Short plays, big ambitions. Local drama project goes global

A grass roots theatre project in Bendigo is going global.

Bendigo Theatre Company’s TENx10 festival showcases ten original 10-minute plays directed and performed by local artists.

It was designed to ensure community theatre stays all-inclusive and let first-time actors and directors the chance to cut their teeth alongside more experience performers.

About a dozen entries were received for TENx10 in its first year. When the call-out for plays went out for the third iteration of the festival more than 40 plays were entered.

CAST: Claire Sexton, Carolyn Staszkiewicz and Georgia Jones perform in 10-minute drama Time. Picture: Alek Stokes

CAST: Claire Sexton, Carolyn Staszkiewicz and Georgia Jones perform in 10-minute drama Time. Picture: Alek Stokes

Plays are selected without the assessor knowing who the author is. This year three American writers have had their plays included in the TENx10 season.

Production manager Maree Kennedy said it was a surprise to see an international contingent in the entries.

“It wasn’t really evident that we had international entries until after Lois (Angus) had completed her assessment,” she said.

“Plays could be from anywhere and there were so many new entries from people that have not been involved with the company. 

“The first surprise was that there were entries from international playwrights. The next surprise was that three of the ten chosen were from the west coast of the US. 

“It took a little while to work out how they found out about the festival but one of them has told us that they Googled looking for places they can submit their plays and an article from the Bendigo Advertiser about the festival came up. 

“It’s so exciting, not only that we can receive plays from around the world but that writers from our local area have the opportunity to submit their plays to other festivals in other countries.”

TENx10’s original mission is to encourage everyone to get involved in local theatre and to give opportunities for people to explore and create.

Ms Kennedy said from the outset it was apparent the idea of a short-play festival was popular.

“It started very small but was quickly evident that there were a lot of writers, directors and actors eager to get involved,” she said.

“The challenge now will be to maintain the original mission of TENx10.

“Keeping that grass roots approach can be difficult when something becomes popular and more and more people want to be involved. We need to ensure we continue to stay accessible to all in terms of participation and audience.”

Ms Kennedy said the TENx10 team will strive to make sure the event stays inclusive to all.

“So much theatre is based on experience or a rigorous audition process, but TENX10 should be those who want to have a go,” she said.

“This year, we introduced a new element to the production. We appointed director mentors who assisted the directors with some of the more technical aspects of the role.

“We are also looking to further expand the development opportunities for next year and potentially focus on the backstage elements of the production.”

Since its first season in 2016, TENx10 has stage 30 original 10-minute plays featuring nearly 100 local actors who have performed for nearly 2000 audience members.

NOIR: Amy Vaux and Seamus Allen in 1940s-inspired thriller Slick Dame. Picture: Alek Stokes

NOIR: Amy Vaux and Seamus Allen in 1940s-inspired thriller Slick Dame. Picture: Alek Stokes

“Around 50 people are involved in all aspects of (this year’s) production including people who have never performed before and a few seasoned actors,” she said.

“The mix of experience means everyone learns something along the way. It’s good to have productions that are about the process – the writing, the directing, the vision and the character development.

“It is truly rewarding to watch the progression of these plays from that difficult early rehearsals with scripts in hand, through to confident performers taking on characters and realising the director’s vision.”

Clever language and characters a feature of Tenx10 plays

WHEN Lois Angus accepted an offer to help selected plays for Bendigo Theatre Company’s Tenx10 project, it was a simple task.

But as the short-play festival has developed, Ms Angus’ task has become a lot more daunting with this year’s Tenx10 attracting no fewer than 40 ten-minute plays.

“(Production manager Maree Kennedy) and I have been great friends and involved in theatre together for more than 30 years and she asked if I’d like to go through them,” Ms Angus said.

“It’s a big task for one person and wouldn’t like to do it by myself.

“I nearly died (at the amount of entries for this year). I got the first 15 and thought that’s fine. Then the postman came with another 15. But I really enjoyed it.”

Clever language, characters and an interesting plot are the three main elements Ms Angus looks for while selecting the Tenx10 plays.

“First of all it is about the characters and plot. Is it interesting? Am I going to be carried along with it? If it’s terribly predictable, I’m not interested,” she said.

“It's very subjective, so I chat on the phone with Maree and decide from there.

“I'm also an old lady, so there are some things wont appeal but I have to be conscious that they would appeal to a younger audience.”

The plays Ms Angus enjoys the most are ones with a clever use of language.

“I personally get tired of being beaten over head with swearing and ugly language. There are times is has to be used but there’s no need to be constantly hit over head with it,” she said.

“There was one last year called Swear Shop that was so clever in the writing. It was full of (foul) language but it was so well written and a clever use of language.”

Before retiring to Queensland, Ms Angus lived in Bendigo from 1972 to 2006.

She taught drama at Girton Grammar School for 10 years and helped develop its drama course when the school opened in 1993. Ms Angus was also involved in more than 60 Bendigo Theatre Company productions.

“(Theatre) was my life. I really enjoyed it but I don't do it now because I’m too old and grumpy,” Ms Angus said.

“When I taught drama it was a core subject. (Girton) understood that getting artistic expression from children develops them in other ways.

“Bendigo is flourishing in its theatre. All the schools were doing big productions when I was there and every child was in it and got a taste for it.”

As for original productions like BTC’s Tenx10 project, Ms Angus says it is vital for the theatre community.

“It gives people a chance (to try theatre). Something like Tenx10 is quick, fun, and full of heart and soul,” she said.

“I love a big production but if you’re busy and can’t devote three months of your time, three days a week plus weekends to a show (this is ideal).”

Bendigo Theatre Company’s Tenx10 opens on Thursday March 1 and runs to Sunday, March 4. 

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