Dallas — It's that time of year again: the fifth Dallas One-Minute Play Festival (#1MPF), co-produced by the national One-Minute Play Festival and Kitchen Dog Theater. This year's event is larger than ever, with 84 plays from 42 playwrights. Performances are 8 p.m. August 11, 12, and 13 at the Bob Hope Theater in the Owen Fine Arts Center on the Southern Methodist University campus.
The event, which happens year-round in cities around the country, presents very short plays (60 seconds or less) from local writers (or with local ties) who are given a playwriting prompt about two months before the event. Directors and actors are assigned, and the plays are presented in "clumps" of thematically similar works.
This year's playwrights: Elford Alley, Iv Amenti, Robin Armstrong, Erin Burdette, Ruth Cantrell, Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, John Michael Colgin, Claire Carson, Joanna Coogan, Bruce R. Coleman, Paul Engle, John M. Flores, Michael Federico, Lauren Ferebee, Dante Flores, Franky Gonzalez, Shelby Hibbs, Isabella Russell Ides, Tim Johnson, Renee Jones, Jason Johnson, Joshua Kumler, Janielle N. Kastner, Jim Kuenzer, Justin Locklear, Morgan Garrett Laure, Anyika McMillian-Herod, Brad McEntire, Nico Martini, Kevin Mitchell, Brigham Mosley, Jonathan Norton, Haley Nelson, Sammi “Rat” Rios, Jeff Swearingen, Benjamin Schroth, Jared Strange, Tom Sime, Christie Vela, Angela Wilson, Jeremy Wilson, Isaac Young and more!
Directors are Stefany Cambra, Danielle Georgiou, Jennifer Kuenzer, David Meglino, Becki McDonald, Jake Nice, Richard T. Quadri, Sammi “Rat” Rios, Ashley White, Jeremy Wilson, Cameron Casey, and Clay Wheeler.
The event is curated by #1MPF Producing Artistic Director and Founder Dominic D'Andrea, and Associate Producer Caitlin Wees. We sent a quick email Q&A to D'Andrea about the Dallas #1MPF, which has become one of the country's largest.
TheaterJones: The 1MPF captures the mood and themes of a given community. What are some of the themes emerging from Dallas this year?
This year is unique in Dallas because it’s such a big cohort. For the first time we have well-over 40 playwrights, 12 directors, and nearly 70 actors. It’s absolutely huge. It’s one of the largest cohort of actors and directors we have in the country right now—and we’re kind of surprised by the rapid growth. If you remember the first year in Dallas, it was about 20 playwrights, five directors, and around 30 actors. It’s safe to say whatever the work is tapping into here, is causing an explosion in participation. We have six returning directors and six new ones. More than 30 returning playwrights and 10 new ones. Actors are about 50/50 new and returning, and have a mix of folx [sic] from over the years. We kind of hit a capacity point, but made the choice to say “yes” to everyone who wanted to play—we think that’s important.
The advantage a cohort this robust in numbers, especially from the lens of what themes are being offered is that there is a more broader and much fuller perspective. The challenge is that pulling out these threads of clean narrative is a bit harder, as there is just so many themes ideas and conversations being introduced. This is a good thing, as keeping the focus on the bigger picture and what all of the work says about each other and who we are right now, a bit more of an active conversation.
As the work has evolved here, so has its complexities—the artistic challenge for us to make this work has leveled up, and it will be more challenging theatre for our audience, too. So I’ll actually be interested to learn what our audience grabs. We always think about this work as a blank canvas and throwing a bunch of ideas at it, we ask: what sticks? There’s a lot on the canvas this year.
To touch on some stuff: there are some plays and specific things embedded in the work here, a Dallas-specific #MeToo theme. I think this community has been through a lot in her way this year. A lot about toxic culture, self-care, politics, gender topics, education, and Texas. And there are some folx who tried to do the opposite and write light and fluffy stuff, too. Given that variety in approach, it might be a more accurate social barometer than we’ve ever had here.
How is that similar/different to what's happening in other cities?
Size-wise, Dallas feels like Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston this year, in terms of numbers—those are our biggest. We’re no longer a new thing here; we’re a tradition. It’s an honor to have reached that place, and it means more work to make sure everyone is set up for success. The artistic community is now used to the work, and as a result, I think it feels a little more mature.
Thematically, there is just so much toxic shit happening in the world, and I think artists in every community we’re working with are examining how to make themselves and their work useful and responsible. That’s a beautiful, messy, uneven, but completely necessary process. It’s showing us, quite in the moment, that the role of theatre and how we make art and process and considerations are all shifting toward something more engaged and intentional in terms of civic practice.
How do national politics and this administration figure into this year's plays?
It’s hard to say how they won’t. But we do have a NO TRUMP rule. His likeness is not welcome on our stage. We hope his name won’t be spoken. There would be nothing more awful and triggering to all of us than 60 likenesses of Trump, that makes for some awful theatre. And remember, we are in Dallas, Texas. We can’t assume that everyone in our artistic cohort has the same values and politics. I know for a fact that we have some conservative and also some deeply Christian community members playing, and while they tend to be more quiet about their politics, we’re aware of them, and they are fully welcome.
So given the NO TRUMP rule, we hope no matter how anyone feels about him—pro or con—his likeness is divisive and he’s a divisive figure. 1MPF is more interested in what we might learn that will bring us together, what seeds of conversations we might plant, and what we care about. His essence won’t allow us to do that, any way we slice it.
Last year you told me that Dallas writers tend to write some of the shortest plays. Is that still the case?
This year the pool has expanded to even more writers, directors and actors; and to a larger theater. What does this say about North Texans' excitement for this event?
I touched on this above, but I think 1MPF lives in the interaction of art, social justice, community-engagement, and education. Folx are craving those spaces to feel seen and heard and respected. They’re looking for a place to call their “community” and we hope we’re serving a space to bring all of that energy together.
Congratulations on recently becoming a father for the first time. How is this new role going to affect your travel schedule with 1MPFs around the country?
Thank you! So far it’s not. 1MPF’s Caitlin Wees traveled and led five recent festivals in a row, these past six weeks. This is my second travel since the baby came, I went to Ithaca in upstate New York to make a new 1MPF with The Kitchen Theatre (not Kitchen Dog), and weirdly since the baby came it seems like there’s more demand, and things are amping up all of the sudden again. So to be honest: I just don’t really know.
What do you look forward to in returning to Dallas to work with Kitchen Dog and the local artists?
Dallas has become one of our most favorite cities. Plain and simple. It might be my most favorite right now. It’s because of the people. We have more than half of the directors and 75 percent of the writers returning each year. They reach out to me, outside of the work. They want to get tacos, and drinks, and hang out, and we have an annual tradition with like 10 of the artists of going to Waffle House at 1 a.m. on Saturday night, and then again on Sunday. You have talented artists here, but also really amazing humans who are generous and care about what’s happening in the community and with each other. This is a beautiful place to live and work, and I’m thankful to feel so welcome as an artist and as a friend.