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‘ShortLived’ playwriting contest off to great start

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Andrew Chung and Marissa Skudlarek won the crowd over in “All the Worlds are Stages” in Round 1 of “ShortLived! VI” at PianoFight. (Courtesy PianoFight)

If the remaining five rounds of PianoFight’s playwriting contest are as entertaining and provocative as what hit the stage on the first week, Bay Area theater lovers are in for a real summer of fun.

Producer Rob Ready, artistic director at the Tenderloin independent arts venue presenting “ShortLived VI” — which got off to a fantastic start last week — calls the show “the largest audience-judged theater competition in the country, with over 100 artists creating 36 short plays.”

A $5,000 prize comes courtesy Zendesk, the friendly neighborhood software company.

On week one, “ShortLived” certainly seemed to be fulfilling what Ready said was its mission to offer “new work by new artists while engaging as much of the community as possible in one show.”

The lineup of five socially relevant comedies (with real laughs) and one thoughtful drama engaged the young (for a theater crowd) audience throughout.

With tiny pencils and green scorecards in hand, folks were primed for the production, thanks to the nicely-priced beer from the lobby bar.

Still, alcohol was not needed to get through the zippy show, which opened with Matt Ginsburg’s “Eight Is Great,” an amusing and appealingly low-key takedown on the banking industry’s predatory practices.

Next up was “Would You Like the Tour?,” Danica Jayne Burt’s riotously original sketch in which a young woman’s first visit to her hot date’s apartment veers wildly from what she anticipated.

The funny “A Baker’s Dozen” by Bridgette Dutta Portman follows the travails of a Christian couple with 13 kids seeking TV reality show fame, but foiled by their oldest daughter who knows about contraception; while Jake Arky’s “Knives and Spoons” is a rude, humorous, sexy, insightful (and inciting) rumination on gender and power in the workplace.

“The Unforgiven,” by Alan Olejniczak, begins as a strange meeting between a young woman and older man in a coffee shop, and powerfully builds dramatic tension as their strained conversation uncovers how life-changing events have joined them together forever.

The evening’s crowd pleaser — and, unsurprisingly, winner of the Round 1 competition, was Ruben Grijalva’s droll “All the Worlds are Stages,” an identity-bending cosplay comedy to which the audience clearly could relate.

Rounds 2 through 6 continue throughout July, and finals, which include top vote getters each week (and two wild cards earning the next highest point total) take place Aug. 3-5.

ShortLived VI

Presented by PianoFight, Zendesk
Where: 144 Taylor St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; regular competition ends July 22
Tickets: $20 to $40
Contact: www.pianofight.com
Note: Finals are at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 and Aug. 5, and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Aug. 4.

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