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Playfest challenge: 10 minutes to wow the audience

January 18, 2019

A feast of fun, food and frolic will be served Jan. 25-26 at the fourth annual 24-Hour Potluck Playfest in Deer Park.

“There are no fees for actors, writers and directors to participate, and you will be well-fed,” promised festival coordinator Susan Mele, who is the artistic managing director of Art Park Players, which is co-sponsoring the event with the city of Deer Park’s parks and recreation department.

The festival, which will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 at 1302 Center St. in Deer Park, will culminate in a supper at 6 p.m. the next day, followed by performances of original scripts by Houston-area playwrights, then voting by the audience for best play, director and actor.

“Each play must be no more than 10 minutes in length,” said last year’s winning author, Steve Stewart of Sugar Land.

His script, “A Cryptic Farewell,” was an amusing look at three women who gathered in New Orleans to spread their late friend’s ashes at the crypt of a voodoo priestess.

“It was a comedy, but also reflective,” Stewart said.

“The plays generally lean to the comedic side,” added Mele.

Jennifer McLaughlin of Deer Park was honored last year for her performance, while Sean Thompson of Houston was voted best director.

This year’s prospective actors and directors are invited to submit a picture and resume, and authors are asked to submit their short scripts, to David Eck at deck@deerparktx.org.

“In order to be considered, you must be available from Friday, Jan. 25 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and all day Saturday, the 26th,” Mele said.

Sped-up preparation

Bring a random prop, which must be incorporated into a production in Saturday evening’s performance.

“In years’ passed, the props have included a necktie, a stuffed animal, a Broadway top hat and cane, even a hula hoop,” Mele said.

On the night of Jan. 25, said Stewart, “Everyone’s names are put into a hat, and actors and directors are assigned at random as far as which play they will work on. That is one thing that makes this event so unique and special.”

Once names are drawn, groups disburse with Mele advising participants to “make it work,” a la Tim Gunn of TV’s reality competition show “Project Runway.”

Thespians usually rehearse until about midnight, then return the next day at 9 a.m. for breakfast and blocking throughout the day.

“Throughout the day, we run tech for each show,” Mele said.

“At 6 p.m., we will begin selling tickets for a meal with a main course plus side dishes and desserts that are brought by volunteers,” she said. “It is like a Sunday afternoon church picnic.”

Admission is $15.

Saturday night’s performance “moves along nicely with a lot of variety,” said Stewart, who praised last year’s participation by thespians at Art Park Players.

Mele expects as many as 40 actors, including membes of both sexes age 16 and up, to participate in this year’s festival.

“It gets bigger every year,” she said.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net

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