Friday and Saturday, the SUNY Plattsburgh Theatre Department held its first annual 10-Minute-Play Festival. Although the entirety of the event lasted for almost two hours, it consisted of seven plays. The theatre department has wanted to hold a student-directed play festival for the past few years, and were finally able to carry one out this semester.
The festival was created as part of “Join The Jubilee,” a nationwide festival that lasts all year long for unrepresented, marginalized groups of people. Some of these groups consist of deaf artists, non-binary artists, artists of color and others that apply. Each play was selected from the New Play Exchange, a platform that places writers, readers and theatre artists together. These plays were then directed by THE416, a class that focuses on the theory and practice of theatre direction, giving student directors first-hand experience in working directly with a living playwright.
The 10-Minute Play Festival aimed to showcase the hard work of student directors while also providing them with the fun challenge of directing a complete, one-act play in only 10 minutes. 10-minute plays aren’t something SUNY Plattsburgh created.
For auditions, students could either join the Zoom auditions over the course of the several evenings they were held or instead had the option to submit a video audition. Castings were decided over Zoom.
Students in THE416 served as directors for these plays. Each director was responsible for scheduling their own rehearsals with their cast members. Professor Erika Guay and technical director Ben Wright helped by making sure each student director had all the materials they needed for their play, which included ring lights, phone stands, green screens, scarves, makeup and fishing line.
Like real-life directors, THE416’s student directors all met with Stage Manager Thomas Bouchard for tech rehearsals in order to go through light and sound cues needed for each individual play. Shawna Mefferd Kelty, the professor of THE416 who also served as festival director, made sure all of these things were provided for her students. As festival director, professor Kelty guided the entire process of making sure these plays were carried out successfully. The first step was contacting each playwright and negotiating contracts. Kelty found ways to connect her student directors with the playwrights, made sure student directors stayed on schedule by coordinating meetings and sending out emails, and collaborated on forms of promotion like posters, graphics, programs and ticketing. Extensive promoting for the 10-Minute Play Festival was done through flyers on campus, student digest advertisements, social media posts, and outreach emails and invitations to SUNY Plattsburgh’s alumni and other campuses.
With the help of Kelty handling all the background work and with each student director taking charge of their own plays, the first annual 10-Minute Play Festival was held live over Zoom on April 30 and May 1 at 7 p.m. each night. To join the Zoom, students were required to purchase a free ticket for the day they planned to attend through tickets.plattsburgh.edu, SUNY Plattsburgh’s online ticketing office for campus events. After ordering, students could then click the Zoom link in the festival description to join the play festival. A program for the plays was provided in the Zoom chat.
The first play of the festival, Mina, Dina, Tina, and Bean’s Completely Average Pandemic Pod Powerpoint Party, written by Hayley St. James, is directed by Student Director Mason Barber.
The second play, The Next Step, written by Rachel L. Strayer, is directed by Student Director Brady Terry. Terry, who is currently in his junior year as a theatre and music major, searched “dark humor” on New Play Exchange for the play he directed because he saw it as a good starting point.
“I lucked out because this one ended up being incredibly thought-provoking and really caught my attention with how relatable and genuine it is while also making people laugh in an uncomfortable sort of way.” The play consists of a deep conversation between a man and a dead body.
The third play, CareLEss, written by Jackie Martin, is directed by Student Director Anthony Sardella.
The fourth play, Confirmation Bias, written by Nick Malakhow, is directed by Student Director Angel Martinez. Martinez is currently a senior theatre major who’s planning to graduate in the fall. This play is about two men who end up in the same place to meet with a psychologist; Chuck, an openly gay man and the other guy whose name remains anonymous. The anonymous man is very suggestively in the closet about his sexuality.
“When offered the opportunity to direct a scene of my choice, I wanted a facet of my identity to approach the work. It had to be LGBTQIA driven,” said Martinez.
The fifth play, Stories of Color, written by Jodi Antenor, is directed by Student Director Jhada-Ann Walker.
The sixth play, Innumerable, written by Hayley Haggerty, is directed by Student Director Caleb Eugley.
The last play, 1900’s Women Bonding, written by Catherine Weingarten and directed by Student Director Emma Kay Caton.
Although the 10-Minute Festival was held live for two days, all seven plays are available on the SUNY Plattsburgh Theatre Department Youtube channel. Students can access the full festival on Youtube until May 7.