Dallas — If you only had 60 seconds to get a thought across, what would you say? What would you show? How would you make the most of the time given to you? Dominic D’Andrea’s One Minute Play Festival ponders this question through city-wide festivals all across the country. I spoke with him over the phone, and I was eager to connect with him as one of the playwrights in Dallas’ upcoming festival. It was clear from our conversation that D’Andrea is a very busy artist, not only with 1MPF, but many other community-driven theater works all across this nation keep his schedule booked through the year.
While the festival has become a national phenomenon over the past 10 years, D’Andrea originated the idea with friends in New York, and it became a local annual event. Other collaborators across the country started to notice and asked D’Andrea to co-ordinate a festival in their cities. He notes, “On the fifth year, it started exploding out. Now we have 35 partnerships between community events and festivals and special narrative projects.”
To maintain the integrity of the festival, D’Andrea takes his involvement with each local festival very seriously. He produces each one, curates writers, reads every play and asks for edits, and organizes all of the logistics alongside a local partner theater. Since Kitchen Dog Theater is a member of the National New Play Network, they were an ideal local fit for 1MPF. Also, this year’s festival—8 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Trinity River Arts Center, which will be KDT’s home for the 2016-’17 season (here's our calendar listing)—benefits PUPFest, a local youth playwriting festival held every year between Kitchen Dog and Junior Players at the New Works Festival.
For Dallas’ 1MPF, 30 writers contribute two one-minute plays, but each 60-second work must stand on its own. The festival is very strict concerning time limits, making sure that each writer takes up the same amount of space in the overall event. Each playwright receives a packet of guidelines, which seem very extensive for a work that lasts less than 60 seconds. Playwrights are given a series of questions to consider, all relating to the current social, political, economic, and cultural climate within their city. D’Andrea says, “Those questions are designed as a framework but you can write about anything you’re thinking about or responding to locally.
D’Andrea believes that keeping the length of each mini-play under 60 seconds is a fundamental part of capturing the broad scope of thoughts amongst Dallas writers. It almost seems like you’re scrolling through a news feed or social media page—where you get a quick glimpse into what someone is thinking about in the moment. The short timespan fits into our fast-paced culture, where we’re compliant to 140 character thoughts and quick notifications, we’re constantly thinking about what’s trending online and in our world for a blip of a moment.
To have that translate into a theatrical form, D’Andrea calls these short plays “pulses” or “heartbeats” of the city. At the 1MPF, you’ll experience “60 heartbeats that speak to Dallas, and that’s an aesthetic thing. The lights go up and down every 60 seconds, and that’s important to keep that momentum in the performance.”
While D’Andrea collects scripts from writers, a local group of directors are chosen, then actors, and then D’Andrea and his team start grouping plays together by subject matter. As the playwrights wrote their works in late June and early July, there are a few notable topics that circulated to the top of playwright’s minds. D’Andrea notes that this is fairly common, even through the subject guidelines are so broad: “We ultimately don’t tell people what to write about but in every case there will be 10 plays about one topic and 10 plays about a different topic. So it looks like we’ve given a specific theme, but the themes are really generated by the community.”
The writers you’ll hear from at the festival represent a cross section of established, emerging, and new playwrights. Instead of showcasing the “best” writers in each area, the 1MPF aims to display a cross-section of voices. “Some may be playwrights with a large body of work and others are members of the community who aren’t primarily playwrights, there’s a little bit of everybody. But we honor each voice specifically.”
Fundamentally, D’Andrea is a community artist, partnering with neighborhoods and groups across the nation to theatricalize their stories. When he’s not working on the 1MPF, he’s working in prisons, nursing homes, and other cities where a major event has occurred. Recently, he’s collaborated with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on the Every 28 Hours plays. D’Andrea went to Ferguson, Mo. and spent 10 days talking with people in the community. The result is a series of plays that will be produced in many theaters across the country. “My engagement in the work is not just like some territorial person from an email process, I’m a process driven artist. The way we do it is just as important as why we do it.”
Hopefully, conversations will spring up after the 60 plays premiere at the One Minute Play Festival. Check it out to see what local writers are responding to in our community.
This year’s playwrights include: Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, Angela Wilson, Isabella Russell Ides, Jeff Swearingen, Jonathan Norton, Jason Johnson Spinos, Jared Strange, Cody Lucas, Matt Lyle, Nico Martini, Joshua Kumler, Robin Armstrong, Jim Kuenzer, John Michael, Janielle Kastner, Steven Young, Lauren Ferebee, Brigham Mosley, Iv Amenti, Ruth Cantrell, Renee Jones, Erin Burdette, Shelby-Allison Hibbs, Jeremy Wilson, Brian Kennedy, Paul Engle, Kyndal Robertson and Micheal Federico.
The directors are Abigail Birkett, David Denson, David Meglino, Kelsey Head, Marianne Galloway, Ryan Lescalleet, Terry Martin and Conner Palmore.
» Shelby-Allison Hibbs is a Dallas-based teaching artist, playwright, director, performer and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her Work in Progress column, she'll have conversations with playwrights, theatermakers, directors, designers, dramaturgs and others involved in the process of realizing new work from page to stage as she explores new plays and musicals being developed/created by theaters of all budget sizes in North Texas.
NEW WORK CURRENTLY ON LOCAL STAGES
- Ohlook Performing Arts in Grapevine presents a new musical about the current presidential election, Citizen Drumpf, written by Matthew Lord, through Aug. 13 OUR LISTING
- SceneShop in Fort Worth presents Turn and Face the Strange, a collection of new short plays, scenes and monologues at Arts Fifth Avenue, through Aug. 13 OUR LISTING
SELECT UPCOMING NEW WORK
- Pegasus Theatre presents the world premiere of Kurt Kleinmann's comedy The Coarse Actor Rises! at the Bath House Cultural Center, Aug. 11-27 OUR LISTING
- Hip Pocket Theatre presents Lake Simons and John Dyer's visual theater adaptation of Don Quixote, Aug. 12-28 OUR LISTING
- The Ochre House presents Justin Locklear's Dreamless, Aug. 20-Sept. 10 OUR LISTING
- Fun House Theatre and Film presents the premiere of Jeff Swearingen's Old McDonald’s Farm: A Children’s Fable About the Obama Presidency at Plano Children's Theatre, Aug. 19-27 OUR LISTING
- Amphibian Stage Productions presents a staged reading of the musical Music City USA by JT Harding and Peter Zinn, Aug. 21-22 OUR LISTING
PREVIOUS WORK IN PROGRESS COLUMNS
- Len Jenkin's Jonah at Undermain Theatre (April 15, 2016)
- David Lozano and Lee Trull's Deferred Action in a co-production between Dallas Theater Center and Cara Mía Theatre Company (April 28, 2016)
- Janielle Kastner's Ophelia Underwater, presented by The Tribe at Margo Jones Theatre (May 11, 2016)
- Caridad Svich's De Troya, a developmental reading presented by Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth (May 13, 2016)
- Steve Yockey's Blackberry Winter and The Thrush and the Woodpecker in Kitchen Dog Theater's 18th New Works Festival at Undermain Theatre (May 18, 2016)
- Stefany Cambra's Finding Myself in Bed from Proper Hijinx (June 1, 2016)
- Acoustic Nerves/Therefore, a collaboration by Dean Terry and University of Texas at Dallas artists, at the Texas Theatre (June 9, 2016)
- Checking in with playwright Jonathan Norton (July 22, 2016)
- Lake Simons and John Dyer's visual theater adaptation of Don Quixote at Hip Pocket Theatre (Aug. 6, 2016)