Gone in 60 Seconds: Kitchen Dog Theater Brings Back Fest of One-Minute Plays

Thirty playwrights will show their work at this weekend's short-run festival at Trinity River Arts Center.
Thirty playwrights will show their work at this weekend's short-run festival at Trinity River Arts Center. Suzanne Lavender
One Minute Play Festival is, amazingly, exactly what it sounds like. Thirty mini plays submitted by new and established Dallas-based writers will run back to back at Kitchen Dog Theater. This is the fourth year the theater has hosted it, and the goal to create a locally sourced community event and showcase the artists living in the city. And the run is almost as short as the plays: You only have three chances to see it.

Kitchen Dog co-artistic director Tina Parker says the festival is a great way to assemble Dallas writers, directors and actors in space. Playwrights work from a prompt to compose plays that offer a zeitgeist-y look at Dallas. The plays all work off each other and form a coherent statement about the city and its communities.

This year’s festival includes plays from Ruth Cantrell, Bruce R. Coleman, Shelby Hibbs, Janielle N. Kastner, Joshua Kumler, Mark Lowry, Brad McEntire, Brigham Mosley,  Sammi Rat Rios, Ben Schroth, Jeff Swearingen and Christie Vela.

Directors are given a block of plays. This year’s team of directors comprises Emily Ernst, Danielle Georgiou, Marianne Galloway, Ryan Lescalleet, David Meglino, Becki McDonald, Jeremy Schwartz, Jeremy Wilson, Stefany Cambra and Jennifer Kuenzer.

That’s a lot of plays and a lot of people. It’s a high-energy marathon of theater at a time when many companies are either gearing up for new seasons or winding down from seasons that have just ended. It's kind of like theater summer camp; the participants come together just for the fun of it.

One playwright, Isabella Russell-Ides, says writing such a short play is like climbing on a high horse and then jumping through a very small hoop. She says writers can deviate a bit from the prompt, “which is great for all of us artistic deviants. And I deviated.”

"The fest is like a freeway mixmaster, shooting off cluster notions in multiple directions. It's fast and transporting." – playwright Isabella Russell-Ides

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Ides is an established playwright and is working on her first novel. She says the festival is a great opportunity to stay current in the theater world.

“The festival is a way to keep my writing boot wedged firmly in the theater door. Plus, I love mixing it up with all the Dallas theater peeps. The fest is a like a freeway mixmaster, shooting off cluster notions in multiple directions. It’s fast and transporting.”

Husband and wife Jennifer and Jim Kuenzer are participating as director and writer, respectively. Jennifer was an actor in the first festival, and Jim has been a playwright all four years. Jennifer says everyone is encouraged to work together as they are largely left on their own until tech week, the week before the plays go up.

“I'm sharing a rehearsal space with one of the other directors [Galloway], and if she thinks I'm not going to pull her in for an extra set of eyes at some point or another, she's nuts,” Jennifer says.

Jim says writing a one-minute play isn’t as easy as one might assume.

“It’s not as easy as taking a short play and cutting out the less important parts. You don’t have much time to establish the setting, you can’t rely on the program to list all of your characters, so you pretty much have to dive into the scene straight away.”

It’s an exercise in extreme editing, he says, a practice that benefits his regular-length plays as well.

“For me, [it] is about editing. Cutting and cutting and cutting until all of the extraneous is gone and all that’s left is the story. This is that process taken to the furthest limits.”

One-Minute Play Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, through Monday, Aug. 21, Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180, $20,

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Katy Lemieux is a Dallas-based writer covering theater and the arts. She is a mother to two beautiful human children and three beautiful animal children. She has been published in Esquire Magazine, Texas Monthly, D Magazine, TheaterJones, American Theatre Magazine and most notably The Senior Voice.