FEATURE: Luna Stage Short Play Festival Offers Big Payback for Tiny Plays

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Being a playwright is a lot like being a composer. Although what you write does exist on the page (or screen), it isn’t really complete until someone has performed it. A constant challenge for playwrights is finding a way to get their plays seen and heard. It takes, as they say, a village.

Or it takes a theater company committed to showcasing new works. Luna Stage, in West Orange, NJ, is offering 16 new ten-minute plays over two nights at their second annual New Moon Short Play Festival on May 12 and 13, 2014. (Yes, you can get there by public transit!)

Cheryl Katz, Artistic Director of Luna Stage

Cheryl Katz, Artistic Director of Luna Stage

Cheryl Katz, Artistic Director of Luna Stage, explains that, although doing so many little works takes a lot of effort, it’s worth it for everyone involved. “The festival allows us to give opportunity to writers, directors and actors. The new writers bring new directors who bring new actors who all bring new audiences.”

Getting his or her work before an audience is one struggle for a playwright. But crafting a complete idea to a maximum length of ten minutes (about ten typed pages of script) can be its own mini-mountain to scale. Writers have a number of reasons for taking on this feat.

For Cathy Tempelsman, there is a strong commitment to Luna Stage itself. Her plays Dog Days and A Most Dangerous Woman have had readings or productions with the company. Therefore she trusted Luna to do justice to her new work, Missing. “It’s a sad play—even dark,” she says, “but I wanted it to be funny and unsentimental. That’s a tough mix! But Luna has always been willing to take on plays that are difficult and downright risky to produce.”

Tempelsman sees value in writing very short works, comparing it to the way “poets often find it freeing to work within the confines of a sonnet. It’s demanding—it forces a kind of economy, which is important to playwriting.” There’s also the practical concern: shorter plays, she says, “can have a quicker turn-around in terms of production.”

Playwright Brad Baron has had a number of his works produced, but 140 Characters will be his first play at Luna. When the writing is going well, he says, what starts out as a ten-minute play doesn’t always end there. “Before you know it, your ten-minute play is a longer one-act, or maybe a full-length evening.” Yet he finds that the ten-minute format can be a blessing. At that length, he says, “You can experiment with whatever you like, and if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be forgiven.”

Diana Diaz, one of the playwrights featured in the Luna Stage festival

Diana Diaz, one of the playwrights featured in the Luna Stage festival

Baron admits that there’s a big risk involved for the playwright showing a work for the first time. “It’s like asking a very blunt family member to tell you what he or she really thinks of your baby’s face.” Hearing his words spoken makes the risk worthwhile, Baron says. “It renews faith in my writing, and also reveals the kinks. But the best surprises are when an actor reads a line of dialogue I absolutely hated, and does something to it that makes me love it again.”

Diana Diaz, who wrote Strolling Aimlessly, agrees. This is her first play to be produced, and she’s eager to see it interpreted. Her piece represents the voice of “that group of writers who were full-bloom NYC adults both pre and post 911. It’s an historical perspective with an expiration date. There are some nuances that can only be captured by people who have lived through [the event].” Describing her work as “creative non-fiction,” Diaz looks forward to “seeing how this talented crew keeps it fresh.”

Even with only ten minutes to make an impression, the writers included in the festival expect to gain plenty from the experience. You know who else benefits from a festival like this? You, the theater lover! For a suggested donation of $10 per night, you get to see 16 new creations by 16 different playwrights, all or most of whom will be new to you. If that doesn’t sound like being a kid in a candy store, then you just might be reading the wrong blog.

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 LUNA STAGE Short Plays Festival

Monday May 12th and Tuesday May 13th at 7:30pm
The 2nd Annual New Moon Short Play Reading Festival will be held over
two evenings with a different lineup of plays each night. Each evening
will culminate with a talkback with the
playwrights.

Reservations are strongly suggested (click here). No payment is necessary at the
time of reservation, but there will be a $10 suggested donation at the
door. Reservations must be picked up at
the box office 20 minutes prior to curtain (by 7:10pm) or tickets may
be released.

Evening #1: Monday May 12th at 7:30pm

Bedtime Story by Raphael Badagliacca
140 Characters or Less by Brad Baron
Supernova by Candace Clift
Park Bench Bingo by Kathryn Lieberthal
I Dom, I Sub by Malika Abdul-Zahir
Strolling Aimlessly by Diana Diaz
Yog Sothoth by Lia Romeo
Reason by Dania Ramos
Eugene Tillman by Crawford Daniels

Evening #2: Tuesday May 13th at 7:30pm

The Secret Keeper by David Meyers
The Countance Alterpiece by Elan David Garonzik
Maximun Velocity by Jonathan R. Citron
Point of Focus by Reg E Gaines
First Impressions by Kirsten Sughrue
Hitting the Glass Ceiling by Kathleen Ruen
Missing by Cathy Tempelsman

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