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Now in its fifth-anniversary season, what has become an annual event at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC has become a superior draw: of audience, of talented actors, and of some of the best playwrights of a particular genre from around the world. That genre is the 10-minute play, a one-act that can have any number of cast members but must limit itself to 600 seconds or less. It has become a much anticipated favorite, the reason being that, difficult as it may seem, The ArtsCenter’s judges, directors, actors, and technical crews have managed, year after year, to outdo even themselves. Ten by Ten in the Triangle just keeps getting better.
This year, the procedure that takes half a year to complete began in January. Once the judges had been assembled from around the country, a call for entries went out to English-speaking countries around the world, and the plays began to pour in — more than 400 plays were entered for review. The selection process had to narrow it to 10; meanwhile, directors were assembled and casting for 10 actors began. By July 13th, the curtain was ready to come up on 10 world premieres in a single evening.
This year, the playwrights include Matt Casarino (“Larry Gets the Call”), now in his fourth year as a participating playwright; he hails from Delaware. Kelly DuMar (“This Byte”), VP of Boston’s Playwrights’ Platform, issues another in the dramatic chronicles of her familial unit, Tripp, Cin, and Tick. Linda Eisenstein (“Optional”) of Ohio, is in her second Ten by Ten, and has had her plays produced in four countries. Ian Grody (“Lights Up Strangers”) learned his craft at the Tisch School of the Arts. Mark Harvey Levine (“Saver”) is getting his fourth tenner produced at Ten by Ten. Rich Orloff (“Right Sensation”), sends his plays out into cyberspace from http://richorloff.com/; so far he’s numbered over 300 productions. Barbara Lindsay (“Holy Hell”) began writing in California, but now hails from Seattle. Jerome Oster (“Physics”), is a local, from right here in Chapel Hill; he has also been in the past two ArtsCenter PlaySlams, an evening of (get this!) three-minute plays. Doug Reed (“Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music”) and his family reside in Wisconsin; this is his second Ten by Ten. And Chris Shaw Swanson (“Ryan’s List”) makes two playwrights from Ohio; she is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America who specializes in comedy.
Lynden Harris, originator of the Ten by Ten series, is artistic director of ArtsCenter Stage and our hostess. She has assembled six directors for this year’s festival, including two who pull double duty, Greg Hohn and Rob Hamilton. In addition to directing two shows apiece, Hohn acts in three more; and Hamilton designed the multipurpose set. Hohn manages, with all this on his plate, to win Best Actor for the Festival for his role as Him in “Holy Hell,” a self-described “asshole” who made a life out of petty crime and never looking back. Giving Hohn a run for his money for the award is his partner in the work, Barbette Hunter, who plays Her. These two never speak to each other; only to us. But we see everything they describe from the moment their lives crossed to the present, and it is both chilling and uplifting simultaneously.
In a program that has nothing but winners, “Holy Hell” is a standout, not only because it is a superb work but also because it is one of the few that is not a comedy. But breathing down its neck in a very close second is a dynamite comedy titled “Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music,” in what may be the world’s first 10-minute musical comedy. Not a word of dialogue exists in this play; every syllable is a note from a noteworthy classical composer. You’ll recognize them all. And laugh yourself hoarse.
Ten by Ten in the Triangle is an annual feast for the eyes and ears and presents some of the country’s — and the world’s — best new playwrights in world-premiere plays. It’s a gotta-see, and one of the best values around: “10 plays. 10 actors. 10 minutes. 10 bucks.” Top-notch Triangle actors and directors, world-class playwrights, and some of the most original ideas for theater ever devised make this annual event a sell-out and an evening of theater that just can’t be matched. You’ve only got one weekend — four performances — left. Get your tickets now.
The complete Ten by Ten in the Triangle lineup includes:
“Larry Gets the Call,” written by Matt Casarino and directed by Thomas “TeKay” King, stars J Evarts, Barbette Hunter, and Cory Kraftchick.
“Right Sensation,” written by Rich Orloff and directed by Andy Hayworth, stars Greg Hohn and Ginny Linden.
“This Byte,” written by Kelly DuMar and directed by Kathryn Williams, stars Bitsy Kopp, Nicole Quenelle, and Eric Swenson.”
“Physics,” written by Jerome Oster and directed by Greg Hohn, stars Thaddeus Edwards, J Evarts, Solomon Gibson, and Barbette Hunter.
“Lights Up Strangers,” written by Ian Grody and directed by Rob Hamilton, stars Cory Kraftchick and Ginny Linden.
"Ryan’s List,” written by Chris Swanson and directed by Kathryn Williams, stars J Evarts, Greg Hohn, and Nicole Quenelle.
“Saver,” written by Mark Harvey Levine and directed by Greg Hohn, stars Thaddeus Edwards, Solomon Gibson, Ginny Linden, and Bitsy Kopp.
"Holy Hell,” written by Barbara Lindsay and directed by Rob Hamilton, stars Greg Hohn and Barbette Hunter.
The ArtsCenter presents Ten by Ten in the Triangle Thursday-Saturday, July 20-22, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 23, at 3 p.m. at 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina. $10. 919/929-2787. The ArtsCenter: http://www.artscenterlive.org/index.php?a=Theatre&b=Current%20Productions&id=174.