PITTSFIELD -- You want less is more? Try Barrington Stage Company's 10x10 New Play Festival.
Ten 10-minute plays by 10 playwrights. It's one of the highlights of 10x10 Upstreet, 11 days (Feb. 14-24, a "Baker's 10," one festival coordinator said) of mostly free film and performing and visual arts events in venues throughout Pittsfield's newly designated Upstreet Cultural District
BSC's 10x10 play festival was the linchpin of Pittsfield's first 10x10 festival last year -- 10x10 on North, produced, as is 10x10 Upstreet, in collaboration with the Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development.
This year's 10x10 New Play Festival, which began performances Thursday in BSC's St. Germain Stage (press opening is Sunday afternoon), has expanded from two weekends to three.
It will run through March 3 -- Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3.
The added week is a response to the fact that last year's 10x10 New Play Festival sold out its run in the 117-seat St. Germain Stage, according to BSC artistic director Julianne Boyd. That's not all that's expanded. Boyd says 186 scripts were submitted for consideration, up from last year's 80.
The plays are being directed by Boyd, Kristen van Ginhoven, Frank La Frazia and Christopher Innvar, who also has written one of the plays, "Higher Ground," in which a father and son venture out in search of gas after a devastating hurricane. And, yes, Innvar says, the inspiration
"It's inspired by a photograph I saw in the newspaper showing a father and son walking together down a storm-ravaged street," Innvar said during a recent interview over coffee, along with Boyd and actress Elizabeth Aspenlieder, who joins Emily Taplin Boyd, Dustin Charles, Scott Drummond, Shea McIlquham, Mary Neely and Peggy Phar Wilson in the 10x10 acting company.
"The play came at me pretty quickly," Innvar said, adding that the help he's received from Boyd and particularly playwright Mark St. Germain has been invaluable.
"Mark is really good with rewrites," Innvar said.
Last year, the festival plays were organized around the theme of entrances and exits.
"This year," Boyd said, "it's more about human connections."
The screening process began with St. Germain Stage producer Shakina Wayfack reading all 186 submissions and rating them on a scale from 0 to 5.
Then, Boyd and St. Germain read all the scripts Wayfack rated 3.5 and higher.
"We got it down to about 15," Boyd said, "and then it became a matter of what plays fit together; what we could do in terms of production demands and cast size."
One playwright, Craig Pospisil, is local, and Innvar is known to BSC audiences as an actor and director. The other writers -- Donna Hoke, Martha Patterson, Aurin Squire, Amelia Roper (whose play, "Camberwell House," is the only not-new play in the lot), James McLindon, John C. Davenport, Jacqueline Goldfinger and Brett Hursey -- are new to the Berkshires.
"There's a terrific variety in these plays," said Aspenlieder, a Shakespeare & Company veteran actress and staffer who is making her BSC debut with her appearance in four of the plays. "They're fun to work on.
"Even though they are one-acts, they need special care. Every piece is a little morsel. It's discovery after discovery."
The acting company was assembled from actors "we know," Boyd said. "We wound up auditioning only two."
Because rehearsal time is short, just over a week, 10x10 is a particular challenge.
‘We're going guerrilla-style," Aspenlieder said. "We have a short time to hook into our characters and still tell the story with the depth and humanity (each) play deserves."
Boyd views 10x10 New Play Festival as another aspect of BSC's commitment to the development of new plays. 10x10 also is giving young set, lighting and sound designers an opportunity to develop their skills, Boyd says.
"For us, it's also an opportunity to get to know new playwrights. It also is fun to collaborate with other directors. This is like a little repertory company," Boyd said.
"I've met actors I've never worked with before," Aspenlieder said.
In this guerrilla atmosphere, Boyd said, "you have to make choices. In ‘10x10' you get what you get."
"There is a sense that we are all in this together," Aspenlieder added. "The plays are sacred. Everything else is ‘all hands on deck.' "
On Stage ...
What: 10x10 New Play Festival
Who: Barrington Srage Company
When: Tonight through March 3 (press opening Sunday 3 p.m.. Eves.: Thu-Sat. 7:30. Mats.; Sat., Sun. 3.
Where: St. Germain Stage, Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield
Tickets: $25, $20 (preview tonight $15)
How: (413) 236-8888; barringtonstageco.org
Note: 10x10 New Play festival is part of 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival