SARAH BOOTHROYD chats to SEAN DENNEHY, director of the Queensland SHORT+SWEET THEATRE FESTIVAL, about keeping it brief.
SARAH BOOTHROYD: Tell me about Short+Sweet’s 10-minute play format. What are the advantages?
SEAN DENNEHY: The format allows playwrights, directors and actors to crystallise their physical, emotional and creative journey within a form that has no room for error. A 10-minute play must have all the essential ingredients of a full-blown story (no shortcuts, forgive the pun) plus the ability to engage the audience from the very start. It gives the participants a discipline that they can translate to any other format.
SB: What can the audience expect?
SD: We live in an age of short attention spans; the 10-minute play format gives theatre audiences (especially those who don’t normally attend!) an experience akin to watching TV. And, of course, if they don’t like one play, they only have to wait 10 minutes till the next.
SB: Do you see the festival as a taster of local theatre talent, or are you keen to promote the 10-minute format as a theatre form in itself?
SD: A bit of both. I think the 10-minute format encourages more people to be creative (see our growing success, and that of Tropfest). Although we are a growing international event, when Short+Sweet visits each town it becomes a community hub for local artists. It gives many independent performing arts professionals and emerging artists a way to show their talent to a wider audience without the costs of putting on a production themselves.
SB: Over the last few years, you’ve grown the festival throughout Queensland. Why do you think it has worked across such diverse audiences?
SD: There is no content, theme or genre that is not allowed in Short+Sweet. We keep it simple — it has to be 10 minutes or less, that’s it! The diversity of plays and the number of participants (and their friends and family) help make the festival a thriving, ever-changing hub for the creative talent of a region.
SB: What does the future hold for Short+Sweet in Queensland?
SD: A fifth year in Brisbane and a third year on the Gold Coast is already being planned. Townsville will be starting in November this year, Rockhampton next year, and I am talking to Toowoomba as well. This will set up a network in Queensland that will allow the Short+Sweet Theatre Company as a whole to offer opportunities to our participants. The winners of Townsville, Gold Coast and Rockhampton will be invited to appear in the Brisbane Gala Final. The Brisbane winner will be invited to be part of the Sydney or Melbourne Festival and the winners of those festivals will be offered a chance to appear in one of our international festivals in Singapore, Malaysia, India or Hong Kong. So the future is long and bright for Short+Sweet.
SHORT+SWEET runs at The Loft (QUT Creative Industries) from Aug 14–19. www.shortandsweet.org
SARAH BOOTHROYD is a writer with an unfortunate aversion to self-promotion.