Running the Marathon

These days, you can’t spit without hitting a short play festival. On any given weekend, check out the play listings in the Globe or Phoenix, and you’re guaranteed to find some community or fringe theater putting on a set of ten- to fifteen-minute plays. For the fledgeling playwright, these are a godsend — essentially all of produced work, apart from readings, has been in such fests.

There are a lot of great festivals in the Boston area, from the regular instances of SlamBoston to the SWAN Day event for women playwrights to the late lamented Dragonfly Festival, which used to grace the Factory Theater. But the top, the ne plus ultra, the Mercedes-Benz of ten-minute play fests is without doubt the Boston Theater Marathon, run for the past fourteen years by Kate Snodgrass and the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. The latest running of the Marathon took place last weekend (May 20), and I was honored to have my play “Love, Billy Bunny” be a part of it.

It’s a great event, quite literally: ten hours of theater, fifty plays of ten minutes each (it was actually 53 this year, for reasons unclear to me), with each play sponsored by a different theater company. Not everyone sits through the whole thing, though gluttons for punishment like me try to catch as much as we can (and this year I managed to watch the entirety, from noon to 10:00).

For a playwright, getting into the Marathon can be a challenge, given that pretty much every dramatist in New England is submitting. I’ve applied every year since 2006, and this year’s Marathon is the third one I’ve been accepted into. (I seem to be on a three year cycle: I first got into the Marathon in 2006 with “Possibilities”, followed up in 2009 with “Perspective”, and now 2012 with “Billy Bunny”.)

This year, I worked with Emerson Stage. My director, Anna Trachtman, and actors, Ryan Wenke and Melissa Jenner, are undergrads at Emerson. Yeah, they’re just kids! But they did a brilliant job with the piece, bringing out both the humor and the horror of the eternal triangle of man, woman, and stuffed bunny. It’s great to be watching a play you wrote, and see it unfold almost exactly how you pictured it. I honestly couldn’t have been more pleased with how it turned out.

On the whole, I thought this was a particularly good Marathon. For a good roundup of the event, you should check out Patrick Gabridge’s blog. I’m not linking to it just because he has nice things to say about “Billy Bunny”. Well… maybe I am. But aside from that, he highlights many of the plays that I particularly liked, including John Shanahan’s “Hot Water”, Walt McGough’s “The Dinosaurs Have a Request” and William Donnelly’s “Animal Boat”. In the interests of logrolling (or blogrolling) I should also single out Patrick’s “Second Look”, a street encounter between two old acquaintances, now in different circumstances. The final exchange between the two characters was devastating.

The post-show party was pretty excellent, too.

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