Plays In the Palm of Your Hand: Reflections of the Literary Ancestry of the One Minute Play Festival

I have an extraordinary love of two stylistically similar authors that seem appropriate to directing at the One Minute Play Festival at Interact in August. I am a great lover of Yasunari Kawabata and Richard Brautigan both of whom are creators of the shortest and most lovely short stories on the planet.
Their writing is light and breathy, full of sadness, idealism and scarce language. The works are dense without being crowded by language. Both of their lives ended in suicide and both writers are heroes of sorts to me. They are a window into the literary pedigree of the “One Minute Plays” I cam currently rehearsing.
The power of the short work  is condensation: a fragment of life distilled and presented, an idea embraced but unexplored, an image burned into the mind. Like Irish whiskey, the work is heated until the until the water evaporates and as the text condenses and reforms, it is stronger, tighter and more potent.
These are not works of plot or description.

The stand as full plays and yet require more that a novel or short story.
The micro work is dependent on the audience. The viewer must do much of work. The audience examines the image or idea or situation and then engages with their own experience to bring the context, moral or back story.

The fleeting nature of these short works is contrasted by the resonance that this type of material offers.
Long works prevent the audience from reflecting in the moment. Each passing image or action replaces or builds on the previous and thus the specific impact of the original image is, or at least can be, lost. The build does not let the single image stand alone; it is infested with context.
Intensely short works provide opportunity to focus and embrace a single idea.
I think of Brautigan’s story, The Scarlatti Tilt, which I have taught in schools across the tri-state region to teach analysis of short works. The piece is only 33 words long but with an active reader or audience, the ideas and in fact the action of the story can change.

It is very hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who is learning to play the violin. That’s what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver.

The reader must decide about the intent of the woman. The reader must visualize the apartment and cops and gun. There are many clues and many possibilities. The Scarlatti Tilt is an open story with limiting information and yet without a limited outcome. The story uses or own prejudices and our own experience to fill in the gaps around the single event in the story.

I think of the power of Kawabata’s tale of stillborn puppies in The Palm of the Hand Stories. The images of that three page piece lingers in my mind today. I have never seen puppies born. I don’t even like dogs but my empathy and my understanding of life is enhanced by that brief piece. I have not read the story in years but the intensity of the image resonated in my mind.

I love Haiku as well, not the clever haiku of a or modern revisionism, but classic Haiku by the masters. Those snapshots of life, boxed in by seasons and syllables, feel pure and can be reflected on in solitude. I both react to the cleverness of the piece, the turn in the phrase that shock me into new perspective and the rich meaning that follows.

It is spring
And the streets are flooded
With children


Theatre, because of its ephemeral nature, is in many ways is like these short works. Theatre is fleeting and emotionally potent, and temporally isolated. The world of the one minute plays festival are even more so.

Iron Ages Fringe Wraith project is similar to this festival. Short works touched on by an audience through technology. The images are fleeting but the experience can echo.

It is exciting to bring short works in the vein of Kawabata and Brautigan to the stage in the One Minute Play Festival at Interact in August. I love the plays I have been given. They range from the tragic to the ridiculous and yet each has a moment that lives beyond the paltry one minute they exist on stage.
The pieces are quick and skeletal yet they resonate with emotion, possibility and imagery. They , if taken only in the one minute that they play onstage, are actually quite simple but if the audience takes the time to allow them in, to hold on and explore the memory of that minute, they are in for rich rewards.


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