I remember one evening at the Pulse Ensemble where the theatre was so crowded playwrights and family were asked to leave after their play was presented to make room for the next play’s entourage. At the first set of productions of Pittsburgh’s Future Ten several years ago, there was standing room only over two weekends. If you build it, they will come.
These one-acts are also usually cheap to produce. Sets are minimal. Lighting is more often than not lights-on, lights-off. Costumes are likely to come directly from the closets of the actors or the neighborhood Goodwill outlet. In the great theatre centers like New York, non-union actors work for the exposure, as do often the directors and technical staff. Out in the hinterlands, working for love, at least for actors, is the rule. Playwrights are thrilled to get their work on stage; money is not a consideration. In fact many of the theatres hosting such events require entry fees from playwrights.
What we have, then, is a win-win situation for almost everyone involved. The sponsoring theatre or organization makes a buck. Actors, artists, and writers get their work in front of the public. The only loser is the playwright who pays a fee to have his work considered and doesn’t get chosen. But even for her there is some solace. At least she hasn’t spent years at work on a full-length play that never sees the footlights of day.
Audiences win as well. They get to see new work from all over the world. And if that work is not always as compelling as they would like, well, it’s only a half an hour or so, maybe only ten minutes, until there will be another one that they might like better.