First Look: The 10 Minute Play Festival at the Buffalo Museum of Science

What do a mastodon mandible, a 19th  century Chinese headband, and Eurypterida (New York state’s official fossil) have in common? Two things, actually: they are part of the Buffalo Museum of Science’s permanent collection, and they are also the inspiration behind six new short plays written local playwrights for The 10 Minute Play Festival.  This year’s festival is Wednesday, October 24, beginning at 6:30pm, at the Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway, Buffalo.

The program is organized by The Playwrights of WNY, and it’s a rare opportunity for local playwrights to develop new work around community treasures from local museums and libraries. Past events featured works from the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, Buffalo History Museum, and Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Kathy Leacock, the Museum’s Director of Collections and Special Projects, chose representative items from the Museum’s geology, anthropology, entymology, and vertebrate collections, says Gabrielle Graham, the Museum’s Community Partnerships and Adult Program Manager. There’s even a botanical model designed by the legendary artist Paul Marchand who crafted the dioramas that were prominently displayed in the Museum for decades.  

“It’s a challenging task when someone has to craft a play using subject matter with an obscure, inanimate, object such as a death cap mushroom, or mastodon mandible,” says Jim Marzo, the coordinating playwright. “I guess you could call it art imitating art.”

Marzo says, “It was up to the playwright to select an artifact, and through their creativity and inspiration they drew from that artifact, to craft the 10 minute play.” 

Winifred Storms is one of the six playwrights selected to present her work this year. Her play, “No Time for Love,” was inspired by Eurypterida. ‘I was intrigued at first with the name,” she says. “It was discovered in abundance by none other than Lewis J. Bennett, owner of the Buffalo Cement Company and namesake of Bennett High School. Supposedly, while excavating a quarry here in Buffalo, Bennett’s workers kept discovering these little creatures embedded in the rock. Bennett himself brought these fossils to the Science Museum. The archeologists were thrilled because Bennett had accidentally discovered the most abundant, diverse, and well-preserved collection of these fossils in the world right in our backyard.”

The playwrights were also responsible for casting and directing their work, too. The plays will be performed as staged readings, with no sets or costumes or props. In addition to Storms’ submission,this year’s rundown is: “Idle Hands” by Jennifer Tromble; “Jiating (Family” by Karen MacDonald; “Other Council Fires” by Heather Akerman; “Milton & Augusto” by Michael Fanelli; and “Status: Vulnerable” by Martha Schermerhorn.

Admission to The 10 Minute Play Festival is free with regular Museum admission (ranging from $9 to $11, and free for Museum members.) Doors open at 6:30pm with a chance to view the selected artifacts, and the performances run from 7pm to 8pm. For more information, click here.