Short and sweet: Seven undergrad playwrights will showcase works at 10-Minute Play Festival

University of Iowa undergraduates write, direct, and perform seven original 10-minute plays.


Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan

Actors Sophia Kilburg and Cailin Hall perform in Onions as part of the Ten Minute Play Festival in the University of Iowa Theatre Building on Wednesday, February 12th, 2020. The Ten Minute Play Festival showcases the work of seven ten minute long plays written and produced by University of Iowa theatre students.

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

The Theatre Arts Department’s annual Ten-Minute Play Festival will return to the University of Iowa Theatre Building Alan MacVey stage at 8 p.m. Feb. 13-16.

The Ten-Minute Play Festival will be full of comedy, drama, sci-fi, and the hard work of the university’s undergraduates. It has given undergraduate students the opportunity to write, perform, and design their own on-stage productions for 23 years.

Amy Wickenkamp, the festival’s production stage manager, said the festival gives students a chance to showcase their hard work.

“I love that we do Ten-Minute Play Festival because we constantly have Galleries, and Workshops, and Mainstages, but it’s really awesome to have this one show where its sole purpose is to simply show as many pieces as we can,” Wickenkamp said.

This year, there will be seven 10-minute plays performed back-to-back. Although the audience will only see the actors in action, each play has its own undergraduate playwright and director.

Brett Shaw, a playwright of Encounters in the Moment, said he was thrilled when his script submission was accepted for the festival. [Editor’s note: Shaw is a former Daily Iowan staffer.]

“It’s so exciting to see things from your brain put out into the world,” Shaw said.

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The Ten-Minute Play Festival will be Shaw’s playwright debut. He has a background in fiction writing and playwriting, but Encounters in the Moment will be his first script performed on stage.

Ashley Helm is a returning Ten-Minute Play Festival director who said she is thrilled to be involved with the festival and Familiar Faces.

“It’s probably my favorite thing that the university does,” Helm said. “I think it’s a very unique experience.”

Helm said the Ten-Minute Play Festival presents unique challenges and advantages for everyone involved.

“In a way, the runtime makes it a little easier because we’re able to go over the same 10 pages and really focus on that section,” Helm said. “It also gives us less to work with in terms of character development and the set.”

What each group can do with their set is limited because the stage must be able to be set up for the following group in a relatively short period of time. For a play like Familiar Faces, which called for three rooms, creative solutions are key.

Helm said her group overcame the challenges of the Ten-Minute Play Festival and that she was glad an opportunity to give undergraduates that experience exists at the UI.

“It allows a lot of playwrights who are new to playwriting to submit their plays, and it gets people from outside of the Theatre Department involved with us.”

Shaw is not a theatre major, but said he’s learned about the process of producing scripts from participating in the festival.

“It’s been so interesting to see how the actors and the director interpret my words,” Shaw said. “There’s decisions they make that I hadn’t considered.”

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