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Ten Minutes or Less 

University of Idaho’s annual festival puts first-time directors and writers on the stage

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Theater doesn’t always associate itself with quickness or brevity or speed of any sort, really. But that doesn’t mean that theater can’t up its pace, as you might learn from the University of Idaho’s 10-minute play festival.

The two-day event strips plays to their essentials, jamming action, lust and envelope-pushing content into short-but-sweet productions, brought to you fresh from the inspired minds of college drama students. Now in its eighth year, the festival consists exclusively of plays written and directed by students.

Alexiss Turner, from the university’s theater department, says that the college-aged directors and writers are in a position to use inexperience to their advantage. They are putting a fresh spin on the performances, taking risks and using edgy content to create “something out of the box.”

Production of the 12 selected plays have been in the works since August, when auditions for the directing positions were held. An interesting component to the student director and writer collaboration is that many of the writers don’t attend the university; either attending other schools or abroad. As a result, communication has been over phones and e-mail, complicating the director’s task of bringing the works to life.

One of the performances that will hit the stage is The Cougar, directed by Mille Rose Schacher. The play focuses on a wannabe gangster dating the trailer-park love of his life, who is in over her head with a bounty hunter. The play climaxes in a gun-slinging showdown. To pull it off the group brought in high-quality props, including pistols.

“They’re a bit jarring when they’re first fired off,” says Schacher of the guns. But it’s not just for shock value.

“This really grounds the action and intensifies the motivation of the play and its characters,” she says.

Directing her own play has been a learning experience, teaching her to be, as she puts it, “a director who can take control and yet be kind and open to suggestions and criticism.”

The plays are short and to the point, with the audience taking a close and intimate look at the performance, thanks to the university’s Kiva Theater, a round room that Turner says is excellent for these sort of plays.

“This is anything but your basic Shakespeare,” she says. 

10 Minute Play Festival • Fri-Sat. Dec. 7-8 at 7 pm • University of Idaho’s Kiva Theater • 921 Campus Dr. • $5, free for UI students

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