Adding to its already impressive slate of theatrical offerings, tonight Actors Theatre's Apprentice/Intern Company debuts The Tens , nine new ten-minute plays.
"These nine plays that we're doing in this series have just an amazing range of viewpoints and styles," said Michael Legg, director of the Apprentice/Intern Company program. "The great thing about seeing an evening of plays like this is that you really get to see all the things that playwriting can accomplish."
The Tens runs Jan. 11–14 in the Victor Jory Theatre (316 W. Main St.). All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free and available by calling 502-584-1205.
Producing a evening of multiple plays can be quite different tpresenting one full-length play. "When we are looking for the plays, the challenge is finding plays that sort of have a beginning, a middle and an end, and that have a journey at the very least that they take an audience on in a tiny amount of time," Legg said. "And for our actors, I think the challenge is you have 10 minutes to convey the hear of the story to the people that are watching it. That takes a lot of technical skill."
Less difficult is the Apprentice/Intern Company program's quest to find scripts to include in The Tens that are a good match with the talent, personalities and demographics of the Apprentice Company. "It's actually easier for us than it should be because the theatre sponsors a national 10-minute play competition. We literally receive over a thousand different 10-minute plays. We get to pick through them and find the ones that we think are going to be right."
Sequencing is another concern that one-play productions don't have to contemplate. "We actually just try to consider how the audience is going to experience the evening," Legg said. "We try to take into consideration that we maybe open and close the evening with something that's a little funny and lighter. And that maybe we don't have too many plays about hangings and murders and deaths in a row."
Legg didn't think it'd be a challenge for Actors to have this show's run overlap with Second City's It Takes A Ville , which opened on Jan. 7, and end just before Ma Rainey's Back Bottom  opens on Jan. 18. "We're sort of used to working at this speed."
In fact Legg himself is taking on double duty: in addition to being the director of the program, he also is directing a play in The Tens. According to the show's press release, in The Last Hat, a Tragedy, by Kyle John Schmidt (a former member of Actors' literary office), "Molly Forge, the proprietor of a classy lady’s dress shop, discovers that her hair is rapidly receding from the nape of her neck and proceeding down the front of her face. As disaster creeps down her forehead, Molly decides she must tell a certain man she loves him before it’s too late."
"It's a wonderfully funny play and a tragic play, all at the same time," Legg said. "It's about how we never say the things we always want to say, especially in matters of love. The play is about two women who work in a dress shop, both of whom are in love. And over the course of the play have many opportunities to profess their love to the people who are important to them and can't quite manage to do it."
After The Tens' run, the Acting Apprentice Company will begin rehearsing on Feb. 4 for their play, The End , in the Humana Festival. "It's a play about what happens when the world is going to end," Legg said. "How as human beings we relate to each other and how we weather that experience." That production, which clearly doesn't lack in ambition, opens March 18.
The Apprentice/Intern Company, now celebrating its 39th year, is one of the nation's oldest continuing pre-professional resident training companies. More than 2,000 actors audition for just 22 spots in the Acting Apprentice Company. After competing this nine-month program, in which they learn how to have an acting career (all of them have already been trained as actors), most members move to major theatrical markets like New York or Chicago. In last year's class, 15 of 22 graduates booked their first acting job within six months of matriculating.
The plays comprising The Tens, all of which are new works selected from the National Ten-Minute Play Contest, are
- 1984 and the Little Prince by Ryan O’Nan
- Bear Foot in the Park by Sarah Lunnie
- The Famished by Max Posner
- From the River by Jessica Reese
- Holy Matrimony! (And Other Things To Do in Lieu of Saving the World) by Zach Chotzen-Freund
- Hygiene by Gregory Hischak
- Kiss by Paul Kruse
- The Last Hat, a Tragedy by Kyle John Schmidt
- That First Fall by Daria Polatin
Photo: Rehearsal shot of Havalah Grace (seated) and Kerri Alexander from Gregory Hischak’s Hygiene courtesy Actors Theatre/Joe Geinert