Editor’s note: Each year, Adam Alderson is heavily involved in Weathervane Playhouse’s annual 8×10 TheatreFest, a series of 10-minute plays that this year were chosen from 142 submissions all over the world. This is the first time these short plays have been performed on stage. The production takes place July 13 through 16.
It is hard to believe it is July already, but in the Alderson household that means one thing: the 8×10 TheatreFest at Weathervane. I have been involved with the TheatreFest as an actor, director and judge over the past six years, and I truly think it exemplifies the best of what a community theater can bring to its community.
From start to finish, the TheatreFest engages artists of all types. First, professional and budding playwrights submit original, unproduced plays (this year over 140 entries from all over the world). I am continually astounded by what these writers can do with the 10 minutes they are allotted. While not all entries can be performed, an amazing number of them are able to capture something special, be it a character, an emotion, or a single moment in someone’s life.
It is a lot to ask of an audience to accept a distilled vignette without the pacing and detail that a longer play provides, but each year, the preliminary judges succeed in finding eight shining examples of what can be done with 10 minutes time.
Judging is a community effort as well. In some years, as many as 20 writers, performers and directors from around Northeast Ohio have read and evaluated every entry to the festival in order to assemble an entertaining weekend. Many times, the selected playwrights have never had the opportunity to see their work performed and join us for the weekend’s performances. I can tell you, it is pretty thrilling as actor or director to know that the person who created the work you are interpreting is going to see it.
After all of this behind-the-scenes work, the production involves yet again more than 30 people in the directing, acting and crew work. For many, it will be their first experience in a Weathervane production or Akron theatre in general, and for the rest of us, it provides a chance to interact with a huge cast compared to the typical mainstage show. Combining the best of small cast attention to detail with large cast camaraderie creates a rehearsal experience that I never want to miss, as actor or director.
At last, the audience gets involved. On each night of the performances, each audience member votes for their favorite play and the prop to inform next year’s entries; the top three playwrights earning recognition and prizes after Sunday’s matinee. This coordination and interaction between viewers, performers and creators is what makes the TheatreFest a true community experience.
I have been honored to see this special event from multiple angles, and over time, have watched a fun idea grow into a valuable summer staple. The great actor and acting coach Uta Hagen said, “Once in awhile, there’s stuff that makes me say, ‘That’s what theatre’s about.’”
This is what I truly believe about the 8×10 TheatreFest. Weathervane Playhouse creates a vehicle for new playwrights, new actors, directors and audience members new to theatre to enjoy an evening full of passion and wit. In these hot summer months, this theatrical sangria cleanses the palette and reminds us, participants and audience members alike, what community theatre is, can be, and should be.
The 8×10 TheatreFest runs Thursday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m. Audiences will vote to select the first, second and third place winners of the festival. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased by calling the box office at (330) 836-2626 or going to www.weathervaneplayhouse.com.