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Play festival in Cloquet will be rapid-fire theater

FAST*Fest” isn’t exactly fast — it involves close to 12 hours of theater. Rather, the “fast” part relates to the 20-minute time of each individual show.

The 20-minute play festival will go on all day todayat Cloquet’s Encore Performing Arts Center, home of the County Seat Theater Company, and everyone is invited.

County Seat General Manager Joel Soukkala said they have a record 13 theaters participating in this year’s event, and he’s hoping plenty of theater fans will take advantage of this unique opportunity as well.

“People often go to the Twin Cities for theater, so it will be a nice switch to get people coming up to Cloquet to see a show,” he said. “The neat thing about this is you’re going to get a number of different performances — comedy, drama, plus there’s a number of original works — even if you just go to one session,” he said.

Festival Director Larry Pint said FAST*Fest is a collaborative experience.

“After each performance there will be a short moderator-led colloquy where the audience can discuss what they thought ‘worked’ about the show and what they might have been done differently,” Pint said. “Much of the audience is made up of the members of the other performing companies, so it is generally a very receptive crowd. Many theater companies (and playwrights) use this festival to try out new material and get some constructive feedback.

Every production is limited to a minimal set, with only five minutes to set up, 20 minutes to perform, and five minutes to tear down.

Soukkala said the festival will be divided into three sessions today. The morning session starts at 9 a.m. with a choice of two workshops followed by two performances starting at 10 a.m. The two later shows might be better for audience members: a 1 p.m. afternoon session will feature six shows while the evening session (which starts at 7 p.m.) boasts five shows. Tickets are $15 each per session or $35 for the entire day and can be purchased at the door.

The companies participating range from children’s groups to very seasoned acting companies and hail from around the state — Twin Cities area, Rochester, Staples, Montgomery and Cloquet. They will perform works by Shakespeare, Neil Simon, David Mamet, David Ives and even one called “That Gas Station in Cloquet” by Jon Skaalen during the afternoon session.

“The host community has the opportunity to get a different perspective on theater through both the shorter format than they are probably used to and the interactive discussions,” Pint said.

For more information, call the County Seat Theater Company at (218) 878-0071 or go to