Ten minutes of fame

Two local arts groups seek short, original plays to stage in August

Two local arts organizations are partnering to give area playwrights their 10 minutes of fame.

The Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) and the West Side Show Room are calling for 10-minute plays for the first Rockford New Play Festival. Four to six original plays will be chosen for staging at the West Side Show Room the week of Aug. 3, using actors from the RAAC’s ArtsPlace program. Scripts must be received by May 16 and follow a theme of “beginnings.”

All playwrights who enter the contest are invited to a free playwriting workshop with Nathan Alan Davis, who wrote “The Wind and the Breeze,” a 2012/2013 Lorraine Hansberry Award winner.

Sharon Nesbit-Davis, the education/community engagement director at the RAAC, said the idea for the festival came out of a brainstorming session at the end of last year.

“Initially the idea was to have the theater team create their own play and present it, but we wondered how realistic that was,” she said. Eventually they came up with the idea for a play festival involving the community.

Around the same time, the West Side Show Room opened with their first production, “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” after the theater’s founder and artistic director Mike Werckle worked for six months on converting retail space at 410 Mulberry St. into the theater is it today.

A relationship between the RAAC and the West Side Show Room developed after the RAAC’s president and CEO, Anne O’Keefe, saw “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.”

“It’s the kind of work we want to do, which is a little more risqué or edgy than other theaters,” Werckle said. “They were very supportive of what we’re doing here. We started talking about how we might collaborate together.”

Nesbit-Davis said Werckle was enthusiastic when he learned of the Rockford New Play Festival, and a parternship was born.

One of the most appealing factors of the festival to Werckle is the way it involves the community in creating art.

“There have always been so many great artists living and working Rockford,” Werckle said. “There is a sort of resurgence in interest, and there’s a lot of talk of, ‘How do we transform Rockford?’ What we need to do is to start doing what we want to have done around here.”

Both Werckle and Nesbit-Davis said they hope to turn the festival into an annual event, and they both hope to expand it into full-length plays.

While the festival will offer a unique opportunity for flourishing playwrights in the Rockford area, Werckle believes it will also enhance the downtown scene and draw some attention to the West Side.

“We’re on the West Side for a reason,” Werckle
said. “The town kind of is expanding to the east, and it has been for 50 or 60 years. There’s kind of a magnet pulling the town that way.” He said he hopes the West Side Show Room can act as an anchor for downtown Rockford.

Writers who wish to submit plays must reside in Winnebago, Boone, DeKalb or Ogle counties, and they may only submit one play each. Plays should be 10 pages long at most, and should be submitted electronically to info@artsforeveryone.com as a Microsoft Word document or PDF file. If unable to send electronically, mail a hard copy of the script to Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State St., Rockford, 61104.

For more information, visit www.artsforeveryone.com.


—By Jessica Cabe