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Why You Should Go See 'The Tens'

Every year, Actors Theatre of Louisville produces a slate of ten-minute plays featuring the members of the acting apprentice company. Many of the plays are directed by directing interns, and literary interns serve as dramaturgs, too. The plays are selected from submissions to the annual National Ten-Minute Play Contest, some of which go on to be produced for the final weekend of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Descriptions of the plays are available on the Actors Theatre website. Performances are in the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Jan. 15-18. Curtain times are later than most productions, with most shows starting at 8:30 p.m. Shows are free, but ticket reservations are required. With so many interesting productions happening around town just this week, including Actors' own "The Whipping Man" (read my review), why should you make time to see the apprentices act in a series of short new plays? Because these young actors are going places. Most of the season, they're running crew for the mainstage productions, serving as understudies who might not ever get the opportunity to step in, and toiling after-hours on their solo and ensemble projects while taking classes and learning the ropes of the professional theater business.But they won't be understudies forever, and part of the fun of "The Tens" is scouting which actors already seem poised to take on lead roles. Though they produce a series of public performances in the fall, "The Tens" is really their big debut as an acting company, and a great first look at them outside of their crew jumpsuits. You'll see them again in the annual Humana Festival apprentice showcase, too. This year's offering, "Sleep Rock Thy Brain," is a particularly intriguing project.Alex Hernandez, who starred in Actors' 2012 stand-out wrestling drama, Kristoffer Diaz's "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" was a member of the 2010-11 apprentice company, and his apprentice performances made it clear he was on the verge of a big break. The same apprentice class graduated Jordan Brodess, who turned in an excellent supporting role in Courtney Baron's "Eat Your Heart Out" (Humana Festival 2012). Marianna McClellan's artistic maturity was evident in her performance in last year's "The Tens," and she followed it up with a starring role as Lucy in this year's production of "Dracula," where you can also see the talents of former acting apprentice Marc Bovino on full display as the madman Renfield.Going back a few years, apprentice company alumna Jessica Wortham, who just finished a multi-year run as Ralphie's mother in "A Christmas Story," has a thriving national career. That same late-Nineties era gave us Classic Stage Company associate artistic director Tony Speciale, a former acting apprentice who returned to Louisville to direct "Romeo and Juliet" at the start of this season. On the directing side, new associate artistic director Meredith McDonough got her start in the business as a directing intern. And former directing intern Lila Neugebauer is now a sought-after freelance director, directing, among many other productions, the West Coast premiere of Annie Baker's "The Aliens" (check out stories about Neugebauer on Broadway World). She'll return to Actors to direct "O Guru Guru Guru or why I won't go to yoga with you" by Mallery Avidon in the upcoming Humana Festival.And these are just a few recent success stories off the top of my head. The theater business, like most, is built on relationships, and every year Actors Theatre nurtures a class of emerging artists who form a (hopefully) lifelong relationship with Louisville, no matter where they end up in the future. If you enjoy following an artist's career from the beginning, "The Tens" is an excellent starting point.