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And That's the Truth

By Rick Pender · October 27th, 2010 · Curtain Call
I occasionally write about concepts that theaters might consider to give us a broader array of performances. Know Theatre recently established an umbrella concept, the Jackson Street Market, that’s beginning to produce results. With a goal of building and retaining the local artist community, the Market seeks to help local “artistic entrepreneurs” to leverage Know Theatre’s resources on their behalf, especially by offering a space where they can experiment with new ideas.

On Oct. 25 at Know’s Over-the-Rhine facility two such entrepreneurs, Jeff Groh and Dave Levy, brought forth True Theatre, which they define as “true stories told by real people.” In the publicity for their first event — a Halloween-inspired program titled True Fear — Groh and Levy identified the group’s mission as bringing together “a wide variety of people to share stories in an effort to create community, encourage discussion and remind everyone that all of us have stories to tell with unique insights and broad appeal.”

They added, “True Theatre realizes that what great stories have in common are their power to hold attention, slow time and capture the imagination. They may redden cheeks, make eyes water and elicit eruptions of laughter. They take you somewhere.”

Those are important results of engaging performances.

But Groh and Levy have even more engagement in mind, since True Theatre is about presenting real tales, moments from people’s lives — “from the mundane to the extraordinary” — that remind both speakers and listeners how they are part of a larger community. True Theatre has mapped out three more evenings for the months ahead: True Beginnings, to kick off the New Year (Jan.

10, 2011), True Foolishness (April 11, 2011) and True Independence (July 11, 2011), a week after we celebrate July 4. I’ll be there, and I hope you’ll check it out, too.

Want another idea? How about 10-minute plays? Actors Theatre of Louisville annually solicits such works for presentation during its respected Humana Festival of New American Plays. An evening during each festival is dedicated to presenting three or four short works selected from nearly 1,400 submitted annually for one $1,000 prize. Actors has built up a considerable body of material, much of which receives subsequent production elsewhere. Even more are generated for other theaters and festivals from Mississippi to Washington, D.C., from Miami to Normal, Ill. Actors Theatre has a close affiliation with City Theatre in Miami which offers a program of “Summer Shorts” each July.

So there’s a big supply of these brief scripts. Just as short stories in fiction require a quick-in, quick-out approach, 10-minute plays are brief glimpses into dramatic situations that often have impact because of their brevity — sometimes it’s a good joke, sometimes it’s a simple observation or a wry turn on an expected moment. You must play close attention, but if it’s something you don’t much like, it will be over soon and another piece will be under way.

I’m not suggesting that Cincinnati needs a theater dedicated to such work. But I would welcome an occasional evening — or perhaps a festival — presented by one of our fine companies between larger productions or on an otherwise dark night. Just as True Theater is undertaking to do, this would be another path to building community and keeping actors and directors working.

Do you have similar ideas? Let me know.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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