Short, Sweet and Pithy

By on June 13, 2018

Riot Act debuts trio of short plays with new actors behind and on the stage

Uber for Nietzsche?! Jason Ruff’s ‘Uber Mensch’ plays June 20-23 as part of Riot Act Inc.’s Annual Series of Short Plays.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The side hustle is an inevitable reality among valley dwellers. For Jason Ruff, it means that by day he is a high school English teacher at Teton High School in Driggs, Idaho. On the side, he drives for Uber.

“I have been in the Uber with some very interesting types,” he said.

He used those experiences to write his first play. Uber Mensch centers on an Uber driver who over the course of an evening meets some “extreme personalities and interesting challenges,” Ruff said.

People will have a chance to see it brought to life June 20 to 23 as part of Riot Act Inc.’s Annual Series of Short Plays.

Ruff’s show stars Karissa Dabel, Lacey Lukas, Jack Sieber, Danny Suarez, Deborah Supowit and Michael Yin. Riot Act founder Macey Mott is the director. It is one of three plays of the evening.

Riot Act launched an annual production of short plays in 2004. Originally the theater company determined which plays to produce. Some were published and known short plays, but others were original work residents hoped Riot Act would bring to life, Mott said.

Short plays offered the audience a chance to see a variety of stories and styles of theatre in one evening. It also opened theatrical doors for people in the community who wanted to get involved in theatre but didn’t have much time or a way to participate, Mott said.

Five years ago, the theatre company decided to host a playwriting contest as part of its 10th anniversary to cultivate new work and support local playwrights. The New Play Festival is in its fifth year. Riot Act opened the contest this year to regional writers and solicited judges from Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. They received seven original submissions and three were selected for production. The first-place winner will receive $100 and the Marius P. Hanford IV Award. Second and third place finalists will each take home $50.

Even with the contest and emphasis on original work, the shorts are a great way for people to try out theatre, whether acting, directing or writing. Several actors in the shows are performing or directing with Riot Act for the first time.

Ruff, a novice playwright, was inspired by Riot Act to create his piece. Last summer he taught a writing course where crafting a one-act play worked with the timeframe. Ruff wrote one along with his students. They critiqued each other and navigated the challenges of creating believable dialogue.

The class was inspired by the short play festival, which Ruff encouraged his students to enter.

“A critical part of being a writer is a part that we usually forget and that is you’re supposed to put your words out there into the world for people to read,” he said.

While none of his students entered this year, he hopes they see his play come to life and consider it next year.

Rita Barkey, a writer from Missoula, Montana, wrote one of the three plays. Feather and Bone is about a woman who runs a raptor rehabilitation center and a land developer who tries to bully her into selling.

“It’s a tale about families, the love of wildlife and conservation for the land,” Barkey said.

Barkey has been writing plays for years. Short plays, like Feather and Bone, present unique challenges. The writer must plunge the audience right into the story. There isn’t room for the tangential threads included in longer productions. It can be a challenge to write, but also great for an audience wanting a sampler of stories, Mott said.

The third play, Last. Only. Best., by Anne Marie Wells and Angel May Wise is about a grandmother that imparts to her granddaughter the tough parts that made her relationship to her husband stronger.

“It’s a good mix of shows,” Mott said. “All the plays are really smart, well-written and will have you think about your own life.”

The show features some mature content so parental guidance is recommended.

Riot Act Inc.’s Annual Series of Short Plays, 7:30 p.m. June 20 to 23 at Dancers’ Workshop Studio No. 1, $15; $12 students and seniors. Buy tickets at the door or riotactinc.org.

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