Produced by The Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Stanford Calderwood Pavilion
at the Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
Presented in part by the Boston University Humanities Foundation
$25 tickets in advance - $30 tickets at the door
If you had any teensy doubts that Boston was not a theater town, they would have exited stage right if you took in the 12th Annual Boston Theater Marathon. If you went, I’m preaching to the choir. If you didn’t, lemme tell ya, you blew your chance.
Here’s what you missed. 50 ten-minute plays by 50 New England playwrights presented by 50 New England theater companies in 10 hours. I arrived for the starting gun at high noon and witnessed the first three hours - 37 actors performing in fifteen plays written by fifteen different playwrights, staged by fifteen different directors collaborating with fifteen different theater companies. What a glorious spectacle.
Like its namesake the Boston Marathon, the lineup is filled with names familiar to the crowd and ones you never heard of. Some of these unknowns will emerge from the pack and become local legends or pack up for the Big Apple. Some are living out a fantasy, will take a brief turn on the boards, and not be heard from again. All of them radiate the kind of passion that makes it a pleasure to sit in the seats and watch the shows go on.
Photo: 11:58 AM Patrons await the starting gun.
The stage lights go up in two minutes.
The quality of the plays and performers is for the most part quite even. The vetting process in which over 350 submitted plays are whittled down to 50 takes care of that. Nearly all the plays followed the sage advice of veteran play selection committee member Bill Latanzi.From the starting gun at noon until I left at 3 pm, at least three of the five plays each hour had the audience whooping with pleasure or admiration. When a play didn’t quite hit the mark, it was hard to see whether the actor didn’t channel the character or the playwright’s lines didn’t ring true but one thing you did see was that the actor up there was giving it his/her best shot.
This is bare bones theater. Most plays set up with a couple of chairs or a bench. The biggest set of in my three hour stint was a love seat, a sofa, two coffee tables and a couple of lamps. In the fleeting 60 seconds after each play, the actors take a brief bow, the stage lights dim, efficient techies reset the stage with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew, and the next play begins. The Paris Metro doesn’t run more efficiently.
As Will Shakespeare said, “The play’s the thing.” The content varies from sketches to compact playlets. Communications/Presentation Coach Ann Baker, who has 30
years of casting directorial experience, explained the difference to me. "A sketch/skit is situational. A play is character driven."
“In a sketch/ skit, there is no change, growth, development, of any kind that takes place with the actors. They simply react to the action taking place. After the action ends they go right back to who they are. They are the same character at the end of the action as they were in the beginning.”
“In a play, there is a beginning a middle and an end - exposition, climax, resolution. There should be a change in the development of the character or a change in the degree of the character's being. For example: The shy character, may come out of his/her shell, or become more shy, or become a raving lunatic. Something happens to the characters that alters their being by some degree. The thing that happens might only be a tone of voice of another character which changes everything.”
Baker has packed a lunch and gone from start to finish for years. "This year was one of the best I've seen in the last 5-7 years," she said. "The writing was better and they used more of the best actors in town."
The net proceeds from this charity event are poured into the
Theater Community Benevolent Fund, a fund for actors and theaters in need.
Timeless themes exploring romantic relationships of all possible permutations; friendship; history; personality disorders; guilt; coming of age; boomers coming to terms with mortality; and the occasional over the top politically incorrect sketch (Kosher Kop) kept me laughing, thinking, or holding back the occasional tear.
It’s a revelation to see how much drama can be packed into the time it takes to microwave your dinner. Whether you stay for one five-play hour or pack a lunch and go the distance, you will never be bored. Put this event on your calendar. You’ve got a year to clear your schedule.
BTM Play Lineup 2010 (All 50 plays)
pt at large's three hour stint
Kosher Kop by Robert Brustein/American Repertory Theater
Pseudoephedrine by Ken Urban/Pilgrim Theatre
Color Coordination by Benjamin Conrick/Emerson Stage
And Clouds Made of Bones by William Orem/Firehouse Center for the Arts
Hygiene by Gregory Hischak/SpeakEasy Stage Company
Rosie’s Things by Janet Kenney/Holland Productions
It’s the Jews by John Minigan/Actors’ Shakespeare Project
Girls Play by Masha Obolensky/Boston Center for American Performance
Pressing by March Schrader/Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Go to Helen Hunt for It by Rick Park/Phoenix Theatre Artists
The Driving Force by Jenny Lecce/Boston College Dept. of Theatre
Tricia and Tony by George Matry Masselam/Playwrights’ Platform
Open Position by Christyl Watters/Wellesley Summer Theatre Company
Quiet Killers by Kristin Palmer/Stoneham Theatre
In the Absence of Words by Skylar Fox/New Repertory Theatre