Like many emerging companies, Theatre Odyssey has spent its first eight years bouncing from one performance space to another.
With this year’s move to the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, leaders say they are coming of age and hopefully launching a more permanent home for Odyssey’s annual Ten-Minute Play Festival.
The company, which was established in 2006 by some local actors and playwrights, focuses on producing new works by area writers. That effort continues with its 2014 festival, set for Thursday through May 4.
Eight area writers, including several who have been frequently produced by Theatre Odyssey, will be presented along with the winner of the second Student Ten-Minute Playwriting Festival.
“Our move into the Cook is a huge one for the company and an appropriate one,” said Tom Aposporos, one of the founders of Theatre Odyssey.
It’s the largest space the company has used to produce its annual festival, which this year will be presented for five performances. Three adjudicators -- actors Ann Morrison and James Clarke and Herald-Tribune theater critic Jay Handelman -- will pick a winning play during the weekend.
Aposporos said the larger venue is appropriate for a company that is launching work that is being produced in other theaters and published.
In 2008, the New York publisher Smith and Kraus included two plays each by Sylvia Reed and Larry Hamm, another Odyssey co-founder, in one of its volumes of short plays. Theatre Odyssey has since published two volumes of all the other winning plays covering 2006-2013.
Reed is represented again in this year’s Ten-Minute Play Festival with her comical look at a first date, “Smart Bra.” It is part of a program that includes “A Bottle of Vodka” by Connie Schindewolf, Marvin Albert’s “Fancy Seeing You Here,” Bernie Yanelli’s “For Art’s Sake,” Dale Moore’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Verna Safran’s “Just Fooling,” Arthur Keyser’s “School for Wives” and Ron Pantello’s “Visiting Grandpa.” Joseph Grosso, a student at Lakewood Ranch High School, is the student winner for his play “Elevate My Life.”
Several of the writers have had works produced in past years by Theatre Odyssey. Yanelli, who started writing short and full-length scripts about eight years ago, has had five short plays produced by the group.
“The standards at Theatre Odyssey have been very high,” Yanelli said, “and I’ve learned a lot through directors like Carole Kleinberg. She did my 10-minute play “Not Our Time,” which I later turned into a full-length play.”
Yanelli said the discipline of covering a beginning, a middle and an end in 10 minutes teaches writers a “lot of discipline. It’s tough to do, but I think it makes you better.”
Yanelli also is working on a full-length play that was recently presented in New York in a staged reading with an eye toward a future professional production, possibly off-Broadway. The play “Too Close to the Shore,” about Alexander Hamilton, is a revised version of his play “Undaunted,” which won the Players Theatre new play series in 2010.
Aposporos said writers like Yanelli give Theatre Odyssey its purpose.
“These 10-minute plays are a great exercise for playwrights and in many cases, I have seen these 10-minute plays become full-length plays. It is great to see how they present an emotional story arc in a short period of time.”
This year’s productions are directed by Bob Trisolini, Richard LaVene, Roz Cramer, Carole Kleinberg and Preston Boyd, and feature such familiar area actors as Donna Gerdes, Jenny Aldrich, Betty Robinson, Don Walker, Ren Pearson, Linda MacCluggage and Amanda Heisey.
Theatre Odyssey’s Ten-Minute Play Festival will be presented at 8 p.m. May 1-3 and 2 p.m. May 3-4 at the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $18, $5 for students. For more information: 799-7224; theatreodyssey.org