While the inspiration for The Alliance Theatre Lab's 10-minute play fest may have come from a variety of sources, the idea couldn't be more original.
Home Sweet Funeral Home brings together eight of South Florida's most talented playwrights whose task was not an easy one. Playwrights had to set their play in, of course, a funeral home, have the line of dialogue "Why did it have to be that book!" said somewhere in the play, and make sure a prop (a toothbrush) also appears.
"Some of the playwrights are already established, but we have a few that this is their first venture," says David Sirois, who will direct some of the plays along with Mark Della Ventura. Both Sirois and Della Ventura are also two of the featured playwrights along with Andie Arthur, Christopher Demos-Brown, Tony Finstrom, Alexandria Iona, Marj O'Neill-Butler, and Mariah Reed.
"There is a surplus of play writing talent in South Florida," says Della Ventura. "So, for our first year, we put about a dozen names in a hat of people who told us they wanted to be involved and we selected the playwrights whose works you will see."
The directors said the playwrights were up to the challenge. They were given a short window in which to write their scripts, and then the plays were put into one or two workshops with different actors so that the writers were able to hear their words spoken aloud. The playwrights would retool and recraft based on the workshops. Rehearsals began on Aug. 6 with the show opening in previews on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
"Audiences will see that there is a huge variety in structure and how each playwright approached the theme," says Sirois. "It's very interesting to see how different they all are," adds Della Ventura.
The pair is cautious to not give away entire plot lines in order to maintain the surprise element, but they provide a few teasers: vampires, scavenger hunts, and, yes, "Death will be there."
"There are unexpected things that happen, and things you'd never actually see happen at a funeral home, but that you may hope to see in real life some day. We did suggest to the playwrights that they keep it 'light,' and for the most part, they are," says Della Ventura.
Like A.R. Gurney's "The Dining Room," one of the inspirations for the project, the funeral home will, no doubt, become a character in the play. (In Gurney's play, a dining room table remains a constant fixture throughout eighteen vignettes with the action surrounding this singular prop.)
Another inspiration was the very well known, and now international, "48 Hour Film Project," where filmmakers create a short film (about 8 minutes).
"The 10-minute play format lends itself to presenting work that moves along. . . work that is fast and furious. Audiences are used to entertainment that happens very quickly because of the speed of the internet and television's brevity — it's like, 'here's your entertainment, now let's move on to the next thing.' It's just easier for people to tune in very quickly and tune out," says Sirois.
But that doesn't mean creating the art form is easy.
"It's a test of skill for playwrights to develop whole stories and characters in a ten-minute play, but that's part of the excitement for the audience," says Della Ventura.
The Alliance Theatre Lab's First Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival, Home Sweet Funeral Home, runs from Sept. 6 through 23 at The Pelican Theatre at Barry University, 1300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores. Tickets are $25; seniors, $15, students, $10. Reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 305-259-0418. www.alliancetheatrelab.com.