Quickie plays cover multiple themes at UNLV festival

Feb. 27, 2009
By Steve Bornfeld
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Audience advisory: No intermissions.

If there were, though, they'd arrive at 4 1/2-minute intervals and last a minute.

Ten times.

Or you can hang tough through the 10-Minute Play Festival at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"We have relationship plays and thematic plays," says Michael Tylo, film and theater professor at UNLV. "The plays are in the process of being developed even through the rehearsal process."

The bite-size pieces of theater, penned by students in the graduate playwriting program, are synopsized by their authors:

"Nature's Last Stand": "Every year Mr. Jones throws an outrageous New Year's Eve costume party, but this year his wife has had enough and she has her own plans to bring in the new year." No noisemakers in the theater, please. Just magnums of champagne and silly hats.

"9 to 5 Alleycats": "Mary, a '60s teen idol and pop star, decides to confront her boyfriend's new girl, Dianne, and discovers that fame comes at a heavy price." But remember, fame's gonna last forever, so baby remember her name! ... Sorry.

"Faster Higher Stronger": "A play about the dedication, sacrifice and glitter a gymnast needs to win at the Olympics." We're guessing its working title was never "Steroids, Blood Tests, Bongs."

"The Results": "Missing DNA test results and a mustache may just end a marriage." Oh, come on, her mustache can't be all that bad.

"Childcare in Crocodiles": "Herpetology and baby-sitting in a dark kitchen." Which translates as what? "Reptiles, Amphibians and a High School Sophomore with Zits Raiding the Fridge in a Power Blackout?"

Just funnin' with the playwrights. But seriously ...

"This year we're using all students that haven't been cast in mainstage or Black Box productions," Tylo points out. "Getting training is one thing, but also you need to be able to use that training. Instead of using students as directors, this year we're using faculty because we want to show these students by example of what we've been teaching them. And by working with the new playwrights, the professors can take a more proactive role in the development of their thesis plays so they aren't just reactive."

But the educational benefits flow both ways: "Maybe there is something for both the instructors and the students to discover about each other."

And audience members can thank the theater gods for the festival's built-in brevity. Once these playwrights ditch their dramaturgical training wheels, who knows? One might write the next "Nicholas Nickleby," that infamous two-part, 10-hour leviathan.

Intermissions included.