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Arts & Culture

The 2013 edition of Play-in-a-Day was the most epic ever

Live Active Cultures

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Each annual PIAD features a different theme, presented to participating playwrights at 6 p.m. on the night prior to the premiere. In 2011, the last time I wrote about the event, the theme was the relatively straightforward “theater history,” but this year’s phrase, “I never thought I would be in a situation like this,” inspired some wildly diverse interpretations. Further, there is always a “twist,” which this year was a surprise even to the audience: We gradually realized that actor John Edward Palmer appeared in every piece, mute except for the thematic quote. Andy Hayes, winner of last year’s PIAD audience choice award, executed this element most inventively, breaking Palmer’s single line into bite-sized bits (“I never!”/“Thought I would.”/“Bea …”) throughout the scene.

Finally, in an additional innovation, each author was assigned a different running time, ranging from 12 minutes to 60 seconds. Viet-Dung Nguyen (with director Jeremy Seghers) turned the longest slot into an emotionally draining drama about a dying bigot whose five children turned out Eighty Percent gay. At the other end of the time slot spectrum, John DiDonna’s Sixty or Die (directed by Gabriella Juliet Beals) somehow squeezed four miniature acts into a single minute of breathless mathematical gibberish.

The evening’s big winner was Janine Klein’s siCHoo aSHen, a heartbreaking yet empowering semi-autobiographical memory play about absent parents and abusive neighbors. Sensitively directed by John Valines, with a talented trio of actresses (Cara Fullam, Melina Countryman, Jamie Middleton) simultaneously embodying the same woman at different ages, this 10-minute gem won 2013’s audience award by a one-vote margin; I claim full credit for casting the decisive ballot. This was the first public performance of a drama penned by Klein, who is better known for performing broad, boozy comedies like Gay Bar Star.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but PIAD proves that you can become a playwright in a night.

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