New plays, new format for Theater Masters’ ‘Take Ten’ in Aspen
IF YOU GO …
What: Take Ten First Look, presented by Theater Masters
Where: Black Box Theater, Aspen High School
When: Thursday, Jan. 23-Saturday, Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $12-$24
More info: Each evening includes a reading of the full-length play ‘Mine & Yours’ along with three shorts by local high schoolers
Theater Masters is raising the curtain on a new version of its wintertime Aspen festival this weekend.
The local nonprofit has rebranded its long-running “Take Ten” festival as the “Take Ten First Look Festival,” a three-day event that will present 10-minute plays by local high school students in Theater Masters’ Aspiring Playwrights program along with a staged reading of a full-length play by Theater Masters Visionary Playwright Carolyn Kras.
The festival runs Thursday through Saturday at the Black Box Theatre. The programing shuffle is a break from the long-established format of presenting short plays by graduate students.
“We wanted to shake things up a little bit,” said Theater Masters executive director Daisy Walker, noting that Theater Masters has showcased its high school program and MFA program in Aspen but not its Visionary Playwright commissions of new works by rising writers. “We’ve been getting more and more interested in the third part, the Visionary Playwrights. We’ve been thinking about how to utilize them more.”
Since 2002, the Aspen festival had, in varied formats, produced short plays (running 10 minutes each) by playwrights in MFA programs around the U.S. After a mid-winter production in Aspen — where the playwrights and guest directors would workshop the plays with local actors — they mounted a springtime production in New York.
The MFA plays are no longer a part of the Aspen shows, though the nonprofit’s selected MFA playwrights’ work will still be onstage in the May showcase in Manhattan. Instead of the short grad student pieces, Theater Masters is showcasing a work by one of its Visionary Playwright awardees. For this weekend’s shows, it is “Mine & Yours,” by Kras, who was the organization’s 2012 Visionary Playwright. The award sent her to the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, where she gathered material for this dark comedy about the U.S. housing crisis.
This year’s student plays are all by students from Glenwood Spring High School: Ashlan Stolley, a collaboration between Bridget Carrington and Paige Flentge, and Annika Bucchin. They’ll be performed, along with “Mine & Yours,” by a cast of 16 Aspen area actors.
Theater Masters has been awarding the Visionary Playwrights prize since 2008, but has never established a forum for the plays created by the commission. The prize has led to full-mounted productions elsewhere, including the 2012 Obie Award-winning “Milk Like Sugar” by Kristen Greenridge, which ran at the La Jolla Playhouse and the 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist “Marjorie Prime,” by Jordan Harrison, which ran at Playwrights Horizons.
“We’d thought about, ‘What if we did longer plays? What if we did one-acts? What if we did full length?’” Walker said. “And then we said, ‘We’re sitting on all these great Visionary Playwright plays!’”
There is no strict timeline for the Visionary Playwrights to complete their commissioned works. They attend Ideas Fest as part of the prize — and this year a winner also will attend Aspen Brain Lab — but the works have often spent years in development as the playwrights tackle other projects and plays. Visionary Playwright Michael Mitnick, for instance, was pulled away from his Theater Masters work as he was mired in more than a decade of battles with Harvey Weinstein and his production company over Mitnick’s script for the film “The Current War,” which finally made it into theaters in 2019.
“Sometimes they don’t turn them around right away because they are doing other things,” said Theater Masters creative director Vicky Hansen.
Doing the Visionary Playwrights reading in Aspen, Walker and Hansen reasoned, has the potential to be more impactful on the work and the audience than it might in New York.
“To do a staged reading in New York will only go so far,” Walker said. “It’s so saturated already. So it’s a more vibrant environment to do it in Aspen.”
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