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Student playwrights take center stage in GSU’s Ten Minute Play Festival


April 05, 2017

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This month marks the return of Georgia Southern’s Ten Minute Play Festival, an annual event organized and produced by Theatre South, a student run organization in the university’s Communication Arts department.

As the name suggests, the festival featured short plays produced entirely by students.  From writing, directing, acting and staging, students worked independently in bringing their original ideas to the stage. 

“Other than culling the submissions and analyzing the scripts, I really only supervise,” said faculty adviser Nick Newell.  “This is almost an entirely student run process.”

A call for submissions went out last fall, and since then, faculty have been workshopping scripts with student playwrights and directors, honing in on the final festival performances.  Newell sees the process predominately as a learning experience for young artists. 

“What we are doing is giving students the opportunity to see their work in a very barebones setting, a taste of what the playwriting and production process is like on a larger, more professional scale,” he said.

It was also an opportunity for fledgling playwrights to move from the more independent writing process towards a collaborative one in theater production.  Theater majors make up the bulk of the festival’s participants, but submissions were open to all students.  Newell says faculty focus on being more supportive than selective in the workshopping process, but their main concern is choosing pieces that best lend themselves to the format. 

Though the 10-minute length requirement can seem restrictive, past performances vary wildly in genre, from political period pieces to personal love stories.  Festival judges closely examine the writer’s voice, and if they are conveying their ideas in a more dramatic than literary way. 

Student directors are given leeway as to how much they want to produce each play, but staging was minimal outside of a few blocks or pieces of furniture. 

“What’s great about that is the play tends to take place more in the audience’s mind when there is very little spectacle, which in turn means they will focus more on the work itself,” said Newell.

This year’s event, held April 1, marked the 11th year Theatre South has hosted the festival, which has seen a steady increase in popularity, both among students and audiences.  Five plays were selected for performance, taken from an ever larger pool of submissions.  The performances were given in a classroom, but if the festival’s popularity continues to increase, Newell says it will have to expand into the university’s Black Box Theatre.

 


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