Back in 2008, having just discovered the ten-minute format, three friends—Paul Calandrino, Connie Bennett, and Richard Leinaweaver—began writing short plays. After a few months, they had a small but growing collection of work and an increasing urgency to see it performed.
Paul talked to Craig Willis, the Artistic Director at what was then Eugene’s Lord Leebrick Theatre, where both Paul and Connie were on the Board of Directors. And from that collaborative spark of words and ideas, the first scramble of a festival was born.
The festival name was Paul’s idea. “Let’s call it NORTHWEST TEN because if we can keep it going, it could expand to the whole Pacific Northwest.” And then he added, “Besides, it can be abbreviated NW10!”
The three friends were the initial Co-Producers with Paul as Executive Producer. That first festival was fleshed out with works from other Eugene-Springfield area playwrights, friends were roped as actors, and most of the directors did two shows. It was one weekend, open seating. It was a blast!
By the second year, we’d decided on our aspirational mission which remains the same to this day: “to be the Pacific Northwest’s premiere ten-minute play festival.”
Since then, NW10 has grown in size, scope, and professionalism. It moved with the theatre—now Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCT)—to a new home on Broadway in downtown Eugene. It has continued to delight audiences with the whimsy, diversity, and surprise inherent in the ten-minute form.
The festival has earned a regular two-weekend slot each spring in OCT’s season and is enhanced with additional events such as a playwrights’ talkback and a playwriting workshop, still taught by Paul and Connie. Each year, there’s a unique title, as well. The 2020 show is titled NW10: Oh, Boise!, due to the addition of Idaho as an eligible state for submissions.
Each year’s show is like a kaleidoscope, with both new and returning talent forming the constantly shifting pattern. Since that first festival in 2009, several hundred folks have been involved, including new NW10 producers, the co-producers at OCT, the talented actors, directors, designers and crew, the community at large, and—of course—the playwrights!
Dramatists Guild members are encouraged to submit to next year’s festival. The submission window is September 1 – October 31 each year, and – true to our roots as a festival focusing on the playwright – there are royalties but no submission fees. Currently, the submissions are limited to playwrights based in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Idaho. Plays are read blind by the readers, then about twenty semi-finalists – any of which we’d be happy to produce – are sent to our outside judge, who selects the final season.
And, if you’re in the region, consider enjoying this year’s show! March 20 - March 29, 2020 at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Eugene, OR.
CONNIE BENNETT, a Eugene, Oregon-based Dramatists Guild member, is Co-Producer/Co-Founder of the “Northwest Ten!” short play festival at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. Connie’s plays have been performed in several states and Canada, most recently at Theatre 33 New Play Festival and the Inge Festival’s New Play Lab.