Hurricane Ike Gets Into the Act At This Year's Ten By Ten Short Plays Showcase

Roughly a third of the plays at this year's upcoming "Ten By Ten" showcase are about Hurricane Ike and the credit or blame for that can go in large part to Fernando Dovalina.

Dovalina, who took up playwriting in earnest when he retired from the Houston Chronicle a few years ago, hosts informal gatherings at his home among his playwright friends. They read and critique their work, and usually Dovalina picks a theme. "One year it was 'strong women,' and one time it was about 'summer,'" he told Art Attack. The anniversary of Hurricane Ike was coming up, so he picked that.

Three of the plays that were developed from this effort were declared among the 10 winning, 10-minute plays that will be performed at the Country Playhouse, August 26-29. They were among a larger package of plays read earlier in Galveston to benefit the Strand in its recovery from Ike, Dovalina said.

This will be the 20th annual Scriptwriters/Houston production of local playwrights' work. Art Attack went last year and this is an excellent way for someone who doesn't want to sit through a two- or three-hour production to take in theater while supporting some writers, actors and directors who deserve encouragement and recognition.

For instance, a theater-goer not interested in reliving Ike through Dovalina's Water Line about a bickering couple, a Galveston bartender with an oft-told story and a jaded Chronicle reporter assigned to one more hurricane-anniversary piece, only has to experience it for 10 minutes. Something else will come along.

Aaron Alon, in his The Great Storm has five characters speaking in monologues about their experiences during Ike, while in Night 4, Eric James takes the humorous route with a couple with nothing else to do but talk to each other after Ike hits.

But again, it isn't all hurricane. Joe Barnes offers a truly black comedy in Quality Time, with a main character who'll "do anything it takes to earn his father's respect - even if it means using a hammer and four-inch nails."

Asmara Bhattacharya's Life Choice is about a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy. In Catching Falling Stars, Nicholas Garelick's main characters are a young woman leaving for college and a sister who's looking for luck from falling stars.

Gordon Williams' intriguing offering, Uncle John and the General shows how the Civil War split families, but also "how brothers in Christ Jesus were also divided against one another."

Two sisters fight following their father's memorial service in Flowers From Our Father by Carl Williams, while things take on a lighter note in both Leighza Walker's The Games We Play (with a man and woman testing "the boundaries of platonic friendship with mind games and banter"), and the comedy All Dressed in White by Elizabeth A.M. Keel about a woman who's wearing the white dress and just needs to find a man.

The people involved in these projects don't make a lot of money, Dovalina said. They get a stipend which may not even cover travel costs. But it does give actors exposure, directors experience and playwrights a chance to see their work on stage - and adjust it as needed. "When you get a play up you see what works and what doesn't work. You really never finish writing a play till you die," Dovalina said. Some participating writers go on to enter their plays in other contests, or expand them into longer versions.

"Houston has a lot of really good writers in all fields," Dovalina said. "Here's an opportunity to see what playwrights are doing and to realize there's a lot of good stuff in town."

Ten By Ten - 10 award-winning short plays will be presented at 8 p.m., Thursday through Friday, August 26-28, and at 2 p.m., Sunday, August. 29, at Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury Lane, Houston, 77024-3930. Tickets are $15 for general admission; $12 for students and seniors; and $10 each, prepaid, for groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be bought online at Click on the "10 by 10" logo. Theatergoers can also call 713-467-4497.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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