Embarking on writing your first play requires a huge leap of faith, even when it’s something that’s trim and compact for a one-act play festival. First time playwrights can get their feet wet with fringe festivals to see if they have a knack for the craft, but the task of writing and producing simple plays can still be daunting for aspiring dramatists.
Luckily for the beginners, this weekend will feature the debut of a new festival devoted to helping greenhorn playwrights find their voice and see their words come to life on stage. The Short Short Fringe Festival (SSFF) debuts Saturday night at The New Movement Theater downtown, welcoming new writers to their first sojourn into theatre.
Producer Alexandria Berry, who also works as both an instructor and as the artistic director of The New Movement, personally understands how simple one-act plays can open up new opportunities for artists who might feel a little unsure of themselves at first.
“I got my start writing in a one-act play festival,” recalls Berry, “I was in college … I needed a humanities course and I was like ‘Oh, you can do an acting class!’ even though I was painfully shy. And then I realized when I got in there it was playwriting. I had only read one play in my life and that was Hamlet.”
“[My professor] said you have to write a play, and I was like ‘I don’t know how to write a play.’ … As dorky as it is, I wrote West Wing fan fiction in high school, which is essentially a teleplay without being taught how to do that… I wrote it and [my professor] responded really well and with that first play I won the playwriting festival.”
That first piece of award-winning fanfic gave Berry the idea that perhaps she had some writing chops, and now she wants to help other writers receive a confidence boost in their theatrical forays. Seven plays from these neophyte playwrights will be produced for one night only at The New Movement, with directors and actors provided to produce the plays for the writers.
Many other one-act play festivals usually don’t provide a cast and crew to handle production, but SSFF calls up the extra hands on deck so that writers can focus on writing and directors and actors can gain experience producing plays in a short time frame. If you would like to learn more about the talent working both behind and on the scenes of SSFF, the festival’s Tumblr page would be glad to introduce you to them.
And even though this is only the first installment of the festival, plenty of hopeful writers were willing to reach out and submit to Berry. “This festival’s catered towards people who want to write but maybe don’t have the means or the community to do so. It’s really painful for a writer to just write and have something sitting there. And even if it’s far off from what you want, hearing it in the voices of other people really is a huge help.”
Some of these works may have been on the back burner for a long time, while others were only written in the few weeks leading up to the submission deadline. Either way, Berry and her co-producers at The New Movement were glad to guide the writers and further flesh out the scripts.
Once the plays are over and the crews strike the sets, Berry is tentatively hoping to bring back the festival sometime in September. She also hopes that this weekend’s shows will convince a few more people to try their hand at writing for the stage.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun with it… I’m hoping that there’s somebody out there who is like ‘Oh my gosh, I really wish I could have been involved in this.’ And those are the people that I want to get involved in September. But sometimes you have to shove off from shore and just do it.”
The Short Short Fringe Festival at the New Movement Theater will begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 12. Tickets are on sale for $10 for single one-hour blocks, or $25 to view the entire evening's lineup of plays.