In my limited experience, the words "One Acts" on a postcard or marquee is a death knell. My theory, at least in regards to Los Angeles, is that and evening of One Acts = "Actor Showcase", that dreaded beast that virtually guarantees an evening of egos on parade and what my old acting prof called "emotional masturbation".
Yet I believe that the production of short plays is vital to the health of a company, and in particular a Theatre Tribe. The trouble is, an evening of one acts is rarely done correctly or for the right reasons.
I haven't had a successful model to point to and say "like that" in order to better illustrate my vision for short plays. Now I do.
John Kricfalusi is a curmudgeonly cuss who certainly has some opinions. You probably know him best as the creator of Red & Stimpy, the wildly anarchistic "children's" cartoon. He's also a bit of a historian of animation, and blogs frequently at www.johnkstuff.blogspot.com. Recently he began a series of posts on the subject of the whys and wherefores of cartoon shorts:
Shorts Program Goals Headings
To Discover Talent
To Find A Director with Experience as Well as Raw Talent
To Surround the Director with like minded supporting talent
TO DEVELOP AN EFFICIENT PRODUCTION SYSTEM that allows the talent to flourish
TO LEARN FROM MISTAKES AND SUCCESSES
To Give Cartoonists Real Experience
To Bring Back Apprentice System and develop the talent
Obviously, there's not a 1:1 comparison to be made between animation and live theatre. But I believe what John K is outlining may serve as a jumping off point to define a useful purpose for the production of short plays.
So what do YOU think? Should a theatre company do an evening of one acts simply because they're cheap to produce, or should we strive to use the short form as a laboratory? To throw stuff out there and see what sticks? And to what extent should we demand the audience contribute to the process (comment cards, Q&A sessions, etc.)?