Locals and a bench take center stage

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By Kirsten Laskey

A lot can happen in just a few minutes. Laughter, tears and drama can be produced in just a short amount of time.

This will be particularly true in the Santa Fe Playhouse’s Bench Warmers Short Play Festival. Eight 10-minute plays will capture life’s spontaneity. The festival begins today and runs through Feb. 15. Among the plays that will be featured during this time will be “Stuck,” which was written by local playwrights Robert Benjamin and Elaine Jarvik.  

Benjamin’s work will continue to appear in Bench Warmers with a reading of his play, “Plot.”

The play is among the eight plays that will be read from the script Feb. 14-15.

 “Stuck” is about a couple  going on a first date. Neither of them has been active in the dating scene and for their date, they go on a ride at an amusement park, which gets stuck.

“Plots,” has a much grimmer setting. The play takes place at a grave site, Benjamin said. Two newlyweds, who are in their 70s, are at the grave of the husband’s first wife. It is the anniversary of her death. During this visit, the new bride is surprised and dismayed about what she sees at the grave.

Benjamin explained both plays were written for the Bench Warmers. In addition to having a tight time limits, the plays also have to work with minimal sets. Only a bench can be on stage.

But, since Benjamin has had previous plays in the festival, he is up to the challenges it presents.

Four other plays by Benjamin have been included in the festival, including last years’ “Yogurt Security.”

“It’s just an exciting opportunity for local playwrights to get their work on the stage,” he said.

To get a play into the festival, it needs to be approved by a committee, Benjamin said.  

The committee reads them and selects which ones to include in the Bench Warmers.

After learning his plays had been selected, Benjamin said, “I was delighted. I was thrilled.

“It’s just a very delightful theatre event,” he added. “You get to buy one ticket and see eight plays. That’s a bargain.”

As for the other plays, Benjamin said although they are all different, most are comedies that feature lots of twists and turns.

One of these plays is “Wedding Night,” which features actor Grady Hughes of Los Alamos.

“Wedding Night” was written and directed by Deborah Magid, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee.

Hughes explained the play includes just two characters, Max and Mae.

He said he was interested in acting in the play immediately after reading the script and he was also eager to work with Magid.

“(I) admire her artistically a great deal,” he said.

As for the play, “It is extremely well written,” Hughes said. “It’s very emotionally intense, but in a subtle and delicate way.”

Like Benjamin, Hughes also has previous experience in the Bench Warmers. About four years ago, he was in the play “The Tower.”

His acting résumé also includes several Los Alamos Little Theatre productions. Hughes has performed in the local theatre’s productions of “A Twelfth Night,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and recently played the titled role of “Macbeth.”

Hughes also performed in the one-act play, “The Old One, Two.”

Before that, he did a little bit of acting in college.

Hughes said he is attracted to acting because it offers an opportunity to “take on an entirely different character.”

Also, “the emotional exploration that can happen while trying to inhabit another character,” also interests him.

The performances will be held at 8 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday and Jan. 29, 30, 31, Feb. 5, 6, 7, 12 and 13. There will also be matinee performances at 2 p.m. Sunday, and Feb. 1 and 8.

On Thursdays, patrons can pay what they wish and for all other performances tickets cost $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students.

Friday, there will be a special gala and performance so tickets will cost $20.

The Santa Fe Playhouse is located at 142 East DeVargas St. in Santa Fe.

For more information, call 505-988-4262.