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BUA Takes 10

Matthew Crehan Higgins (photo by Emma Marioles)

This week BUA begins its 2nd annual short play festival, called BUA Takes 10. The evening includes ten plays about the LGBTQ experience, each ten minutes long or less. Festival co-curator Matthew Crehan Higgins took ten to answer some questions about the event.

AV: How did this festival come to be?

Higgins: The co-curator, Donna Hoke, went to [BUA artistic director] Javier Bustillos with the idea. She is very connected in the national network of playwrights and knew exactly where to put the call for submissions. With three or four online postings we attracted nearly 200 submissions last year and then over 300 this year.

AV: Why a short works festival?

Higgins: There are a lot of gay stories that don’t need a full length play to be told. I remember when I was in the 5th grade and we learned the short story genre we were taught that this was a good way for a writer to focus on something small and specific: little thoughts, specific conflicts or celebrations. That’s what we are doing here with plays that are a maximum of ten minutes in length.

AV: How are the plays selected?

Higgins: Donna and I each read all the submissions independent of each other and rate them as possible, definite, or rejected. Then we compare. If one gets a purple mark from each of us, that’s both said yes and that play is likely to be produced. After that we negotiate. We have to narrow down over 300 submissions to get 10 final choices.

AV: Do specific themes emerge?

Higgins: Absolutely. The plays reflect whatever is going on in the [LGBTQ] community. This year there are three plays about same sex couples trying to create families, either through adoption or through unconventional conception. There is a play about a father who is having difficulty accepting his adolescent son’s sexuality until his son’s illness obliges him to reevaluate his priorities. We have a play this year about a man who pretends to be gay because he thinks it will advance his career, a reversal of the gay person pretending to be straight theme. Issues like these are very prevalent.

AV: Have you and Donna been able to make a personal impact on the themes?

Higgins: Well, we did select the plays! We also co-wrote a play for the festival. And yes, Donna and I each have particular interests. Donna tends to gravitate towards plays about people trying to create families. I am always interested in the conflict within couples in which one partner is unsure and the other knows what he or she wants—one person is secure in his sexuality, the other isn’t, that sort of thing.

AV: What are you looking for when you read the submissions?

Higgins: Good story-telling and a fresh take on the LGBTQ experience. We tend to reject any of those “I had no idea I was gay until I met you” plays. We tend to reject a play that just rails against religion for no clearly articulated reason. Because the plays are ten minutes long or shorter, we look for plays that establish the characters quickly. There is not time for a lot of exposition.

AV: How is producing the festival different from producing a single full length play?

Higgins: We have to be careful to choose very disciplined actors and directors. There is no time to use rehearsal for work that should have been done at home. Scheduling rehearsals and tech time is a puzzle. We need very reliable people. Someone like Kevin Craig comes to rehearsal entirely prepared and ready to work. So does Kurt Erb. Marc Sacco, Victoria Perez, and Jessica Rasp are fulfilling several roles in the festival.An actor might be performing in several plays. There is no time for large egos. Also, with so many people involved—multiple directors, more actors—the festival is more expensive to produce. Last year we were fortunate to get a grant from Embrace WNY [a local foundation that supports LGBTQ initiatives]. This year they increased our grant by 50 percent, so we’re very grateful. The festival would have been very difficult to produce without their help. It is a large community undertaking. We have to work hard and work fast.

BUA Takes 10 continues through July 21. See On The Boards for details.