Interview with Marcia Vanderstraaten

Dark Matter Theatrics - EAT MY SHORTS

Following the success of Alt-topia – an event conceived by the Poletariat Poetry Factory and hosted by Centre 42 at last year’s Night Festival – we’ve decided to build on that by presenting Late-Night Texting this time. Held for one night only, it is a celebration of text-based works across different genres, from theatre to spoken word, and features performances by four local companies. In this series of blog posts, we’ll be speaking with each of them to find out what they’ll be getting up to on the night. First up, we have Marcia Vanderstraaten, a playwright (she recently co-wrote Wild Rice’s Hotel with Alfian Sa’at) and the artistic director of Dark Matter Theatrics, who is heading a showcase of short plays called Eat My Shorts at Late-Night Texting.

Why are you interested in short plays, and in what ways are they different from regular-length plays?

Well first of all I should clarify that ten-minute plays are a distinct genre in and of themselves. The term ‘short play’ is much broader and can encompass anything between 30 minutes to an hour. (Regular-length plays are usually at least an hour and a half to two hours.) Good ten-minute plays are really difficult to write, because their length poses a greater challenge than regular-length plays. In short plays, you don’t have time to waffle on about things like character development, which playwrights often love to do! It’s got to be clear and to the point, and paced well.

You wanted to hold a showcase for short plays because you feel that this format is rarely performed, especially in Singapore – why do you think that is?

I’m not entirely sure. The 10-minute play is a particularly American thing, but we used to have the Short + Sweet festival which I believe was brought over from Australia. When that stopped in 2011 I was wondering if anyone would take it up again, but I guess it’s just not a thing that people have time for. It probably just doesn’t fit into anyone’s regular programming, because you’d require several scripts to make a proper show out of it. And then you’d have to pay a lot of writers also, which is another story altogether…

How did you assemble the playwrights for Eat My Shorts?

I kind of just asked my friends who are playwrights if they have any scripts to share! Eat My Shorts is something that Dark Matter Theatrics hopes to make into an annual event, and so when I pitched the idea to Centre 42, we were thrilled when they decided it could fit into their Late-Night Texting programming. But because the timing was so tight (due to license application etc.) we didn’t have time to organise and manage an open call. But we definitely hope to organise one for the 2017 edition.

One of the short plays that will be performed that night is by your – tell us about more about it.

My play is called Traffic, and it’s something I actually began as an assignment when I was doing my MFA at NYU Tisch Asia. We were encouraged to think of unusual ways of beginning our 10-minute plays, so I thought of a man and a woman in their apartment, staring at a traffic cone. I had no idea where the story would come from when I first thought of that image! As I worked on it, though, it started falling into place.

What are some of the other plays that you’re looking forward to watching at Eat My Shorts, and why?

All of them of course! But I’m especially keen to see Jean Tay’s The Knot, which won 1st prize in Action Theatre’s 10-minute Play Competition in 2000, and was selected as a finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s 10-minute Play Contest. It’s an interesting take on marriage, and quite a challenge to direct!

Interview by Gwen Pew

Centre 42 is throwing open the doors of its blue house on Saturday, 20 August for the public to enjoy a free evening of exciting textual experiences. Held in conjunction with the Singapore Night Festival, this one night only event is titled Late-Night Texting and features over 15 bite-sized, text-based performances by four local groups. Find out more about the event here.