There's only one weekend left in Heartland Theatre's annual 10-Minute Play Festival. These Fowl Plays have flown by over the first three weekends in June, pulling in crowds and earning rave reviews.
The winning Fowl Plays cover a variety of birds, from two sets of crows -- one noisy, one involved in murder -- to a pair of eagles, a mallard duck decoy, a Great Horny Owl and a foul-mouthed parrot. Some are funny, some are thought-provoking or "aww" provoking, and some are a little bit out there. It's no wonder Marcia Weiss called the eight bird-related plays "a real hoot" in her review in the Bloomington Pantagraph.
The winning playwrights cover a lot of territory, as well, with Joe Strupek (The Decoy) from right here in Bloomington, Blaise Miller (Bird on a Ferry) down in Texas, Brigitte Viellieu-Davis (Fly Girl Fly) and Nancy Halper (The Murder of Crows) from New Jersey, Russell Weeks (Whoooo?) from Seattle, Ron Burch (Polly) and Tim West (Two in the Bush) from southern California, and Claire BonEnfant (The Caw Caw Conspiracy) from Toronto, Canada.
The company of 13 actors include some new to Heartland Theatre, like Connie Blick, J. Michael Grey, Andrea Henderson, Gabrielle Lott-Rogers, Abby Scott, Eliza Sturdivant and Dave Yates, and some familiar faces, like Nathan Bottorff, Gayle Hess, Dave Lemmon, Nancy Nickerson and Kevin Wickart. Rob Goode falls between the two categories -- he was the costume designer on Iron last spring, so he is familiar with Heartland Theatre, but this is his first acting job there.
It's that kind of mix -- comedy and drama, East Coast, West Coast and Midwest sensibilities, fresh faces and old favorites -- that keeps Heartland's 10-Minute Plays fun and different every year.
Even the directors mix old and new. Ron Emmons, who acted as this year's overall director, and IWU Emeritus Professor John Ficca have been at the helm of Heartland plays before, while Cristen Monson, who directs Summer on Stage and the Intercity Shakespeare Troupe, is directing for Heartland for the first time. And I have been associated with this particular 10-Minute Play Festival since 2001, but it's also my first time directing here. If you're coming out to judge how I did, the plays I directed are Ron Burch's Polly and Joe Strupek's The Decoy.
Joe and I visited WGLT to talk about the Fowl Plays and especially The Decoy, and we brought along Dave Lemmon and Gayle Hess to perform a piece of Joe's play on air. That was added to an interview with Deanna Frautschi, who, along with her husband, Alan Bedell, have sponsored Heartland's 10-Minute Play Festival for the past 11 years. Frautschi is a bird-lover and a wonderful wildlife and bird-life photographer, and that love and those talents are what inspired the entire Fowl Plays theme this year. If you missed that radio piece, you can listen to it here at the WGLT site. Note that Dave, Gayle and The Decoy start at about the ten-minute mark, while Deanna begins about 17 minutes in.
If you are smart, you'll make reservations now to catch one of these last four performances, before the Fowl Plays fly away into the sunset. Tonight, Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 pm, while Sunday's matinee begins at 2. Reservation information is here, with showtimes here.