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Ten Minute Play Festival this weekend

 

Mixed among the usual traditions of the first home SEC football game of the season lies a little artistic gem of local culture right around the corner from Vaught-Hemingway.

This weekend, Theatre Oxford is hosting the annual Ten-Minute Play Festival at the Powerhouse on University Avenue.

Unlike the average night at the theater with long, overdeveloped plots and extraneous characters, the festival includes five short plays that get the audience in, hooked and done within 10 minutes. 

“Even if you don’t like it, it will be over in 10 minutes,” festival producer Alice Walker said.

While an Ohio man wrote one of the scripts, Mississippians, three of whom are from Oxford, wrote four of the plays.

Not only is it a unique experience from the audience’s perspective, but the festival also offers a unique opportunity for community members to act, direct, design and crew a new and original production. 

“All of us wear many hats,” Walker said. “It’s nice to get professional and amateur and all types together for the sake of the festival and to just experience theater.”

Potential scripts were submitted to a contest earlier in the year and chosen in May. The winner of the competition received $1,000 and a financed production of the show at the festival. 

“Flying Solo, Figuratively” by Austin K. Steinmetz of Columbus, Ohio, is the grand prize winner and the only production not written by a Southerner. The typical father-son story (except with storks), the son craves to venture outside the nest and achieve his dreams while the father fights to let go of his baby.

According to Walker, the grand prize script also sweeps the Audience Award, but this year Beth Kander of Ridgeland claimed the title. Because of this, the festival opted to produce Kander’s “The Pilot Episode,” as well.

Much like the new rearrangements in “Two and a Half Men,” the original wife of the show is “canceled” and wife number two announces that today will be the pilot episode for a new season. 

The other three productions did not win a fancy award or a pretty monetary figure, but they were chosen by the festival committee to be produced for this year’s festival. 

Local author and editor Neil White, who also co-founded the festival 12 years ago with L.W. Thomas, wrote “Clandestine.” However, the plot of this production is very hush-hush except for two female CEOs and the promise of a “big twist,” so ... no spoilers!

The script with one of the longest titles in history, “The Unabridged Minutes of the Theatre Yucca Basin Theater International Ten-Minute Play Competition Selection Committee,” is exactly what it sounds like: a comedy about the festival selection committee. 

Taylor McGraw, senior public policy leadership major and ASB president, wrote the final script with his older brother and Ole Miss alum Jake. 

The McGraw brothers’ play, “A Little off the Top,” is a comedy about a small-town barber with a little suspense and drama sprinkled on top. Taylor wouldn’t reveal much about the other characters, but the premise behind the production is quite clear.

“Everybody went to the barber shop and hung out at the barber shop, and so we kind of started thinking about it in terms of the center of town gossip,” Taylor said. “From there, we launched into the idea of a play that centered around that theme.”

The brothers wrote the script over Christmas break after joking about writing a play for the festival for a few years now. Growing up in Oxford, the two went to the festival often in its early years and have fond memories of past productions from childhood.

One of the most recognized names on campus today, Taylor writes research papers for his classes and had a column in The DM, but hasn’t delved into the creative side of writing much before this.

“It’s a really cool form of creative writing because it’s not the length of a long play, but it’s also challenging because you have to develop your characters in a short time frame,” Taylor said. “It was kind of tough to explain through the dialogue who these people were very quickly.”

Taylor and Walker both discussed that while overall attendance is not an issue, the amount of Ole Miss students is often less than hoped for.

“It really is cool,” Taylor said. “It’s funny, not that expensive, a good form of entertainment and a chance to do something in the community.”

Performances are Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Powerhouse. Tickets are $10 for Theatre Oxford members, $12 for non-members and $8 for children under 12 and can be purchased online at theatreoxford.com.