Dallas — One of the highlights of local theater has become the One-Minute Play Festival (#1MPF), co-produced by Kitchen Dog Theater and the New York-based 1MPF. The fourth annual event is this weekend (8 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Aug. 19-21) at the Trinity River Arts Center in Dallas.
This year features new one-minute plays by Elford Alley, Robin Armstrong, Iv Amenti, Erin Burdette, Ruth Cantrell, Bruce R. Coleman, Paul Engle, Dante Flores, John M. Flores, Morgan Garrett, Allison Hibbs, Crystal Jackson, Jason Johnson Spinos, Renee Jones, Jim Kuenzer, Janielle N. Kastner, Joshua Kumler, Cody Lucas, Mark Lowry (that's me), Brad McEntire, Nico Martini, Brigham Mosley, John Michael, Jonathan Norton, Sammi Rat Rios, Isabella Russell Ides, Ben Schroth, Jeff Swearingen, Jared Strange, Tom Sime, Christie Vela, Angela Wilson, Jeremy Wilson, and Steven Young. The directors are Stefany Cambra, Emily Ernst, Marianne Galloway, Danielle Georgiou, Jennifer Kuenzer, Ryan Lescalleet, Becki McDonald, David Meglino, Jeremy Schwartz and Jeremy Wilson.
The 1MPF was founded by Dominic D'Andrea more than 10 years ago. The phenomenon has grown to partnerships for more than 30 cities and theaters. He works with local companies to curate the festival, as well as special narrative projects, in cities around the country, and he visits each one during the process throughout the year.
We had an email Q&A session with D'Andrea to talk about this year's themes, how playwrights are selected, what he loves about Dallas (we like to eat tacos and drink, y'all), and why you WILL NOT see a bunch of plays about the 45th president.
TheaterJones: The 1MPF captures the mood and concerns of a given community. At the 2016 1MPF in Dallas we saw several plays about the then-recent Dallas police shootings. What are some of the topics emerging from Dallas this year?
Dominic D’Andrea: Dallas this year: themes in response to race in our country, privilege, white supremacy, gentrification, education, real estate in Dallas, American history, the American experience, children/the future, food, money/the economy, other local Dallas topics, Texas, etc. It's a pretty broad platform this year, but it's all sort of looking at where we are right now as a country.
The major topic on artists'—and everyone’s—minds must be the current president and this administration. But in your instructions to playwrights this year, you specifically asked writers NOT to write about him. Why? I assume there are some references to his administration? Playwrights are rule breakers.
No matter where you are politically, he's a divisive figure, and his likeness and even his name can put an entire room in a specific and exhausting place. Instantly. We've had festivals this year with 50 plays full of Trump. To be frank: It's too much. Honestly, even one shitty impersonation of his awful voice and small hand gestures is too much. It's off-putting. Nobody wants to see it.
Come to the theatre to get away from it for 90 mins. Hammering his likeness again and again and again is not the making of good art or a good festival. We are asking writers to imagine and design the world we want to live in, and to be creative. Constantly looking and thinking about him doesn't help us do that. Not even a little bit. The world is about our image, so it's a matter of asking our artists "yes Trump is a thing, but what else?" Eliminating the most obvious low-hanging fruit, which is also the most intense [source] of pain, confusion, and intense political divide actually allows us to see "what else?"
I imagine that current events shape 1MPFs around the country. So something like last weekend's white supremacist rally and counterprotest in Charlottesville would likely be reflected in future cities where the playwrights have gotten/will get their instructions after Aug. 12?
Hard to say. But probably if the writers are so moved. It might even show up in Dallas. We still have time, art is responsive, and we're not done until we tech.
I know what you asked of playwrights in the packet because this year you asked me, a critic, if I wanted to submit plays. I accepted the challenge and had fun with it. Is that something you've done in other markets, ask arts writers and/or folks not known as playwrights to participate?
1MPF is almost always a spectrum of professional playwrights, adjacent theatre-makers from other disciplines participating as writers (directors, actors, designers, art writers, stage mangers sometimes). There are others who are not primarily writers participating as such in Dallas—at-large community members, folks from specific populations of circumstance or interest, and other unknown until we get there factors that determine who we engage. But it's always a bit of everyone in the pool, pending space and capacity. You seemed like you were up for it, you've been covering the festival for a long time, you see everyone's work, you write about folks, so it seemed like you should be asked to do this. You're a bright spot in Dallas theatre, so "duh!"
In the four years that you've done this in Dallas, have you identified an aesthetic or trend that is specific to Dallas plays? How did this year compare?
One concrete thing: Dallas has some of the shortest plays of anywhere we go. Meaning: many of the plays have been like 30 seconds. I'm always surprised at how short they are. This year is bucking that trend a little bit. Many of the plays were quite expansive, and we had to ask for time revisions and shorter drafts. Folks had a lot to say this year, and did it to capacity.
This year the pool has expanded to more writers, directors and actors. What does this say about North Texans' excitement for this event?
We're getting established in Dallas. It's been a great ride. People want to play, and we live in the world of "yes." Our Austin festival is bigger now too. We are on a Series A/Series B format there. Nice to see it grow up.
In the history of 1MPF, have there been ideas birthed in a play that led the writer to develop it further, for a one-act or longer, produced by other companies?
I'm sure there have been. But the goal of a one-minute play is a really good one-minute play. They are a legitimate form of theatre, not just an exercise. We respect, craft, and care for each work and an individual, full, and complete work—especially because of the time limit. If we didn't do that, we wouldn't be worth too much. :)
What do you look forward to in returning to Dallas to work with Kitchen Dog and the local artists?
Not just doing to work, but Dallas is a social group. They like having cocktails, they like going for tacos, they like inviting me to see their other work. When I come to town, my dance card is pretty full with social things. I've known many of the people in Dallas theatre for nearly 20 years, so it's a blend of new friends and old. It's really nice to go to a city that is not your own, and feel completely at home.