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The Long and Short of It: Parish Players Tell Tales in 10 Minutes

Credit the Internet. In eight years of staging its Ten Minute Play Festival, the Parish Players have received submissions from writers from all over the world, including Singapore and Australia. For this year’s slate, said director Dorothy Gannon, the readers sifted through 90 submissions to arrive at the final eight plays, all American, which will premiere tomorrow night at the Grange in Thetford. The standing joke is “if you don’t like one play, just wait a few minutes, something else will be coming along,” she said.

Audiences lap up the plays they see, marveling at the way playwrights are able to condense what feels like an evening’s worth of drama or comedy into an abbreviated time frame. “Writing a short play is actually a very tricky achievement, and I’m always impressed whenever I see a play that really has a narrative arc,” Gannon said.

Sometimes obvious themes emerge, such as the year in which many of the plays were set in a psychiatrist’s office, or the year that super heroes seemed popular. This year, no one topic dominates, although there are more two-person plays than usual, Gannon said. Regardless of subject, the short plays are marked by a level of sophistication, she added. This year the plays’ subjects range from a pillow fight to a portrait of mother and daughter conflict, as well as a sketch about two women on a beach, one of whom asks a favor of the other.

Among the plays being performed is Don’t Leave Me Hanging by Lillian Schley, a junior and theater major at Clark University in Massachusetts. Schley, who grew up in Strafford, has worked with Parish Players both as an actor and as a backstage volunteer. This is her first play to be produced, and the first time that the Parish Players have staged a work by a playwright under 21, Gannon said. Without giving away spoilers, Schley said in a phone interview that the play is about a couple in their 20s playing Hangman, “and it goes from there.”

Although writing a play that length posed its challenges, Schley was more excited than intimidated. “I like writing dialogue, and how people talk, and making up conversations.” She will be on hand to see the premiere.

The 8th Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival runs at the Eclipse Grange Theatre in Thetford on Feb. 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. ; and on Feb. 16 and 23 at 3 p.m. For reservations call 802-785-4344. For information, go to www.parishplayers.org.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com