One Minute Play Festival: Bringing Communities Together

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Image courtesy of oneminuteplayfestival.com

The First Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival premiered this week at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, PA. Spearheaded by producing Artistic Director Dominic D’Andrea, The One Minute Play Festival (OMPF) is a New York City based theatre company, founded in 2006, that does community-centric work. The company partners with theaters across the country to produce pieces which, according to their website, attempt to “reflect the theatrical landscape of local artistic communities by creating a dialogue between the collective conscious and the individual voice.” To do this, D’Andrea travels to each host city to curate several workshops with local playwrights during the year leading up to the festival. With the goal of giving back directly to local artists, OMPF and collaborators identify community organizations to support using the proceeds from the performances. OMPF concerns itself with community engagement and bringing people together via the theater.

In Philadelphia, OMPF partnered with InterAct whose mission is to make a significant contribution to Philadelphia culture and American theatre while cultivating new voices (like Undermain, We Are Proud to Present… by Jackie Sibblies Drury is part of their 2013-14 season). There are 50 established and emerging Philadelphia playwrights participating, along with nine directors and about four-dozen actors. Each playwright was asked to write two non-connected one-minute plays, a far more daunting task than it seems, and from there, the programming was narrowed down to about 90 plays.

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Image of actors at OMPF Chicago courtesy of oneminuteplayfestival.com

OMPF’s blog offers a fascinating insight into the creative process of participants. Playwright A. Zell Williams said creating a one-minute piece comes down to picking the best place for the play to begin in order to maximize the amount of an emotional journey. Playwright David Robson said that even with the time constraint, there was a sense of freedom in writing such a short play, “…the freedom not to think too hard or agonize too much over what comes out because there is no next moment. It begins; it’s over.”

With initial success in New York, D’Andrea was encouraged to take the festival on tour but acknowledged that its success came from its local NYC flavor; each one-minute play collectively represents what artists in a particular city are thinking about and responding to at that moment in time. Establishing a procedure to replicate the process that first took place in NYC has led to the Second Annual Atlanta OMPF and the Third Annual Chicago OMPF both of which were held in June.

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Image of a scene from OMPF in New York courtesy of nytimes.com

So why is this minute long format so popular? To me, the most intriguing aspect of the festival is the concentration of local talent. When else will you be able to witness so many artists with a common background working together? Furthermore, in order to see work by each of the playwrights, never mind see the actors on stage or directors’ productions, it would take years, provided that their work is getting produced locally. Additionally, the festival is a lot of bang for your buck: because of the time constraints, with a $20 ticket you see almost 100 plays! And given the format, if you don’t like a certain play, it only lasts 60 seconds. Furthermore, I think it’s refreshing to stray from the traditional three-act theatrical format, forcing artists and audience members to be receptive to new things. With only one minute, each play has to be emotionally charged and highly theatrical.

Could a festival like this work in Dallas? The Big D is the birthplace of Regional Theater thanks to Margo Jones, and in the past decade, our city has enjoyed a prolific and diverse theater scene. Having the opportunity to host the Theatre Communications Group National Conference this past June showed that the Dallas theater scene is recognized nationally, and at some point this summer, you could have seen a new musical about Peter Pan, a classic Shakespearean production outdoors, and the theatrical retelling of an ancient Greek Epic Poem. I think festivals like OMPF that bring together local artists on a large scale would be tremendously successful in Dallas, creating a unique opportunity for our city’s remarkable, local talent. An event like OMPF would allow for a dialogue about what is happening in Dallas from a playwright’s perspective benefiting both artists and the greater community.

You can watch the Philadelphia One Minute Play Festival at HowlRound TV!

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