According to MN Shorts Festival founder Greg Abbott, he came up with the idea for a short play festival because he couldn’t find anything similar in the area. He needed to submit a play to a festival as part of a class he was taking at the Loft Literary Center in the Twin Cities, and the closest thing he could find was the (now defunct) Northfield Arts Guild’s Very Short Play Festival.
“It was a lot of fun when I went to it,” he recalled. “I thought if Northfield could pull it off, Mankato could.”
Abbott said the first year was slow, both in terms of submitted material and audience members. But by year two, the festival attracted more than 100 people to each of the event’s two nights. Since then, Abbott said, it “grew and grew and grew.”
There have been changes throughout the last 10 years. The festival has bounced back and forth between the Lincoln Community Center and Mankato West High School, where it will be this year. And Abbott found a kindred spirit in Travis Carpenter, the former creative director for Merely Players. The two of them formed a partnership where the Merely Players will provide most of the directors and actors for the plays. In addition, Merely Players vet Maggie Maes is running technical rehearsals this year for all the casts.
Abbott explained that the Merely Players will cast directors, who then have the option of choosing their own casts—or asking the theater company for help if necessary.
“In the past, the director would ask someone to be part of the play,” he said. “I think a lot of that still happens, but with Merely Players doing it, they cast the director. Then if the director is stuck, like if they can’t find a certain actor, they have enough contacts that they can find someone and line them up.”