Gather three dozen creative people. Give them a prompt and some help with props. The following day, they’ll serve six fresh bite-size plays, each 10 minutes or less and suitable for all ages.
That’s the recipe for Olympia Family Theater’s Tales Told in Ten, the theater’s second annual festival of short plays, happening Nov. 4 and 5.
At OFT’s first short-play festival last year, the results were fun, but — here’s where the recipe comparison falls apart — the plays were wildly diverse. All began, as last year’s prompt required, beginning with a fairy-tale character speaking the line, “I’ve never told anyone this before, but I’m going to tell you now.”
“It could be any fairy tale character, and it so happened they chose six different ones,” said Jen Ryle, the company’s artistic director. One of the more memorable tales — written by Amy Elizabeth Shephard, who’s back for this year’s fest — involved a pirate by the name of Bananabeard, whose beard was made of real bananas by Ryle’s daughter Mandy Ryle, who pulls together the festival’s props and costumes.
Also testing their speedwriting skills will be Kate Ayers, Keith Eisner, Andrew Gordon, Ted Ryle and Bryan Willis. It’s an accomplished lineup: Willis served on the Kennedy Center’s national selection team and his work has been featured on NPR and the BBC. Eisner won a prestigious O. Henry Award for his short story “Blue Dot.” Ayers studied drama at Vassar and Goodman Theater School and has authored over 200 plays.
OFT has also produced plays by many of the chosen playwrights in the past: Ayers penned last season’s adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland,” Gordon and Shephard co-wrote April’s “Fishnapped” with Daven Tillinghast, and Ted Ryle’s “Cinder Edna” opened in 2014 and will come back to the OFT stage in May 2018.
This year’s playwriting prompt, devised by Ryle and local writer Kelli Samson, will be top secret till Nov. 3, when six local playwrights will begin work, each creating a play to be staged by a randomly selected director with a cast of four randomly selected actors.
Directors signed up for the adventure include Mark Alford, Samantha Chandler, Kathy Dorgan and Pug Bujeaud, and among the on-stage talent are such familiar faces as Heather R. Christopher, Austin C. Lang, Xander Layden, Jesse Morrow, Vanessa Postil and Tom Sanders.
After Saturday night’s performance, VIP ticketholders can join actors, directors and writers for a post-show party that to kick off the nonprofit company’s annual fundraising campaign.
What: Tales Told in Ten
Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 4
2 and 5 p.m. Nov. 5
How much: $10-$50
Get tickets: 360-570-1638 | olyft.org