Theater group finds success in the offbeat
October 12, 2005

While most suburban theater companies stick with big-name family fare, an Apple Valley organization is probing the fringes of original stagecraft.

The Chameleon Theatre Circle is accepting submissions of unproduced 10-minute scripts, one-acts and even full-length plays for its 7th annual New Play Festival.

The contest has grown dramatically over the years. Chameleon received only three plays for its first contest, said secretary Andi Billig. Last year, it got 300.

Chameleon's success comes at a time when many theater companies across the country are scaling back their contests.

Some only are accepting quick 10-minute scripts, according to Chameleon playwright-in-residence Rick Raasch.

Billig credits the Internet for Chameleon's success.

The theater has had a website since its inception in 1998. It advertises its contests on the 'Net and receives submissions from far beyond the Twin Cities and even the United States.

The theater received an inquiry this year from a writer in Russia who wanted to know how to get his work translated. Only a handful of plays this year are from south suburban writers, Billig said.

Raasch, a computer network administrator by day, started writing for Chameleon after he stumbled across its website.

He has since penned numerous scripts, including a contest winner that the company produced last year.

Considering the past winners and Chameleon's focus on daring and original work, it seems likely the plays will be creative. Raasch's winning work was a critique on art titled "Love's Shadow On Snow," in which the audience sat along the perimeter of the stage, facing the seats.

What makes a winning play?

"It's that magic thing that I think all playwrights are looking for, to be provocative and entertaining at the same time," Raasch said.

"And I guess I can't speak for all playwrights but I can't imagine a theater that chooses one of those things over the other is going to be any good."

All winners receive a small cash prize and a reading at the New Play Festival in February.

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