Arts & Culture

Pop-up arts! Olympia theater will showcase plays written and produced in 35 hours

Actors Xander Layden and Meghan Goodman in a scene from Tales Told in Ten 2017.
Actors Xander Layden and Meghan Goodman in a scene from Tales Told in Ten 2017. Courtesy of Olympia Family Theater

On Saturday, six local plays will get world premieres.

The bad news: There’s not much to tell about the plays, because they haven’t been written yet.

The good news: You won’t have to choose which to see, since all will be part of Olympia Family Theater’s Tales Told in Ten, the theater’s third annual festival of 10-minute-max plays for all ages.

“Great shows can be written right here in town and can happen on the spur of the moment,” Jen Ryle, the theater’s artistic director, told The Olympian. “That’s a lovely thing for kids to see: This concept was just handed to the writers; they created a show; we rehearsed it and now you’re seeing it.

“You can make something from nothing.”

The race begins at 8 a.m. Friday, when Ryle will send out this year’s prompt and randomly assigned directors and casts. (Last year’s required all the plays to include a key, for example.)

The playwrights — including Kate Ayers, who adapted “Alice in Wonderland” for the theater in 2017; Andy Gordon, who co-wrote 2017’s “Fishnapped”; and Bryan Willis, Olympia’s best-known playwright — begin their work. Also writing are Mark Alford, 2017 O. Henry Award winner Keith Eisner, and Melissa Harris.

They have until 8 a.m. Saturday to send scripts to Ryle, and an hour later, production begins in a theater crowded with writers and directors, two dozen actors and a handful of crew.

For the directors, sprinting through production of a 10-minute play in 10 hours is a bit like a trip to the gym between marathons.

“It’s a really great way to keep your theatrical muscles moving,” said Pug Bujeaud, who will be directing for the second year in a row. “It’s invigorating. You don‘t know what you’re going to get.

“I got really, really lucky last year,” she said. “I got a great script. I got great actors. It was just a whole lot of fun.”

It’s also serving as something of a warmup for her next project, Olympia Little Theater’s “Bunbury,” opening March 8.

Directing in a single day doesn’t leave any time for pondering, Bujeaud said. “You have to go on your initial impression,” she said. “It’s trusting your instincts.”

Also leading the way from script to stage are these directors: Olympia Family Theater co-founder Samantha Chandler, Jenny Heddin, vaudeville impresario Elizabeth Lord, Deane Shellman, and “Fishnapped” co-author Amy Shephard, who previously participated as a playwright.

The theater frequently presents locally written plays in its main-stage season, but this year, Tales Told in Ten will be its only originals, Ryle said.

She hopes the festival will inspire young people to write their own 10-minute plays.

The theater is participating in American Alliance for Theatre & Education’s Young Playwrights for Change competition, open to middle-school students. One script from among those submitted to Olympia Family Theater will go on to national competition.

Tales Told in Ten

  • What: Olympia Family Theater presents its third annual festival of short plays — each written, produced and premiered in 36 hours.

  • When: 7 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 3) and 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 4)

  • Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia

  • Tickets: $10

  • More information: 360-570-1638,

  • Young Playwrights for Change competition: Olympia Family Theater invites students in grades 6-8 to write their own 10-minute plays, one of which will be submitted to the national competition. Send scripts to no later than Jan. 15. More information: