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Behind the Scenes of 8 Tens @ 8... Ready, Set, Read!

The 8 Tens @ 8 Short Play Festival hits the stage each January, but the work begins much earlier.

an old-fashioned typewriter

It starts, of course, with the playwrights who submit their work for consideration starting in mid-November the year before. We couldn't put on a short play festival without short plays! And we are grateful to each and every writer who trusts us with their work. From aspiring first-time authors to playwrights who have seen their work produced on Broadway, the 8 Tens Festival draws submissions from across the country and even the world. The quality of their work makes choosing the "winners" quite a challenge.

And selecting those finalists is the job of our 8 Tens Reading Committee, who have about two months to read all the plays. Electronic submissions have made it easier to start sharing scripts with the committee startng early in June. The contest deadline is June 30 or 300 submissions, whichever comes first. (This year we hit our 300 a little before noon on the last day.) Why the 300 script cut-off? Because we have found that this really is the limit for the careful consideration (and sanity) of our stalwart readers, who all volunteer their time for this endeavor. It can be a daunting task, but our readers this year are up to the challenge.

Here's what reader Linda Gunther has to say about the experience:

When I was in college, many years ago, I was addicted to reading plays. With a tub of mint chip ice cream in hand, I’d sit cross-legged on my bed in the Bronx and read plays aloud to myself, acting out scenes and becoming each featured character. The experience of reading short play submissions for the 2025 8 Tens @ 8 Festival took me right back to those college days. And, so, on most summer evenings you can find me sitting atop my bed in Aptos, a glass of red wine in hand, reading each script aloud. The high quality of writing and the fascinating characters I'm meeting along this journey dazzle me. As a writer myself and a sometimes actor in local productions over the years, it is a pleasure to be on the other side of the fence, as the recipient of these inventive and creative works of art. Congratulations to all the submitting playwrights. You've made my summer!

Actor Ward Willats in the play "Wonder People" in 2023

Special thanks go out this year to reader, actor, and tech genius Ward Willats who created an optional scoring app for the team's use, to help them asses each script for:

  • Plot Stucture / Depth of Themes

  • Originality / Message

  • Quality of Characters / Dialogue

  • Zazz Factor

The Reading Committee convenes in early August to select 24 finalists. Then these scripts go to this year's directors to review and get excited about. Directors meet later in August to choose the script they want to direct. These 16 plays are produced in the Festival in January/February, and the 8 remaining plays are presented as staged readings with an ensemble cast in March. This year we are officially marketing the "Best of the Rest" staged readings as Part 3 of the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival, acknowledging that these finalist plays that were not chosen by a director are still winners in their own right.

Winners of the 8 Tens @ 8 Short Play Festival for 2025 will be announced the first of September.

Auditions for the Festival will be the week of September 29th.


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