Without gobs of cash to spend, finding a stage for an unknown script can be a dubious task. This weekend, the second — and quite possibly second annual – One-Act Play Festival at Capitol Hill’s Eclectic Theater seeks to break the barrier to getting a break. Members of the local theater community and those with a seat in the audience may be set to reap the benefits of the event’s enthusiastic approach.
Saying “go for it” to pretty much anybody who has a script, the ability, and gumption to bring a play of 15-minutes-or-less to production, the festival brings together playwrights and actors who may not typically rub shoulders for a chance to network while new material is tried out or existing works are recast. It also gives festival goers and participants a chance to see a range of approaches to theater through a lineup of concisely packaged narratives. In total, this Friday and Saturday night, 14 local playwrights and production companies will bring their short plays to the stage of the 49-seat 10th Ave theater.
“Our goal here is essentially to let the theater community get to know one another better — and with that in mind the festival’s a little different,” said Leonard Goodisman, Eclectic Theater’s development director. “We let any group or any individual who can put a play on and put it together do so, and we try hard to not have any restrictions.”
“We don’t want to tell people how to do their plays — we want them to show us what they think theater is, what it should be, and how they perceive it,” he said.
The only limit is time.
Personal struggles will be hashed out through conversations with felines in “Herding Cats: In the Kitten Coral” by Louise Penberthy, sexuality and the politics of “privacy” will be explored through a comedy-driven script in “Top Secret” by festival coordinator Goodisman, and intergenerational cultural conflicts will be contemplated through the lens of a summertime tradition from the Seattle Filipino community’s past, and through the eyes of a young Seattleite in “Pinoy Hill” by Robert Francis Flor.
The event is expected to sell out again this year as it did in 2013, so you might want to grab your ticket soon. Otherwise you can wait around outside for seats to open up as some audience members may filter out after seeing the play they came for throughout the evening, Goodisman said.
In the no-plays-barred spirit of the festival behold as well titles ranging from “An Angel who Sang for the King” by Peter Choi and Carolynn Wilcox, and directed by Ralph Fontaine, to “Bone My Clone,” written and directed by Oneda Harris, and co-produced by Jorj Savage, which involves the characters George Clooney (Will Phillips), His Manager (Oneda Harris), Princess (Mari Salinas) and Clooney Clone (Danny Herter) — (“contains male nudity,” the program says).
The festival’s open approach has given newer playwrights like Robert Francis Flor a chance to get a start in bringing their material to the stage. Flor says he likes the short format plays the festival calls for.
“They give inexperienced playwrights and emerging playwrights a chance to get their work on stage, and that’s the beauty of the Eclectic Theater’s festival,” he said.
“Very few theater’s would accept a full-length play from an unknown playwright unless it was something really special — theater’s are watching their budget and they need to draw audiences,” Flor said. “Basically, by Len hosting this festival, he gives a lot of us a chance to get some piece of work in front of people and to work on the craft — to see what the audiences reactions are and to learn the craft of a playwright.”
Flor was born in Seattle in 1943 and grew up in the Central Area and Rainer Valley, and is an O’Dea High School graduate. He had a long career with a civic bent including 26 years with King County Metro, and he volunteers much time now coordinating art in Seattle and has long written poetry. However, he only took up play writing in the last decade.
Flor saw his short softball-themed play “The Injury,” which is steeped in local history, to production at the first One-Act Play Festival at the Eclectic Theater last year — the play was a spin-off of a full-length play called “Pinoys Played Baseball” which Flor was writing through a workshop at ACT Theatre. The short and long versions of the play are both tributes to Flor’s longtime friend Ray Flores, who organized the predominantly Filipino softball team Pinoy that was active around Ranier Valley in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. Flores died of cancer about a year ago, but Flor was able to get the “The Injury” written in time for his friend to read it. Flor says he was pleased and sometimes surprised by the way “The Injury” came to life with the work of actors, and says it was well-received and garnered lots of laughs at the One-Act festival last year. He is now working to bring the completed full-length version of the play to a Seattle stage.
This year, Flor will debut “Pinoy Hill” at the festival. The play centers around a gathering of many in Seattle’s Filipino community that used to take place every July 4 on a vantage point in Seward Park that became affectionately known as Pinoy Hill, a celebration that has since been folded in to the annual Pista Sa Nayan festival which was founded in the early 1990′s and that takes place at Seward Park’s amphitheater in late July. Flor says he would eventually like write and produce a series of around a dozen short plays about the history of the Seattle Filipino community, tying in Filipino folklore and archetypical themes with stories about events and places from local history.
With his own play and at least one other in the festival featuring original music, Goodisman says the One-Act Play festival also allows for collaborations he finds compelling. “I’m very enthusiastic about any generation of that sort — interdisciplinary; it’s great to stimulate that,” he said. CHS wrote about Goodisman working to perfect his play “Checkoff in the Sun” while debuting it at Eclectic back in April here.
The festival coordinator hopes to build on what he expects to be a successful event this weekend. “If it’s working, if it’s giving people some interaction that’s valuable to them, then I’d like to see it continue,” Goodisman said.”I’m hoping we have a successful festival and people like it and we can start looking forward to a third festival.”
Goodisman says the goal is not to make the festival grow bigger per se, but still says he would like have even more playwrights, actors and producers on the festival’s bill in the future. He also says the idea of moving the festival to a theater with more seats has been discussed. However, he says the Eclectic Theater’s ability to work with the festival’s goals and limitations has been key to making the One-Act Play Festival happen so far. “One of the reasons we’re able to put this is on that Rik is able to give us a deal that we couldn’t get elsewhere,” Goodisman said, mentioning the Eclectic Theater’s founder and managing artistic director Rik Deskin.
Goodisman says he is also considering programming a festival that would give longer one-act plays some stage time some time this fall.
The Eclectic Theater is located at 1014 10th Ave — 10th and Union — at the former site of Odd Duck Studio, where the Eclectic Theater had been managing resident company since 2006. After renovations in 2013, Odd Duck Studio was altogether renamed Eclectic Theater. You can learn more about the theater and other upcoming events here. You can also learn more about Shunpike, which helps support the theater, here, and more about 4Culture here.