'Richland Writes' : 8x10 = fun

Richland theatergoers are in for a surprise this semester with the drama department’s first spring production, “Richland Writes: A Festival of 10-Minute Plays.”  Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday in the Arena Theater in Fannin Hall. 

Drama chair Andy Long said he came up with the idea after some of his studentsinquired about the process of playwriting. Long has written one play, “Comes the Storm,” and two musicals “Fire + Blood: A Vampire Musical” and “Gray.”  All were performed on the stage with Long’s drama students as actors. 

“The best way to learn the process is to have to do the process,” Long said. Last spring, Long told those students interested in the playwriting process to work on their scripts over the summer. It also included students from the fall semester. All could submit their work by Dec. 1. 

Long made copies of the scripts, after blackingout the students’ names for anonymity, and gave them to the theater faculty and staff to read over the Christmas break. Then he brought in three professional playwrights to mentor the students: Matt Lyle, a graduate of Second City, whose production of “Barbecue Apocalypse” will run at Richland April 26-29; David Lozano, artistic director of Cara Mia Theatre Co. in Dallas and Linda Daugherty, a playwright in residence at Dallas Children’s Theater. While Long is producing the eight Richland plays, he was also a mentor to the student playwrights, giving them notes and guiding them so that the production was a “whole student-oriented process.”

Eight plays stood out among the submissions. Since then, the plays have gone through several drafts. “It’s been fascinating because when you say ‘Students, you can write about anything you want,' you get a wide range of topics,” Long said. The next goal is to design a set that works for all eight plays so there aren't be long scene changes between performances.

“We’re looking at hopefully about a 45-minute Act 1, a 15-minute intermission and maybe a 45-minute Act 2. Hopefully, the whole evening will be about an hour and 45 minutes long,” said Long. 

Several of the student playwrights were in Scott Branks del Llano's Creative Writing 2307 course, taught through theEnglish department, in which students learned about fiction writing, storytelling, poetry and drama. 

“In playwriting, students focus on 10-minute plays and that’s the goal,” said Del Llano, pointing out that a page of dialogue is about one minute so it’s about a 10-page play. 

“The stage directions are minimal. It’s just basically one act,” Del Llano said. “Some might have two acts, but two or three characters at the most. It’s just something that happens to the protagonist, a psychic journey they go on, a change, a twist, an antagonist, protagonist kind of thing.” 

Del Llano said students mustthink, "what can I put on the page and get written as a 10-minutes play that could be produced in 10 minutes with very little, not a complicated setting or stage."

Del Llano had some advice for budding playwrights: “Listen to life, listen to conversations as they happen; Sitting on a train, in a restaurant – you’re getting that authentic dialogue,” he said. “Just pay attention to life because that’s what drama is – it’s the dramatization of our lives and the human condition.” 

“Richland Writes: A Festival of 10 Plays” is not suitable for children. The plays are free and open to the public, no reservations required.