When the Truckee Community Theater first started its 10-Minute Play Festival in 2016, company members were thrilled to get 15 original submissions. As they had hoped, that number has steadily grown in the ensuing years — but nothing could have prepared them for the flood of scripts that would fill the theater company’s email inbox this past fall.
“By late October, we had received about 35 to 40 submissions, which is the norm, and I thought, ‘Great, we are off to a really strong start,’” said TCT artistic director Carrie Haines. “By mid-November, with the deadline quickly approaching, we had received over 200 submissions. I think my first reaction was, ‘How on earth are we going to read all of them?’”
By the time the Nov. 30 cutoff date rolled around, a whopping 306 plays from coast to coast and as far away as the United Kingdom had arrived.
“We’re running out of bodies to read them,” Haines said with a laugh. “You would think during quarantine we would have all this time on our hands … it’s not that way. Everybody’s busy.”
During the festival’s first year in 2016, TCT put on a two-night event with the first night featuring original plays and the second professionally written plays, for which royalties had to be paid to publishers. When theater founder Courtney Simpson decided to bring the event to life, TCT was the first theater company in the state to host a 10-minute play festival.
“No one was doing these. It was kind of an East Coast thing and she decided to give it a try because there are so many 10-minute plays,” said Haines, noting that this format is, “a little better than a one-act-play festival because one-act plays can be two hours long.” As she sits down to review scripts, Haines sets a timer to ensure that any given play runs within the allotted time limit.
The festival was originally planned for March when it first started five years ago, but eventually was moved to the fall, which proved not to be a good fit. Following the October 2019 event, it was decided that TCT would skip the affair in 2020 and move it back to its original wintertime slot.
While the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the reason behind the missed 2020 festival, it is having a great effect on the 2021 installment. The pandemic is a running theme in a number of the submissions, in large part due to the company’s call for COVID plays back in May.
“When we all locked down, we thought, ‘Oh well, let’s get people to be creative. Let’s get people to write plays about this,’” said Haines, explaining that when only a handful of submissions trickled in, TCT pushed the deadline to Sept. 30 and put out a call for scripts on any topic through the American Council for Community Theaters. “They started just coming in. We would get 10 one day, then 25. When it got closer to Thanksgiving, they were coming in at like 50 a day.”
While a great deal of reading through scripts remains for the play reading committee, there are already a few submissions that are shoo-ins.
“I’ve got to tell you, I was so hoping for a lot of comedy — but they were really sad,” Haines said, noting that some of the pandemic-themed submissions turned pretty dark, focusing on loneliness, depression, death, and not being able to see family during times of stay-at-home orders. “But there are some that are seriously funny.”
One such comedic submission is actually a 10-minute musical. Written by local resident Andrew Quadri, COVID-19: The Musical will treat theatergoers to hilarious parodies of existing showtunes like COVIDcabana, a silly twist on Barry Manilow’s ever-popular Copacabana. Past festival attendees will be happy to finally learn the fate of Bella and Coco, the two feline leads of playwright Chris Whidney’s previous I Hate Cats. Whidney, who splits his time between living in Truckee and New York, has submitted a sequel, I Hate Cats, Too, which Haines herself will be directing. And Texas resident Sylvia Ashby’s 55th Reunion takes place on a bench in a high school gymnasium during a class reunion.
There were even several submissions from a group of prisoners from New York State who participate in a theater program for inmates. As of press time, those scripts were still in the stack waiting to be read.
GHOSTS OF PLAYS PAST: Previous productions that were part of the Truckee Community Theater’s 10-Minute Play Festival included, from left, Open to Interpretation, I Hate Cats, and The Seal Wife. Fans of I Hate Cats will be able to find out what Bella and Coco have been up to with this year’s sequel, I Hate Cats, Too.
If there’s one guarantee, it’s that the 2021 festival will be at least in part, or possibly even entirely, virtual. That includes auditions, too, which will be held once play selection is finalized in January. The time commitment for rehearsals is an hour a week, during which a 10-minute play can be run through three or four times. Those interested can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “10-minute play audition” as the subject line.
“We are looking for plays that could be shown on Zoom,” Haines said. “So, god forbid we can’t get into the Community Arts Center, we can’t cast on a stage together, we’re thinking, ‘Are there plays that would translate well with all the actors in little boxes?’”
When the show does go on, if live audience members are permitted come March showtime, there will likely be a reduced number of seats available. So with livestreaming pretty much a given, any in-person tickets would be sold at a VIP rate, while livestreaming would be available for a minimum requested donation of $5.
“That’s the plan for the end of March,” Haines explained. “We have so many plays and, with livestreaming, I think maybe we’ll do another round in April and maybe another round in May. We’ve talked about extending it so we can do maybe up to 40 plays.”
Find updated information on the Truckee Community Theater Facebook page or at