Picture Credits: Theatre InspiratTO 

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Shawn Lall and Graham Dalgleish in "Getting Two Gay Men Naked in 10 Minutes or Less" 

This past Saturday, the newspaper attended the 11th annual InspiraTO Festival down at Alumnae Theatre and spent the entire day watching a series of shows comprised of sets of 10-minute plays. All in all the newspaper saw 24 plays, and every one of them got the audience to interact on an emotional level, regardless of whether they were amateur or professional productions. These micro-plays covered a variety of topics under its thematic umbrella of “shift,” but most often focused on how people communicated with family, friends, or loved ones about their fears, hopes, pasts, and futures.

The first pair of shows the newspaper saw were the whiteShow and blackShow, located in small, separate rooms of the theatre. At close proximity, actors and actresses fed off the audience’s energy to deliver highly-charged performances. The only downside? Probably having to climb up and down the stairs every 10 minutes. But like the stage manager cheerfully said, it was great if we had skipped leg day (and let’s be real, we totally had).

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Cassandra Potenza and Sandra Cardinal in "Washing the Dead" 

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Starting the day off, whiteShow proved to be stunning at conveying a depth of emotion while also keeping things sincere when touching on some heavy topics. These shows dealt with losing your sense of innocence, whether it be through growing jaded with work, getting close with a friend, or losing a loved one (note: 33.3% is an interestingly high incidence rate for people kissing dead people in a play set).

Best in Show: “You Are Trying My Patience”

What starts out as one teacher’s gripe with her student over an assignment quickly escalates into a confrontation about a paper he has written about hurting her in. Tautly paced and sharply acted, this play offers an unsettling look at the emotional repercussions of targeting women with imagined violence, and how “it was just a joke” is never an excuse.

Honorable Mention: “The Sculpture Gallery”

As a girl makes sketches in a sculpture gallery, a man approaches to chat with her. But underneath his nice exterior, there’s something forceful and intrusive that makes us uneasy for her safety. His objectification of her creates a moment of terror that is placed at the forefront, becoming another exhibit in the gallery.  

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Hannah Vanden Boomen, Daniel Pascale, Claudia Veira, and Josh Downing in "Family Game Night"

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Perhaps because of the strength of the previous show, blackShow came off far more inconsistent in quality and a little too abstract in trying to explore power dynamics between characters through introspection and relationships. Regardless, there were still a couple of plays that survived the disjointed pace of this set to really shine.

Best in Show: “Family Game Night”

With their father’s health failing, a family plays a board game to sort through matters like funeral arrangements and who would pull the plug on who. In trying to explore who that might just be, this play tackles family communication head on, and surprises with its sincerity and heartfelt performances.

Honorable Mention: “Getting Two Gay Men Naked in Ten Minutes or Less”

In this play, a man is trying to figure out what sort of 10-minute play to write for the festival. His boyfriend tries to help him brainstorm, which ends in both of them naked and baring their backs, fronts, and hearts in a cute and lighthearted exploration of what could possibly be entertaining enough.

Drawback: “Drip”

A submission by a guest theatre company, this play was an admirable effort in conveying a girl’s inner psyche with respects to self-harm through 10 straight minutes of singing. But unfortunately, it came off in a way it most definitely didn’t mean to, as without a trigger warning, its fairly graphic depiction of cutting felt gratuitous and unnecessary.

The back half of shows lined up for the day, blueShow and redShow, received proper stage treatment on the theatre’s mainstage. These productions were big and loud, and framed by a variety of customized visual projections cast on the backdrop to make sure they were full of life.

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Mark Brombacher and Adam Bonney in "The Paradigm"

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This set promised to challenge our perceptions, but for the most part fell in with the blackShow because of its disjointedness and tendency towards abstraction. But it definitely had its heartfelt moments between characters, and some ideas were outside the box in their construction of narratives.

Best in Show: “Campfire Stories”

This play was a micro-take on a wholesome classic: a group of friends go camping in the woods, and a series of horror tropes wreak havoc on their outing. But how much of it is a game to see who can scare who the most, and how much of it is real? The acting was organic, and the story proved to be playfully fresh.

Honorable Mention: “The Paradigm”

A wife greets her husband and reminds him her brother and his partner are coming to visit. When he doesn’t seem too eager about this, she leaves the stage shortly and comes back as a gay man, his… husband. Overcoming shock and a discomfort, the husband leaves the stage and returns as a woman. Caught up in the amusement, perhaps the point is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to better understand them.

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Allan Michael Brunet in "Serengeti" 

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This show had to be the best overall, with stunning stories and performances that made you laugh, tense, and cheer. The purpose to incite passion was evident, and the quality was high and consistent—we fell in love with play after play.

Best in Show:“Backstory”

“Backstory” is our favorite play out of the entire festival. Opening with an unnamed man tied up and afraid, this clever play moved quickly to explore a scriptwriter’s relationship with her thriller’s disposable victim character. Funny and charming, the victim begs for a name and a backstory, and it isn’t long before he’s free and taking center stage, and giving the scriptwriter a taste of her own medicine.

Honorable Mention: “Serengeti”

A man gives a monologue about trying to drive to get to a job interview, though he’s late. Taking gulps from his flask, he describes the animalistic nature of life and work. With a hollowness to his character that reminds of Walter White, he captivates. In a frenzy towards the end, he shocked by slathering himself with the contents of the flask—blood.

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Jovan Kocic and Christine Shakespeare in "Orchids and Polka Dots" 

By the end of the day, only the post-show talk remained. Here, Artistic Director and Producer Dominik Loncar and Associate Artistic Director Lumir Hladik sat down and fielded questions from the audience. While many commendations were given for the visual projections, appreciation was most apparent for the theme. When asked about what made them decide on “shift,” Lumir said it was all about tossing ideas back and forth until they hit on something that gave them the “eejie beejies.” The 10-minute play imposed limitations on set and script that required a concentrated, and thus powerful, delivery of ideas. Unlike the creepy old heebie jeebies, these shows definitely gave off a more epiphanic sort of feeling, quite like the eejie beejies.

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