POSTED ON AUGUST 11, 2010:
Who Shows Short Shorts?
Local playwrights get their opportunity to showcase talents
Short-End Work? Heller Shorts: Off, Off Brookside is a short play festival that features the work of eight Green Country-based playwrights. The plays are about 10 minutes each and have the theme “shorts” somehow incorporated into them.
Local actors, directors, producers and technicians typically have no trouble finding outlets for their creative activities. There are, within area community theaters, ample opportunities to act, direct, produce and otherwise engage in theatre work.
What isn't always readily available is the opportunity for local playwrights to see their work performed on stage. And there are local playwrights.
Susan Apker is one. She's worked in professional theaters throughout the country and has appeared on local stages fairly frequently, but the actress, who also dabbles in playwriting, has never had her plays produced in Tulsa.
"Two and a half years ago, I started writing short plays and sending them out," she said. "I was having a lot of success and producing them across the country -- but not in Tulsa."
Tulsa's city-owned and operated Heller Theatre, 4825 S. Quaker Ave., annually produces a play written by an unknown playwright but rarely do those folks hail from Tulsa. So Apker and Heller's Artistic Director Julie Tattershall decided to give local playwrights the stage for Heller Shorts: Off, Off Brookside.
The short play festival, Aug. 12-15, features the work of eight Green Country-based playwrights. The plays are about 10 minutes each and have the theme "shorts" somehow incorporated into them. They were chosen by a panel of volunteer judges from a pool of 25 submissions.
"We could have easily done more than eight shows," Apker said when asked about the quality of the submissions. "Just a little less than 50 percent of the scripts were doable. A lot of times, in short play festivals, you get really good character sketches, but you don't necessarily get conflict or plot."
Apker is the author of one of the eight plays that will be presented at the festival. She's also directing her play.
"I have some directing experience but not in Tulsa," she said.
She said the festival also offers novice directors the opportunity to direct a show and perhaps segue into full-length play directing.
Apker's play, Jogging Memories, is about two people who run into one another after a very long time and realize their relationship isn't what they thought it was.
Also on the bill for the evening is Cheering by Michael Wright, directed by Joel Cheatham, which is about the interpersonal relationships between five college-age pep squad members. Wright teaches a continuing education playwriting class, which three of the other festival authors recently attended, at the University of Tulsa.
Dirty Shorts, written by Stephanie Colburn and directed by Rena Borg, is a scientific thriller that takes place at an archeological dig site.
iZombie, written and directed by Kendra Blevins (a former Urban Tulsa Weekly employee, by the way), is about modern technology and its influence, for better or worse, on human relationships.
Jeffrey Wetterman's The Manhattan Project, directed by Robert Young, is about two roommates living in New York City. Most of the communication is written, which makes for interesting staging.
Susan Webb directs Check, Please, by Marilyn Gates, which is about two seemingly innocent senior citizens who are up to no good.
Miranda's Warning, written by Nona Charleston and directed by George Romero, is a mystery about a man and woman who meet in a Laundromat/singles bar in the future.
Shorts, written by Steve Credell and directed by Sherry Zyskowski, is a semi-absurdist piece about nine characters in search of a literary device.
The actors who appear in the plays, and some appear in more than one, are Tim Bowman, Lindsey Lewis, Tanner Friend, Marcus Wohl, Darcy O'Neill, George Romero, Adrian Alexander, Marjorie Tanner, Adam Billups, Susan Dergoul, Steve Raiford, Rosalie Mollica, B.J. Johnson, Miriam Mills, Michael Massey, Traci Conway, Rebekkah Buster and Sue Sinor.
The festival is to become an annual event and a benefit for the Heller Theatre Council.
"We're always looking for new, interesting ways to raise money," Apker said.
She also said scheduling conflicts with Heller's summer camp and other programs prevented the theatre company from participating in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust's SummerStage Festival, so an annual short play festival is a way for Heller to offer audiences something during the summer. And it will hopefully diversify the local community theatre scene, bringing in new voices.
"There are theaters that do original stuff, like the Nightingale, but they typically have a stock of writers they use all the time," Apker said. "We opened (the call for writers) up to the general public and got people that came out of nowhere."
Heller Shorts: Off, Off Brookside plays Thursday, Aug. 12, through Saturday, Aug. 14, at 8pm and Sunday, Aug. 15 at 2pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. Find more information at hellertheatre.com.
The Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa hosts its annual fundraiser, the Harwelden Murder Mystery, this year titled "The Ghosts of Harwelden," Aug. 12-14 at the Harwelden Mansion, 2210 S. Main St.
The story, according to the AHCT website, goes something like this:
"Any house that has stood for decades is likely to be haunted. That's why the owner of Harwelden has summoned two of the country's top psychics, to determine if there are any restless spirits wandering through this grand old Tulsa home. But will the effort to scare up a ghost -- and the conflicts among family members and professional rivals -- lead to a few more people finding themselves on the other side of the grave?"
Tickets to the show are $45 and include dinner, wine or beer, and a murder to solve. More information and tickets are available at ahct.org.
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