Does size matter?

That's what Short+Sweet, the city's first 10-minute theatre fest to be held in February 2012, will explore. MiD DAY finds out if the fast food generation will take to the nouveau format in theatre

Are you a theatre lover with time crunch? Do not fret, as plays are getting shorter and sweeter. With theatre festival  Short+Sweet coming to town in February 2012, lovers of this performing art will have the luxury of watching more than five plays in the time frame of one and a half hours.

Still from the play Lost Audition by Stray Factory that was
showcased at Short + Sweet, Chennai Pic/ Maniyarasan Rajendren

Back in 2002, Sidney was the first city in the world to witness the nearly two-week-long festival, a brainchild of the famous Australian playwright Alex Broun. However, over the years, the theatre fest has travelled through Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi and comes to the garden city early next year.
In collaboration with the city-based group The Tortilla Entertainment Company, the festival described as the 'biggest short play festival in the world' will showcase 20 plays spread over a fortnight at Ranga Shankara from February 24 to March 4.
Sharing that the festival will feature plays from across the globe including Bangalore, its director Broun says, "Life has become a lot faster these days and people do not have long concentration span. This format allows a lot of variety in one evening. You will see comedy, drama and tragedy all packed in an hour."

However, Broun negates the belief that the format endangers theatre in its traditional form. Instead, he believes that in ten-minute plays theatre actors, writer and directors develop the skill to narrate a complete story within that short span of time.

Alex Broun

"The five-day-long test cricket has been adapted to the T20 format and that has not hampered the popularity of the sport. So why would a short play not work for the audience?" asks Broun. 

By all, for all

Also, according to him, the festival provides a platform for fresh talents as the plays showcased can be written by anybody. Short+Sweet is a competition that aims to explain theatre as an art to Gen Y and encourage those interested in pursuing it.
Broun shares that anyone above 16 years of age can log onto, fill up the form and send in their scripts by December 15. The chosen scripts will feature in the festival. However, only one play per playwright will be featured.

The jury would choose the best script but the audience will get a chance to select the top five plays in those two weeks. The idea behind Short+Sweet, according to Broun, is to develop new stories, showcase fresh talent and reach theatrical excellence.
The plays that will be showed consecutively may not be connected in terms of the plot but should ensure that they give the audience enough intellectual stimulation.  In fact, Broun feels that a lounge or a restaurant  works well for such a format as it has minimal props, simple sets and an actor playing multiple characters.
"Character, story, dialogue, theatricality, dramatic tension and humour are the basis on which each script will be judged. It is a wonderful opportunity for new people to learn the discipline of the craft," explains Bourn.
He adds that the ten-minute plays, because of their length, help the playwright polish his writing skills. The Importance of a Hat by Tarini Pal showcased in Delhi and He and She by Arathi Menon in Mumbai edition of Short+Sweet, are examples of the kind of script this format demands.

Not a cakewalk

Broun however warns that writing and staging a collection of ten-minute plays is not as simple as it sounds. According to him, narrating a story in 10 minutes is challenging and tests the skills of those involved as each second on stage is valuable.
As a tip, he reminds participants that the Short+Sweet format is essentially for the Twitter and YouTube generation, who has less time and lesser patience. He advises writers not to go for long introductions and stick to tight scripts that build the suspense and reach a climax within the stipulated time.
"Every look and action matters. Jump into it. The audience is smart. The young audience likes an action packed 10 minutes where a story moves fast," explains Broun.

It sounds very exciting. Having something on stage only for 10 minutes gives you a chance to build suspense. It is a different approach and requirement since a story that takes two hours to narrate has to be told in 10 minutes. In a larger context, theatre does not fit in any one definition. This format is an offspring of the traditional form. It is another way to tell a story. It may encourage people who have never watched a play, to come to the theatre  and will help new writers in creating a story within that time.
Sharanya  Ramprakash, co-founder of Dramanon

It is a fabulous concept. It would work. For an audience, it does not matter if a play is two hours or two minutes long.  Finally it is about what a play is doing to me and not about how long it is. It works beautifully if I come out watching something effective. I don't see it endangering any form. Novels and short stories coexist; why not this? These plays generally don't tend to be too heavy and sitting with friends in a lounge or a restaurant means that your evening has something else other than only theatre. In that sense, it may work. As a performer, I would like to act in both short and full length plays.
Vinod Ravindran, Freelance actor

A ten-minute-play is a challenge.  Normally that long a play is used as a curtain raiser. It will be interesting to see if these plays will be complete in the theatrical sense. However, the format can never replace the culture of theatre. These plays will  probably be improvised versions of college skits. It is not the quantity but the quality of theatre that  matters. But this format may be encouraging for people wanting to write plays in the future.
Prakash Belawadi, Theatre personality

I have reservations. Writing plays is tough and different from other forms of creative writing. This format may work in a bar or a lounge, but not in the traditional set up of an auditorium. Thanks to short attention span, people like everything short and sweet these days, so it may work out in that way. But for any form to succeed, there needs to be rigorous workshops with  directors, actors and writers. But the short and sweet format will not endanger theatre as long as there are people who pursue motivational theatre.
Arundhati Raja, Co-Founder, Jagriti Theatre

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