In Risk, a short play by Dianna Lewis, a young man contemplates flirting with a young woman and his fear of rejection, while the young woman ponders her parents’ romance and the ulterior motives of men. This of-the-moment, #MeToo slice of life is one of eight winning plays in this year’s edition of the Benchwarmers playwrighting contest, which is held annually by Santa Fe Playhouse. The plays are between five and 10 minutes long and revolve in some way around a bench, which is usually the only set piece. This year it functions as a couch, chairs at a bowling alley, the hood of a car, and, in more than one instance, a park bench. Thirty-five plays were submitted to the competition this year. They were judged by a four-person panel who did not know the identities of the authors.
“Initially, we’re just looking at the quality of the writing and the characters, not really thinking about whether the plays are comedic or dramatic,” says Annie Liu, the Playhouse’s lighting and audio-visual supervisor. Liu is co-directing Benchwarmers with David Carter, the technical and production manager.
“We put the playwriting first, and the themes, ideas, and genres are second,” Carter says. “One of the themes we’ve picked up on this year is about relationships, human interaction, and how we deal with the world and each other.”
Usually, the plays are submitted by adult writers, but this year’s selections include Dinosaurs, by 14-year-old Ariana Roybal, a quirky piece about an old married couple that will run in the first half of the evening, along with the other “G-rated” material, the directors say. The second half of the evening features the darker plays, some of which deal with suicide and sexual violence. There was such a direct split in the tone of the plays that the directors decided to give families with younger children the option of leaving at intermission — though they hope mature audiences stay for the whole show.
Benchwarmers opens at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Santa Fe Playhouse (142 E. De Vargas St.) and continues through Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m.Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $15-$25 except for Nov. 9 gala performance ($30); 505-988-4262, santafeplayhouse.org.