is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Thursday, July 28, 2016


GREG JONES in THINGS THAT MATTERED  (Photo courtesy of Caleb Maas)
Tonight Studio Players will open its Third Annual 10-Minute Play Festival at the Carriage House on Bell Court, beginning at 8:00 p.m. -- no reserved tickets, simply show up well before the first play, which is called SANDBOX.

SANDBOX is a nice appetizer for the feast of six other plays to follow. It was written by internationally acclaimed Hollywood screenwriter Scott Mullen, directed by Western Kentucky University professor Jenny Christian and its cast includes familiar faces, Meredith Crutcher, Joe Gatton, Tom Phillips, and Esther Harvey.  It's a tasty opening for a night of plays that will tickle your funny bone & bring a tear here and there before you get tickled again. Short plays are the perfect way to see an evening of theatre, knowing if one play is not your cuppa, you can move on to the next 'course' in just a few minutes. What a lovely way to spend the evening with an appreciative audience and enthusiastic actors.
  (Photo courtesy of
Joe Gatton and Tom Phillips take on SANDBOX

Co-Producer Bob Singleton tells me the process of getting the manuscripts and selecting seven plays transpires in phases that begin the Spring.  "We posted an open call for plays in March, and accepted the first 150 for review. They come in from all over, and we always get more than the 150 cutoff. Those 150 scripts are distributed to five 'judges' (30 scripts each). Each judge selects 3 scripts from the 30 they read, for a total of 15 final scripts. We distribute these 7 scripts to the directors for them to read, and we set up 2 nights of unstaged readings. Local actors come in and perform the 15 scripts over 2 nights. It helps with the selection process to hear the plays out loud. The directors, producers, judges, and others are in attendance. We take feedback from everyone, and we ask the directors to list their top 3 choices to direct. We consider all of this, and a number of elements from a production logistics standpoint, and make the final selection of the 7 plays for production."

This is the third time for the play fest at Studio Players, and the fifth time Jim Betts and Bob have produced it. Singleton emphasizes,"Jim came up with the idea, I think in 2009 or 2010. He had secured seven scripts and five directors, and the Thoroughbred Theatre in Midway. I came on board to direct one of the plays, and ended up co-producing with Jim. We've expanded the selection process and moved the production to Studio Players, but the basic approach is still the same."

Singleton explains, "We get submissions from all over the world. I think this is the first year that all 7 plays that we're producing are by playwrights here in the States. We've had at least one overseas author in each of the previous seasons. We collected bios of the playwrights this year, and a few of them have fairly extensive credit in the film and television industry, in addition to play writing."

It's always a difficult decision when you ask a director what the choicest lines in the show are -- ESPECIALLY when there are SEVEN plays from which to choose -- but knowing Singleton would be his courteous and gentlemanly self, I asked anyway.  He tells me,"Favorite moments, that can be tough without spoiling too much (and tough to narrow down)...but some things that come to mind include: Joe Gatton coming into contact with sand; Cathy Rawlings working her magic; Tom and Jerry, the cartoon cat and mouse, brought to life onstage."

Those are just a few examples of the kaleidoscope of comedy and drama you will see performed by Lexington's finest actors, including Damon Greene, Spencer McGuire, Cathy Rawlings in Joe Starzyk's AFTER THE DARKNESS directed by Patrick J. Mitchell; followed by Dan Borengasser's THE THIRD PERSON, starring Jimmy James Hamblin, Aubin Munn, with Carly Moreno as director. Before intermission, you will enjoy SCRAMBLED by Brett Hursey, directed by Lexington Children's Theatre's Jeremy Kisling and features former Disney cruiseline star Elizabeth Ingram, and her partner, Benjamin Torres.

What?  There's more?  Yes!  The last three plays spotlight actors Natalie Cummins, Tommy Gatton, Greg Jones, Suraya Shalash, Sherry Jackson Thompson -- all cast in THINGS THAT MATTERED by Elin Hampton and directed by Mark Smith -- and THE BALLAD OF TOM AND JERRY by television's Liam Kuhn is directed by Sam Jenkins, features Tanner Gray and Kody Kiser.   

I wondered how the sets were chosen to be designed, if they were all simple to do and if that was one of the criteria for selecting the plays.  Singleton points out,"The directors are responsible for designing their sets, but we work in conjunction with them to make sure we're okay from a logistical standpoint in terms of storage space, tech needs and resources for lights, sounds, costumes, set, transition time, and other elements. We help with supplying more complicated items, although we also try to limit the need for too many difficult things. Some shows have required us to stretch some limits, so to speak. We work with the directors to try to find the right balance between telling an effective story with the right amount of set/light/prop/sound elements."

Why should YOU put this on your list of things to do this weekend?  Singleton believes the actors' collective popularity is the marquee attraction. "I think a big draw is the collection of talent that brings these shows and this play festival to life. These are folks you've seen in many other productions all over Central Kentucky, coming together for a night of sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes zany theatre. It's pretty impressive to me, the array of stories you can tell in 10 minutes, and the gamut of emotions you can cover in that same span. It's a night of quality theatre, and it's a little different from the usual fare, so to speak!" he exclaims.

Sample platter of quotes:

From Scrambled: "Mom, I gotta go. She's got a spatula."
From Ballad of Tom & Jerry: "What would happen? I'd be a God damn hero is what would happen."
From Sandbox: "But it’s a quiet sandbox. A sandbox of non-judgment. Of
peace. Where Betsy can forget about her sex addiction."
From Press Pray: "You can't get more elevated than this"
From Third Person: "Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In the
story of your life, you’re in the middle."
From Things That Mattered: "No one is even looking my way. Clearly, I’m damaged goods. Buying me would be like accepting a kidney from a drunk. A dead one."

The festival ends with PRESS PRAY, by screen and television writer Seth Freeman,and features Ryan Case and Laurie Genet Preston.  It is sure to be a wonderful icing on the 7-layer cake called the 10 Minute Play Festival.  There is not a bad seat at the Carriage House; get there early to enjoy the beautiful setting of the Bell Court venue, rain or shine, it's always a fantastic venue.  There are 3-minute breaks between the shows and one 15-minute intermission.

Well done, Studio Players -- can't wait to see the entire set of shows!

JULY 28 - 31, 2016

Sponsored by Context Financial

STUDIO PLAYERS' 2016-2017 Season:
Dixie Swim Club
Whodunnit, Darling?
Stop Kiss
The Ginger Bread Lady
The Fox on the Fairway

For more information about Studio Players, contact
Bob Singleton at

See you at the show(s)!

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