Fest stages ‘stories of our lives’ in 60 seconds

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How do more than 50 playwrights and 10 directors stage 80 actors in nearly 90 plays during one show? Atlanta finds out again this weekend, and we asked our gays to let us in on the secrets behind the One Minute Play Festival.

For the third year, the festival that winnows every story down to a minute hits Actor’s Express after weeks of preparation by the casts and crews. As long as each play can be presented in 60 seconds, the sky’s the limit as artists explore the short form of their craft. The results run on Sunday and Monday.

“Each one-minute play is fascinating on its own terms, but the overall event is even larger than the sum of its parts,” says Actor’s Express Artistic Director Freddie Ashley.

Ashley is just one of gay Atlanta’s own among the premiere talents in the #1MPF mix again this year. He produces the local version of the event with the New York-based festival. Writer, actor, director and thespian-about-town Topher Payne also returns, as do popular playwrights Steve Yockey and Johnny Drago.

“Everyone gets the challenge and goes ‘no fucking way,’” Payne laughs. “But when you really explore the opportunity, ask yourself if you can make somebody care about a character they’ve only known for 30 seconds, it’s really great.”

And the LGBT content woven into the fabric of the whole should be inspiring to gay audiences, he adds.

“It’s such an extraordinary sampler pack of rising and established queer artists in Atlanta on stage, writing, directing,” Payne says. “If you ‘re excited about the next Steve Yockey play, we’ve got two of them. If you like Johnny Drago, we’ve got two of them. If you like my work, etcetera.

“This is such a great way to gain an understanding of where Atlanta voices are right now, straight and gay. The queers in the process are so well represented and it’s great to see accurate reflections of our lives on stage. And when you have 90 plays, you see so many sides of yourself and variety of other viewpoints that we really should consider.”

OK, but how? The whole project seems a little daunting, so like the festival concept itself, we asked participants to boil it down for us.

 

Pulling it off.

 

“In developing any play, it’s always about paring it down to the most essential info,” Payne (photo) says. “One of the great benefits of the One Minute Play Festival is you’re doing that but it’s on steroids. You have to be a little brave and a little reckless to think you can pull it off, but this is the third time in Atlanta, and every time we manage to pull it off.”

 

Keeping it simple.

 

That paring down to the simplest form became a literal exercise for Drago (photo, left), according to Payne, who directs one of the writer’s contributions to the festival. Payne says that the play’s one line of dialogue is a good example of the craft.

“You want to keep the audience engaged in the moment before a decision is made, the exact moment of the decision and the change it creates, and the reaction to the change,” Payne says. “The decision and the change are in the line, and the line is spoken, and what comes before and after actually tells a complete story.”

Including everyone.

 

“What is exciting to me about the One Minute Play Festival is that it is such a celebration of the entire theatre community. We are so thrilled at Actor's Express to be the Atlanta host for #1MPF for the third straight year,” says Ashley (photo).

Ashley is also directing the Judy Garland play “End of the Rainbow” staging now through June 18 at Actor’s Express.

One Minute Play Festival runs Sunday, June 8 and Monday, June 9 at 8 p.m. at Actor’s Express. You can buy tickets online.

Top photo via One Minute Play Festival; Payne photo by Chris Stanford; Drago photo by Stungun Photography via 7 Stages; Ashley photo via Actor’s Express

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