FIVE Newcastle-produced plays will be staged in the 2013 Short+Sweet Sydney Festival that begins today, despite the lack of a Newcastle Short+Sweet event in the past 12 months.
Newcastle writers, directors and actors who were involved in the inaugural Newcastle Short+Sweet in 2010 and the even more successful follow-up in late 2011, were determined not to let the short-play festival die in their city after key sponsor Newcastle City Council withdrew its funding.
Moves by Livesites, the other major organisation behind the festival, to stage it again in 2012 did not produce the desired result, so theatre personnel decided to target the Sydney event.
This followed the success of Newcastle plays in last year's Sydney Short+Sweet.
Sydney officials initially offered places in their January-to-March 2012 festival to the top two works in the Newcastle 2011 Short+Sweet. But after seeing the quality of the 10 Newcastle works, they increased the number of places to four.
The Sydney Short+Sweet Festival has more than 160 entries each year, from Short+Sweet events held throughout Australia and many other nations.
The Short+Sweet concept began in Sydney 12 years ago and it is viewed internationally as the Academy Awards of the short-plays movement. Up against this global competition, two of the Newcastle plays in the 2012 Sydney staging had notable success.
Writer Mark Konik's From a Great Height was one of 12 plays that made it to the grand final, with director Keane Williams winning the best director award.
And Tristram Baumber's That's Confidence, directed by Natasha Watson, reached the wildcards section final. Baumber and Watson are again involved with plays that have been accepted for staging in Sydney, as are writer Sally Davies and director John Wood, whose Just the Ticket was another of last year's Newcastle entries.
Plays accepted for Short+Sweet competitions must be no longer than 10 minutes, placing pressure on those involved to tell a story succinctly and entertainingly.
Baumber has directed his own play, The House on Lawson Street, in which the central character, Lola, is described by the writer as "possibly the scariest housemate in the world". Carmen Ormeno plays Lola, with Tara Gallop-Brennan and Sam Davies as the people who unwittingly become involved with her.
Watson directs Chance Encounters, a comedy by John Tilbrook about a couple with relationship issues whose attention is caught - while they are in a hotel bar - by strangers who seem to be getting along famously. The cast includes Kay Gwynne, Jack Gow, Tara Gallop-Brennan and Kay Geissler.
Sally Davies and John Wood are again teamed for the staging of her Snapped, a drama that includes a share of laughs as it shows how a photo taken on a night out and put on social media affects the lives and relationships of two girls and two guys. Rosie Barron, Brooke Lidbury and Sam Conway are the actors.
Jo Ford, who played a wordless woman always on the move in last year's From a Great Height, again shows in People Strings (a play she has written, directed and appears in) how much fun can be produced without dialogue (though there are a couple of amusing songs). She and Sam Davies play a couple whose relationship is influenced by a curious passer-by (Hilary Park).
In Everybody Loves Me, written by Rosa Christian and directed by David Fenwick, an enthusiastic aged-care worker (Jack Gow) warmly welcomes his newest patient (played by Fenwick), only to find that the person has a very interesting past.
Three other plays in the Sydney Short+Sweet have Newcastle connections.
Newcastle director Melinda Latsos, who recently directed workshop pieces for a Sydney theatre group, was asked by its members to stage a play, Coma Sutra, about a man's love for his girlfriend in a coma.
Mark Konik, the Newcastle-born writer of From a Great Height, now works in Canberra, and his play, A White Elephant, is being staged by an ACT group.
And Newcastle writer Elena Terol Sabino's The Teacher is being staged by a Sydney company.
The teams staging the five Newcastle productions are hopeful that at least one performance of the works will be held in their home town after the Sydney festival concludes on March 23.
The heats of the Sydney Short+Sweet are being held over eight weeks at King Street Theatre, Newtown, with 11 plays in each program. Bookings: trybooking.com.
The Sidetrack Theatre at Marrickville will house the people's choice showcase from March 6 to 10 and the wildcards finals from March 9 to 10, with the grand finals at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale, on March 22 and 23.