Kevin Doyle, Director
Sunday, April 25, 2010

I attended a new play development workshop not too long ago where the leader of the discussion prefaced the workshop with this analogy; when we walk into any bookstore the first thing you come across are tables full of the very latest titles. When you want a classic, you have to ask a bookstore employee where to search. The exact opposite is unfortunately the case in theatre. We’re flooded with the classics, it’s all we ever see presented to us, but we have to look hard for the latest, the new, the most current theatrical piece that is commenting on life right now. In effect, the new stuff is all somewhere in the back aisles.

Salt Lake City is lucky, though, because we have Plan-B Theatre Company whose mission it is to be that table by the front door, waving its arms and telling all searching for a meaningful experience, “Here it is, let’s hash it out!”

And perhaps the premiere Plan-B offering dealing with current issues (in a very guerilla-style theatre approach) is the annual BANNED/SLAMMED night of 10-minute plays.

My first experience was as an actor in the very first SLAM. Most people know the drill by now – all the actors show up early on a Saturday morning, are given a script none of us had ever seen or heard of before (in fact, the ink was barely dry as the playwrights had just barely finished them), and meet the rest of the cast, crew and the director. The groups rehearse the rest of the morning and afternoon and perform the fully-staged, memorized play in what seems like only a few hours. It’s nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time, probably for the audience as much as for the actors. There are few things as fun for an actor as an experience like this and I think that thrill comes through in the performances, another reason this event is so special.

My second experience was as one of the 5 writers in the third SLAM. The drill here is that each writer is given a cast of 3 or so (with pictures and resumes – you may know some actors or you may not), a title, an idea of a set, sometimes an over-riding theme and 12 hours to churn out a 10-minute play. The kicker is the 12 hours begin at around 8 or 9 pm the night before the performances so the writers are up all night. I had done a trial run or two but wasn’t ready for the pressure of the actual night and I don’t think I had a word on paper until 4 or 5 am. Then the writer goes off for the day, waiting for the evening performance, wondering if it’s any good or not. I couldn’t sleep that day, just wandered around Salt Lake (I think I may have gone to the zoo at one point), and was as jittery as anybody when the evening performances began. Another thing I’ve walked away with is a profound respect for the writers involved. The ideas, talents and craft exhibited by so many talented writers in Utah is something to behold.

This time I’ll be directing and the event has evolved into AND THE BANNED SLAMMED ON. So the challenge is to be the unifying eye for a group of tremendously talented actors interpreting a world-premiere, brand new 10-minute play. I can’t wait. And I can’t wait to see what the other groups will do. Mark Fossen, Plan-B actor stalwart, calls it “actor Christmas.” I know what he means. I get the sense that the audience feels the same way. This event is a gift to all of us so be sure to treat yourself to the experience.

And the party afterward is no slouch of a time either.

Kevin Doyle has workshopped several plays with Plan-B and will be directing for AND THE BANNED SLAMMED ON on May 1.

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