Play contest

Take a bow: You too can have your work performed by members of Telluride Theatre (pictured above) during the Shelter-In-Place festival. (Photo by Sarah Schwab) 

Broadway has gone dark while New York City shelters in place, and so have performances on London’s West End. 

Yet even as the world hunkers down in a pandemic, there’s no shortage of great theatrical performances to watch online. 

Recently, London’s National Theatre began offering a new program, “National Theatre at Home,” “some of the best British theatre, free to stream for a week.”

The program (or programme, as they might put it in the U.K.) launched with a performance of “Two Guvnors,” starring James Corden. 

The streaming service Broadway HD is offering Great White Way musicals like “Miss Saigon” and “Sweeney Todd” online, as well as newer shows such as “Kinky Boots”; try it for free for a week, and subscribe for $8.99 a month.

These events are committing to watch: “Two Guvnors,” for example, clocks in at two hours, 40 minutes, and The Metropolitan Opera’s classic live stream productions, available at MetOpera.com, can easily eat up three hours or more.  

Telluride Theatre is offering a fresh, local alternative: home grown plays penned by members of this community. “You write it, we’ll perform it,” Sasha Sullivan, TT’s artistic director, has said (and as the famous Broadway expression goes, especially in difficult times, the show must go on).

Telluride Theatre is seeking short plays of three to five minutes in length, which work out to about 500-700 words, submitted via email to sasha@telluridetheatre.org (in 12-point Ariel font on a MS Word document, if you please).

The deadline for submission is this Monday, April 6.

 “We’ve always wanted to do a short-play competition or festival, and this seemed like the right time,” Sullivan has said. The competition is open to all ages. Families, for example, are welcome to submit a group effort, and all genres are welcome  — historical, comedy, drama. But each play must feature no more than two characters, and therefore should be either a monologue or a dialogue between two people. 

The thespians at Telluride Theatre will choose the scripts, select the cast and direct the play (sorry: as is so often the case in Hollywood, the writer must relinquish creative control in order to see his work make it to film). Submissions are open to anyone in San Miguel County, including second-home owners. 

“Short plays, ‘playlets,’ 10 minutes long, five minutes long, even one-minute in length have become a tradition in the theater world,” Sullivan explained. “It’s a fun way to write, and really fun for performers, because they get to delve in and make their own.” With such a short play, “there cannot be too much exposition! It’s also fun for audiences to see a complete piece performed in such a condensed amount of time.” 

These are not sketches, “which are more free and flippant,” Sullivan added. “We’re looking for character development, and works with a beginning, a middle and an end. Sketches are more like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. And, yes, we’ll take those too. But we prefer submissions to be more in the vein of (pure) theatre.”

Challenging to write, inspiring to perform, and (though it goes without saying) a challenging moment to be living in, while we shelter in place. It’s a time, in short, “which has opened up our creativity,” Sullivan acknowledged. “We have to be open to trying new things. This is our way of having fun, and giving back. Technically, it’s the off-season, but we want do things for our community while they are isolated. We want to bring some cheer, spark some creativity, and spread art everywhere.”

The top scripts will be filmed for online viewing, and performed on KOTO as radio plays. Telluride Theatre’s art — and local scriptwriter’s works — will soon be available anytime, for free, online, in other words. Which is about as perfect a definition of “everywhere” as one can get.