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LEWISTON – Niagara University Theatre’s annual “Short Play Festival,” scheduled Friday through next Sunday, will offer theatergoers a smorgasbord of genres, served up in quick, 10-minute bites.

Two cycles of short plays written by various playwrights will be presented over the weekend. Fourteen debuting student directors will offer works ranging from “silly and highly comedic, to poignant, to dark and foreboding,” according to Steven Braddock, director of the NU Theatre.

These are not snippets of plays, but entire works completed in 10 minutes, which “have become quite the rage over the past decade, especially in small repertory theaters,” Braddock said.

This is actually part of Niagara’s directing class curriculum, Braddock explained, and has an important impact on students who are used to performing but are just learning how to direct.

“These short plays work well in competitions, and they work wonderfully in reaching our young, particularly our performers, to see what it’s like to be on the other side of the stage and to have to articulate to performers how to make strong acting choices,” he said.

Many of the playwrights chosen for this festival may not be immediately recognizable, as they are often in the early stages of their careers, Braddock said, but two whom audiences may be familiar with are Neil LaBute and Shirley Lauro.

These two playwrights, in fact, also have full-length works being presented by the university theater this year. NU Theatre, in collaboration with the Castellani Art Museum, presents Lauro’s “A Piece of My Heart” Feb. 13-16, while the NU Players present LaBute’s “The Shape of Things” Feb. 21-23.

Braddock said the Short Play Festival is part of a rich tradition at the university.

Not only are the short plays an important teaching tool for the Niagara faculty, but from an audience standpoint, this genre also works because if a theatergoer doesn’t care for a play, something else will be replacing it in 10 minutes.

“You never know what you’re going to get in the next 10 minutes,” Braddock said with a laugh.

He also cautions that some plays may include adult situations and language.

The Short Play Festival will be featured in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre at Clet Hall. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday (Cycle A); 2 p.m. Saturday (Cycle A); 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Cycle B) and 2 p.m. Sunday (Cycle B).

The producing director of the festival is Doug Zschiegner, associate professor and associate director of the NU Theatre. The production manager is Jayson Clark, a theater studies design/technology graduate.

Student directors of this year’s productions include: Kyle Baran, Sean Craig, Matthew Gilbert, MacKenzie Gildemeyer, Nathanial W.C. Higgins, Josephine Lazusky, Kaylee LeRoy, Stevie Lukaszewski, Lauren Parrow, Mark Pietruszka, Jennel Nadine Pruneda, Brittany Shannon, Preston D. Williams and Phoebe Wright. These students are from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Texas.

Tickets are $15 general admission; $10 for seniors age 62 and over, Friends of the NU Theatre, NU alumni, employees and retirees; and $10 for those 21 and younger.

Niagara students with valid university identification receive one ticket.

There are several ways to purchase tickets. You may visit: http://theatre.niagara.edu/ or visit the box office, open 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, in the lobby of the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre; or call the box office at 286-8685 or email the box office at theatre@niagara.edu.