Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Theatre Odyssey's play festival returns to Sarasota

   Ten-minute play festivals have been popping up all across the country in recent years. They're popular with playwrights, theater companies and audiences.
   Playwrights appreciate the chance to be produced and get some money, theater companies like them because they can help develop new work and up-and-coming writers, and audiences like them because they generally make for really edifying and entertaining evenings of theater. And since the plays are short, audiences don't risk the boredom of a full-length show that they don't like. If you don't like one 10-minute play, you'll probably like the next one, and it's right around the corner.
"As Long as the Moon Shines"
Photo by Cliff Roles
 Locally, Theatre Odyssey's annual Ten-Minute Play Festival has become one of the most respected.The 10th annual festival is coming up this weekend. It runs today through Sunday at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts in Sarasota.
   This year's plays are "The Coward" by Dylan Jones, "Dancing Lessons" by Connie Schindewolf, "Dream On, Merry Mae" by Bernard Yanelli, "High School Reunion" by Arthur Keyser, "It's Time to Move On" by Ron Pantello, "The Locket" by Mark Leib, "Nimby" by Robert Kinast and "Why" by Marvin Albert.
   The plays get full productions from local theater professionals, and they're judged by a panel of theater experts. There's a cash prize for the winner. (Full disclosure: I am among the judges this year. The others are Summer Wallace, head of the theater department at Riverview High School and an adjunct professor of theater at New College of Florida, and Jim Sorensen, a prominent local actor who recently joined the staff of Florida Studio Theatre. The judges all volunteer their time.)
   The plays this year are about divided between comedies and dramas. There's also a bonus play. Theatre Odyssey hosts a student festival every year, and this year's winner, "As Long as the Moon Shines" by Julien Freij, a junior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Bradenton will be staged again this weekend. It won't be judged and it won't be eligible for the prize money, though.
   This year's festival has a couple of new elements. The opening night performance will be interpreted into American Sign Language, and 12-year-old violin prodigy Jenny Armor will perform during the intervals between plays between plays. 

   Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $20. Call 941-799-7224, or go to

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