The man behind SPF speaks!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19th, 2010 by kellinewby

Here is the first of a series of posts about the Short Play Festival written by the man himself, Eric Auld.  Enjoy!

The Birth and Growth of a Short Play Festival

When I approached Lex (Executive Director of MSS) with the idea of the Short Play Festival (SPF) in August ‘08, I simply had in mind the student one-act festivals from my days as an undergrad at Plattsburgh State. You know: a couple of kids write a couple of plays which are automatically thrown into production and performed for the sheer fact that they are brand spanking NEW. I thought SPF would be a great opportunity for local playwrights to showcase their original pieces at our pretty little space, since—well—it’s difficult for any sort of writer out there to find a home for his/her work nowadays, especially playwrights. At first, I didn’t know if Lex would think the idea as silly or if she would like it, but in the end she went for it. I even slapped “First Annual” on the title in my presumptuous hopes that there would be a Second Annual, possibly a Third Annual. Lex even agreed to have me lead the project—putting trust in me after only being involved with MSS for a few months. I slapped a title on myself (“Festival Coordinator”), sent out a press release for some plays, found (physically threatened?) a group of company members to read these plays with me, and off we went into Main Street Stage’s First Annual Short Play Festival!

Well, fast forward to January ’09 and SPF1 turned out to be a success, much more than I originally anticipated. We received a total of 57 submissions, out of which we (the nine of us on the “Reading Committee,” as I liked to call us) selected four plays for performance. We filled almost all seats nearly every night for four performances, and even ended up with enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months. What I had intended to be a modest affair indeed turned into an “annual” event. Guess I wasn’t so presumptuous after all.

And then… there’s SPF2.

Remember those 57 submissions we received during SPF1? Multiply that over sevenfold and you get the 411 short play submissions we received for this year’s festival. That’s right: four hundred eleven. We (the “Reading Committee”) fell about two months behind our original schedule because we were not expecting such a surge in e-mail and snail mail submissions.  Heck, I am still behind in my role as Festival Coordinator:  though all the plays are picked and rehearsals are in progress, I still have yet to contact the remainder of the two to three hundred playwrights whose plays were unfortunately not selected for performance in this year’s Festival and give them the bad news. (Have you ever let that many people down before? At once? It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta’ do it.)

The increase in manuscript submissions isn’t the only thing that has changed, either. Remember how I mentioned the phrase “local playwrights” in my original proposal? Scratch that. Our press release must have really taken off online, since we received submissions from all over the country, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, and even Russia. Last year’s three playwrights hailed from Berkshire County, Upstate New York, and New York City. This year’s five playwrights come from Los Angeles, Iowa, Ohio, Queens, and Brooklyn.

Also: remember the phrase “original works” from my initial proposal? Scratch that, too. In blindly reading over four hundred plays, the Reading Committee (now extended beyond nine members to almost the entire company) accidentally oversaw this requirement in the reading process, since the quality of the plays came first and foremost. As far as I know, only two of the five have been staged before—but at least not by us. After all, every performance is a new experience, a new interpretation. We do have some wonderful plays up for production this year and at least they will all be original Main Street Stage productions, original “Berkshire Premieres.”

Most of all, this—as well as the entire reading/rehearsal process—is just proof that each Short Play Festival is a learning experience. I am truly glad to have had basically the entire Main Street Stage company helping out with SPF1 and 2 from the very beginning in whatever way possible, especially by offering valuable insight. After we all experienced SPF1 and headed into SPF2, we kept what worked from the first Festival and changed what didn’t. The same will go for next year: we will keep what works from this year and change what doesn’t. We learn as we go, we take suggestions and put them into practice, we all keep open minds. It’s a collaborative effort, and that’s what I admire most about it all. Now that’s community theatre.

Maternity and SPF

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9th, 2010 by kellinewby

As I will soon be distracted and the Short Play Festival is in progress, it seems a perfect time to hand over the people who will be getting this thing up and running.  Stay tuned to hear from the directors, the planner and even the producer/company critic!