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Who likes short shorts?

click to enlarge A LIL' BIT OF EVERYTHING Pegasus Theater's Tapas festival of short plays covers the gamut.
  • A LIL' BIT OF EVERYTHING Pegasus Theater's Tapas festival of short plays covers the gamut.

In theater, short one-act plays are rare.

For decades, shorts have been seen as a way for new writers to break in, to test the waters and strut their stuff, to demonstrate what they can do, and are often an important step toward a playwright building the confidence and artistic cred to tackle a full-length play. Occasionally, though, established playwrights will turn to one-acts as a way to stretch and play and maybe show off a little. For the performers and directors, shorts are a way to stay sharp and work on one's craft between larger projects.

In most cases, few theater-going audiences ever have a chance to see such work, though shorts are often wonderful little tidbits of creativity—tightly focused, sometimes experimental, often highly entertaining.

In recent years, for some reason, one-acts have grown gradually more popular, especially in the North Bay. In Sonoma County, Pegasus Theater in Rio Nido has been the steadiest proponent, annually presenting its Tapas program, highlighting shorts by local writers with peppy, full-staged productions served up in tasty bite-sized chunks. Scheduled for this fall (Sept. 21–Oct. 21), Tapas—named for the popular Spanish appetizers, served traditionally as an array of small-plate choices—is only one of several such events taking place between now and Christmas.

Next up is the Redwood Writers 10-Minute Play Festival (June 29–July 1), held at Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. Nine short plays, directed by an array of local artists, will be presented four times over the course of the weekend, which will also include panel discussions and a workshop with playwright Garret Jon Groenveld (Missives, The Serving Class), a founding member of San Francisco's PlayGround, which develops new works by contemporary writers.

In October, Marin's Ross Valley Players will launch its annual RAW festival of experimental shorts. RAW (Ross Alternative Works) has been cultivating new plays, long and short, since 2004, presenting them in full-stage presentations twice a year. With emphasis on bold writing and creative explorations of the boundaries of playwriting, RAW has become a significant breeding ground for new writers in the North Bay.

For the first time this winter, Napa Valley Playhouse will present its own celebration of the short play art form, 8 x 10: A Festival of 10-Minute Plays (Dec. 7–16). Reportedly, the eventual eight plays will be selected from over one hundred that have already been submitted.

Apparently, there is no shortage of playwrights eager to write short plays, and happily there is clearly a growing audience hungry to sample what these writers are cooking up.

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