At the end of January, Stage Left launched its first-ever festival of one-minute plays. Aptly titled "Fast and Furious," the festival solicited super-short plays from dozens of writers around the world and presented them as back-to-back staged readings.
Now, barely two months later, Stage Left is preparing to launch another fast-paced annual theater festival. This one is called Left Overs, and its methods and scope are quite different. Instead of concentrating on existing plays that take 60 seconds to perform, Left Overs will shift the emphasis to ideating, writing and staging entirely new plays in a period of just one day.
"The premise is that we have six playwrights and directors, and those six directors have already chosen their casts," explains Rebecca Cook, who'll be directing and stage managing at Left Overs. "We all meet on Friday night at 7 o'clock, and the playwright will choose their director out of a hat, so that's when they find out who they're writing for. That's when they meet the cast as well. And they'll be given a prop and a few other criteria that they must meet in their script."
With those criteria in mind, the playwrights — namely, Left Overs organizer Sandra Hosking, Bryan Harnetiaux of the Spokane Civic Theatre, local actor Ron Ford, local writer Olivia Brannon, Paul Ruch of Spokane Radio Theatre, and the Blue Door Theater's Will Gilman — will then develop their scripts into the wee hours.
The writers are expected to turn in their completed scripts by 7 the next morning. Directors Susan Hardie, Arianna Arends, Maria Caprile, Kim Roberts, Scott Doughty and Cook will pick up the scripts an hour later. They'll then have less than 12 hours to rehearse with their two- to four-actor casts before staging the fully produced play in front of a live audience that evening.
"The scripts are expected to be somewhere between five and seven pages, but they could be as short as two or as long as 10," says Cook. "So it will be daunting, and there's even a chance that a playwright won't finish a play, so it can't be performed. Or that we'll send an actor onstage with a script in their hand if they can't memorize it in time."
That "element of disaster" is part of the heady fun of Left Overs, she says. "It keeps you on the edge of your seats. I hope the audience regards whatever happens as being in the spirit of the festival."
Despite the obvious risks, this concept has been proven to work elsewhere. Hosking modeled Left Overs after similar festivals in Alaska, Idaho and Tacoma, and the success of local film festivals like 50 Hour Slam has shown that stopwatch creative competitions appeal to audiences as well as artists.
"In Spokane we have a lot of great theater that's produced in the classic ways, but Stage Left's goal has been to find new ways of working. I think what it is doing is exploring new avenues of theater. They have given Sandra a lot of latitude to try new things."
Cook says that people on both sides of the curtain ought to find it "thrilling and terrifying at the same time."
"What's exciting about this is that it is fully produced theater," she says. "Our sets, our costumes, our props are minimal. The challenge is to get these characters as fully developed as possible. As actors, that's what we live for, that character development, telling a whole story to the audience. It's such a rush to get to try it at all." ♦
Left Overs • Sat, March 22 at 7:30pm • $5 • Stage Left • 108 W. Third • spokanestageleft.org • 838-9727