The closest thing I can think of to telling a story in 10 minutes is a Saturday Night Live skit, I tell Ross DeGraw and Sayra Player. They’re the artistic directors for The Collective NY, a theater company co-founded by Amy Schumer, and they’ve been working tirelessly to produce C:10, a series of 14 brand new, 10-minute plays.
The series, currently at the Royal Family Performing Arts Spaces on W 46th Street, isn’t quite SNL. There are no alien abductions or Target ladies. The three sets of plays, called “Capture,” “Bound” and “Escape,” highlight issues from concussions in the NFL, to abortion, to white supremacy. “We didn’t choose to tackle these, these topics chose to be told,” DeGraw says. “We bring in plays from our writers that weren’t specifically written for us or for this time, but were written out of their soul, their heart, what was motivating them.”
Bound’s NFL series, called “Burnt,” features ex-Seattle Seahawk Jimmy Gary Jr. playing a football player who’s gone to visit his former teammate, played by Man vs. Food star Casey Webb. It becomes clear that Webb’s character is suffering from a mental illness as a result of his NFL career, and the powerful scene details what home life is like for a former athlete. “We don’t shy away from the hard-hitting topics,” DeGraw says. “I personally don’t think that the theater tries to teach anybody anything, but it just tries to illuminate what’s happening. If you’re fighting a political battle or personal battle or your fighting a romantic battle and you’re in the trenches, what the theater does is allow us to step back and see our world and come to conclusions based on that, from a safe distance.”
Other plays in the Bound series cover pyramid schemes, actors exploiting the homeless, gun control and mental health, and each vignette features a new set of actors and actresses. Many of them have been involved in Inside Amy Schumer in some capacity–largely acting in the comedy special–proving what DeGraw and Player describe to me as a sense of community. Everyone in The Collective NY looks out for each other.
Founded in 2007 by Schumer and actor Kevin Kane, The Collective NY has grown to become an ensemble of about 60 people. “People who are regulars on TV all the time are doing a 10-minute play–you don’t see that very often, except for that they have something at stake in the company and they know what it is in the end,” Player says.
Player isn’t paid to be an artistic director of C:10, but has been involved for seven years because she believes in the cause. Many productions have been made into full-length plays and short films, and Player believes in the community The Collective NY selects. “They are real seeds of creation, that I feel good helping nurture,” she says.
C:10 runs at the Royal Family Performing Arts Spaces through December 16, with multiple performances nightly from Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets for Capture, Bound or Escape are $25 each, or $15 with purchase of two or more performances.