad Stephenson ? a student graduating from the MAM program in August ? describes as ?very raw, and we make no apologies for very little heat and no bathrooms.? However, there were some amenities: beverages were provided by Sage Berlin from Berlin
International, and the shows themselves were well worth the stay.
The small gallery is managed by students from the Masters of Arts Management program, a joint venture between the College of Fine Arts and the Heinz School. The creative solution, reached by Stephenson and gallery directors Michael Newberry and Christine Kolodge ? both second-year students in the MAM program ? was to have a festival of 10-minute plays. This would not only work well with the gallery?s limited space but also fit in with Future Tenant?s larger goal, as Stephenson put it, to ?allow as many opportunities for as many artists as we can.?
The work displayed at Future Tenant has, according to Stephenson, ?mostly been visual up to this point.? Attracting submissions of scripts for the festival was low-key: ?We want those that have not had their work showcased before.? The show?s organizers solicited and received over 30 submissions of scripts, and then narrowed them down with the help of CMU Masters of Arts Management Program head Dan Martin and City Theatre literary manager Carlyn Aquiline.
The final cut was composed almost entirely of Pittsburgh playwrights working in a wide variety of genres. The abilities of the directors, actors, and actresses were consistently high, although many of the participants were not dedicated professional actors. The setup was spare, with only a small stage of plywood and two-by-fours in the middle of a long and narrow space. Robert Isenberg, one of the actors and a writer for City Paper, was enthusiastic about the format, commenting that it was ?nice and and casual? because it ?takes away all the bells and whistles and really [concentrates] on the audience.?
The festival began with ?What are the Odds??, which features a couple, Glenda and Jolene (Diana Ifft and Gayle Pazerski) who spend their show fishing, drinking hard cider, and reflecting on their past. As the only serious drama in the show, the play reflects on how even a small choice can have incredible consequences on life and relationships. Yet the play still found time for throwing out witty one-liners, as Jolene quipped, ?Your odds of dying from flesh-eating bacteria are 18 times greater than winning the lottery.?
Scott Bradley Smith, the playwright of ?What are the Odds??, is an aspiring fiction author who heard about the festival in September and decided to submit a piece. Smith explained, ?What I like about plays is that it?s a collaboration. In a play you?re providing the words and the characters.? The actors and director help to complete the work. Both Smith and Laura Lind, the writer of ?Unhired Help,? have had several plays previously performed at the New Works Festival.
Lind?s ?Unhired Help? illustrates a generational conflict, unlike the drama of ?What are the Odds?? It pits an over-enthusiastic and over-helpful Marilyn (Virginia Schick) against the younger woman Jen (Laura Kidwell) who has replaced her at work.
?The Wrong Mistake,? by Kim Zelonis, was one of the funniest plays of the evening, with a simple story and delightful dialogue. Robert Isenberg is perfectly cast as Dean, a wisecracking kidnapper unprepared for his criminal occupation. For example, when his captive unexpectedly wakes up, he blames that ?damn generic chloroform.? Laura Jeanne Cerniglia plays Mandy, the sophisticated kidnappee, who actually has a friendly chat with her
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kidnapper. The shocking climax occurs when they realize Dean has mistaken her for his actual target.
The most unusual play of the set was ?Writer?s Block,? a post-modern exploration of the process of writing a play. The writer, John-Paul Nickel, creates a drunken playwright scribbling away madly at a yellow legal pad, chuckling and snorting as he sits surrounded by the crumpled remnants of his previous attempts. Controlling the two other characters on the stage, the writer first leads them on a date. When events turn ugly, he forces his male character to slap himself until he hauls himself off the stage.
The final play, titled ?Girl?s Night Out,? took place inside the garishly pink ?Girl?s Night Out Gun Shop.? More ambitious than the scope of the play is the story of an attempted robbery that ends in misery when the thief is hit by explosive indigestion.
Next week, the audience can expect a few more serious plays but still a few comedies, including ?Corporate America? by Gayle Pazerski, a humorous look at office politics. On the more serious side will be ?True Beauty,? about a husband and wife with a precarious self-image, and ?The Widowmaker,? a play on military recruiters.
Part of the appeal of the festival, according to Stephenson, is that ?if you don?t like this play, wait ten minutes and you might like the next one.? Anyone interested in catching the second weekend should be sure to arrive early, as standing-room-only crowds filled the room to capacity last Friday.
Assistant Pillbox Editor