Twenty three summers ago, Suzie Westfall, Elena Wohl, and Stephanie Norman wanted to give South Florida theater audiences something to entertain them in the summer months when there wasn't much going on.
"There were actors here in the summer with no work and playwrights writing things but no one producing them, and there were playwright ts producing shorter works, so they were like, 'let's put on a show' and they put a festival together," explains Margaret M. Ledford, City Theatre's artistic director. City Theatre produces the summer fest. It bills itself as "the only theater company in the United States solely dedicated to developing and producing ten-minute plays year round for all ages."
And, lo and behold "Summer Shorts" was born.
Remembering the old days, Ledford says that the programs used to be split into two nights.
"They did two programs of nine plays, so it was 18 plays a cast of 12 or 15 people and it used to be on the University of Miami campus at The Ring Theater."
When the Arsht Center opened, City Theater took its programming to the smaller black box Carnival Studio, where it has been for the last 11 years.
There are many plays Ledford says that short play fans will be thrilled about at this year's fest which opens Friday.
She points out Steve Yockey's "Bedtime," which gets its Florida premiere.
The short by Yockey, who City Theatre has commissioned previously to write plays for "Shorts," chose one of the playwright's older works. "We're dipping our toe into comedic horror. It rides that line between comedy and horror, and it's something we've never done before," she exclaims, adding that play submissions to City Theatre this year in the monster genre were innumerable. "We could have done an entire Scary Short Festival," she jokes.
The overall play selections come from a variety of sources, including open submissions to the festival. "Two years ago we ended up with 1500 submissions, but we've pulled back a little. It's a lot to get through."
Drama publishing house Samuel French sends submissions, too. "We also send some of the shorts we've done back to them."
Two of the selections from last year's "Summer Shorts" at City Theatre were produced in New York for Samuel French's Off Off Broadway short play festival: "Choosing Love" by Chisa Hutchinson, and "Baked Goods," a short play musical written by Charlie Cohen, Helen Park, and Christyn Budyzna during New York’s 2014 BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.
Audience members will see a Short Play Festival at City Theatre that is put together with purpose, Ledford explains when asked how, after the plays are selected, fit in for a night of consistent theater. Since each has a different theme, unlike a linear play that has a beginning, middle, and end, how does it all, well, flow?
"Well, the evening is curated. You'll see that all of the plays selected are ones that, despite their variety and differences, can exist in an evening together."
SUMMER SHORTS 2018 features the following:
Ailurphobia by Scott Gibson – Southeastern Premiere
The fur flies when a couple enjoying a purr-fectly romantic evening, wind up at the mercy of Jinx – the cat!
The Almost In Laws by Greg Edwards, Lyrics and Book; and Andy Roninson, Music – World Premiere
Des has to introduce his fiancée Jennifer to his parents, and they're, well...different.
Bedtime by Steve Yockey – Florida Premiere
After years of terror, Violet has reached the breaking point and decides to trap her stalker using her clueless pal Julie as bait!
Bloodbath at the Fillmore by Audrey Cefaly – World Premiere
Max Jones, a popular writer in the midst of a midlife crisis, is late for a reading at the Fillmore, creating havoc all around, and doesn't really care. Until he does.
Covenant (…or bagels and butchery) by Ken Weitzman – World Premiere
A mixed married couple has last minute doubts about faith, their infant son's bris, and the cross eyed mohel with a sharp knife who has come to perform the cut. What would God do?
Duck by Sheila Cowley – World Premiere
Jan and Bob have a job to do and lots of stuff with history! A comedy about cleaning up, sorting out, and finding things worth keeping.
Melto Man and Lady Mantis by Eric Pfeffinger – Southeastern Premiere
Two unnatural fiends. One office suite. Because even monsters have meetings, and these taxes aren't going to file themselves.
One More Time by Mark Harvey Levine – Southeastern Premiere
A group of pals are going crazy trapped in a small world…of hell? What to do? There’s no way out! Until suddenly…
Run by Bekah Brunstetter – Southeastern Premiere
2012 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting Contest Finalist; 2018 Short Cuts Tour
Frank insists on taking Ellie, his prickly, awkward and non-athletic teenaged daughter out to the track for a run. As they struggle to go the distance, both confront the fears and surprising discoveries of growing up and growing older.
Summer Shorts, Carnival Studio Theater, Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center, through July 1. $39 to $54. 305 949 6722. Tickets at www.citytheatre.com.