Opportunities for new plays to break into the steady diet of established plays in these parts are slim, mister. Understandable, because new plays are risky business for theaters. But sad for writers of new plays, because how can you get that priceless learning opportunity of seeing something you’ve worked on in front of a real audience? So when a couple of folks I knew were kicking around the creating an opportunity for just such a thing to happen, I climbed on board the Board.
Thus, Utah New Works Theatre Project was born.
Flash forward a few months. The deadline for submissions for our first festival of 10-minute plays is rapidly approaching. Brother Ken and I are at lunch, and, as we do from time to time, we kick around ideas for creative projects. Over the weekend, he had had the experience of waiting in a long line at a specialty bakery they have here in Provo that sells this life-changing Czech pastry called the kolache. The thing with the kolache shop is they stay open until they sell out of kolaches, then sorry folks, that’s it, come a little earlier next time. So there’s this tension while you’re standing in line that makes everybody in front of you the enemy (really, buddy, you need a whole dozen?) and everybody behind you the vanquished foe (dude, sleeping in on a Saturday is for kolache losers).
Ken thought this might be fodder for a fun 10-minute play. I agreed and told him he should write it this time (the actual writing part tends to usually be my job), because I was on the board and everything. Even though I wasn’t going to be part of the selection process and the readings would be done blind, this seemed like Ken’s baby, it would only be 10 minutes, and it’d be fun to see what he did with it. To my surprise, he said he’d do it.
When the UNWTP board was matching directors to projects, they asked Ken if he’d like to direct his own work. But at the time, Ken was working most weeks on a day-job project in California, so was pretty busy. So they next asked me. I’ve been pretty swamped lately, too, but as it would be a staged reading of a 10-minute play, I figured directing gigs don’t get much sweeter than that, time-demand-wise.
The play had four roles. Sometimes casting a play, especially for non-paying gigs, is like calling in favors. It can be a fun favor for whoever accepts it, and hopefully not without its rewards (I sweetened the deal by offering fresh kolaches for each rehearsal), but it is still a time commitment. So I tapped a fellow director of another play in the festival, a young man who came to our auditions, Ken tapped his son-in-law, and for the role of Sabrina, the charming kolache line-crasher, I asked my daughter, Alexandra, if she’d be up for it. It’d be our first project together since The Girl Who Wanted to Do Something Big. She’s working a lot of hours, plus taking a lot of hours at school, so had no time. But I twisted her arm, she said yes, and we had ourselves a cast.
Two Saturdays of rehearsals later, we had ourselves a show. Which you, dear reader, can see right here.
I sort of stretched a bit the staged-reading convention by having our actors move a bit, music stands and all, because I’m edgy and avant-garde like that.
It turned out to be a fun experience, I got to make some fine new friends, plus I got a few kolaches out of it.
Not a bad deal at all.