10-Minute Play Fest gives Orcas playwrights a chance to show their work

Annette Mazzarella and Suzanne Gropper in “Homecoming” by Ron Herman performed during last year’s Play Fest.

Now in its fourth year, the 10-Minute Play Fest, produced by the Actors Theater of Orcas Island, is an opportunity for first-time as well as veteran playwrights, directors, and actors to see their work come to life in front of an audience.

Doug Bechtel and Sandy Thompson created the event and coordinated it for the past three years. This year, Louise Carnachan, who participated in 2008 as a playwright and a director, is at the helm.

Carnachan says the festival is a wonderful way for Orcas residents who have never written a play, directed, or acted to try out something new.

“It’s great because it’s manageable. A 10-minute play is very doable,” said Carnachan.

Once plays are submitted, a panel of four community members judges them. It is made up of people with expertise in the field of writing. Some are accepted without the need for rewriting, but all the plays receive comments and suggestions. If a playwright’s work is not accepted, he or she has the chance to revise it and present it to the panel again.

Carnachan encourages island writers to submit their work as soon as possible to allow for possible re-writes. The judging will begin by the first week of March.

Carnachan hopes there will be a diverse selection this year, possibly from writers in Bechtel’s playwrighting class and members of the playwrighting and writers groups on the island.

“I think we’ll get a nice, healthy chunk of submissions this year.”

She is also hoping for student submissions.

“I’ve been in touch with the English and creative writing teachers at the school. I’d love to see one or two students’ submissions produced,” she said.

Once the plays are chosen, actors and directors are selected. Carnachan is compiling a list of interested directors as well as a pool of actors and backstage/technical helpers. She encourages anyone interested in being added to the list to contact her. The plays will be performed May 1 through 3 at the Grange, with rehearsals starting in early April.

“It’s a great community event because it’s all local. We had wonderful first time playwrights and actors last year,” said Carnachan.

Bill Westlake, a 2008 first time playwright, says, “I’ve always wanted to dabble in writing. The play fest was an opportunity to have an audience and motivation to get on with it.”

Elsie McFarland, who also wrote a play for the first time, had her work produced in 2007.

“I attended the 2006 8X10 Play Fest of Doug Bechtel’s work and he told us how he started to write: first one, then another, and by the time of the fest he’d written over 35 one-act plays. Well that just blew me away! And it challenged me. After watching the plays, I was inspired,” she said.

“Last winter, I responded to an article in the Sounder looking for folks interested in writing plays. When attending the first meeting, it was discussed that one of the goals of the class was to produce a stage-worthy 10-minute play. A most scary thought at the time, to be sure,” said Ron Herman, a 2008 participant.

Westlake says his experience was “especially satisfying because the actors and director genuinely liked the play. They all had contributions of their own, so the end result was truly a collaborative work.”

McFarlan added, “It is so gratifying to see the actors enjoy the parts, take on a new persona, breathe life into your baby, and then of course, it’s really fun to hear the audience laugh – hopefully in the ‘right’ places – or sigh, and in the end, who doesn’t like applause? Inexperience is no excuse. Try it. Win, lose or draw, you’ll grow, learn something and probably have a heck of a lot of fun just going through the process.”

Aspiring playwrights can contact Carnachan at louise@carnachan.com for submission guidelines, which are also available at the Orcas Library desk. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 28. Carnachan can be reached at 376-3277 for additional questions.