The “5 X 10 Plays” return to Tusculum for a six-show run; distinguished national playwrights to attend opening weekend

GREENEVILLE – Diverse themes, talented acting and excellent writing will be on display in Behan Arena Theatre at Tusculum University for six upcoming performances of the “5 X 10 Plays.”

Paige Mengel, right, and Laura Dupler rehearse a scene in “Swept Under the Rug,”

This year’s run is particularly meaningful to organizers because it is the 10th anniversary of this special production. To celebrate this milestone, Gary Garrison, an acclaimed playwright and former executive director of the Dramatists Guild of America, will hold a question-and-answer session on opening night, Friday, April 21.

That will be followed by a free reception. Every playwright who has penned a 5 X 10 play in previous years has been invited to return for the event. Other professional playwrights are finalizing plans to attend that night or be in town for the second show.

“I’ve been writing plays for 30 years, and I can’t recall ever having the opportunity to be in the same space with so many playwrights at once,” said Wayne Thomas, dean of Tusculum’s College of Civic and Liberal Arts. “It’s a great opportunity Theatre-at-Tusculum is offering during Old Oak Festival weekend. If you have even the slightest interest in theater or writing, you won’t want to miss this.”

Theatre-at-Tusculum presents the plays every other year in association with the university’s English and Languages Department. As the name suggests, the performance consists of five plays lasting about 10 minutes each.

Bringing additional pizzazz to the “5 X 10 Plays” this year, Theatre-at-Tusculum will have a red carpet entry and photo booth for the first two evening performances. Thomas will also have a special announcement following the second show.

Here is this year’s lineup of plays, writers, directors and actors:

Laura Dupler, who plays Melinda, rehearses a scene in “Swept Under the Rug,”

  • “The Oktavist,” written by Vince Gatton; directed by Erin Hensley Schultz, Tusculum’s costume director and a local theater veteran; and performed by Dodger Kirkland and Daniel Matheney
  • “The End of Summer,” written by Hank Kimmel; directed by Steve Schultz, a Tusculum employee and another local theater veteran; and performed by Melyna Doty and Wesley News
  • “Swept Under the Rug,” written by Tusculum student Josie Norton; directed by student Gracie Weems; and performed by Laura Dupler and Paige Mengel
  • “Modern Witches,” written by Meagan Stark, associate director of Student Support Services at Tusculum; directed by Frank Mengel, the university’s technical director; and performed by Taylor Bowman, Gracie Moore and Melody Tunnel
  • “The Letter,” written by Amy Zipperer; directed by Andy Ross, a film enthusiast, record collector and former member of the Capitol Theatre board of directors; and performed by Peyton Bergquist, Lavender Colmer, Zach Gass and Todd Wallin

Thomas said this year’s production will be even stronger through the presence of Garrison and the other established playwrights. Here are some details about them.

Gary Garrison

Gary Garrison

From 2007-2017, Garrison was the executive director of the Dramatists Guild, the national organization of playwrights, lyricists and composers headed by the nation’s most honored dramatists. He was also director of the Dramatists Guild Institute, a premier educational institution dedicated to the continued education of dramatists throughout the country.

Earlier in his career, Garrison was associate chair, artistic director and master teacher of playwriting in the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he produced over 45 different festivals of new work. He has written multiple plays, such as “The Mayworkers,” and his work has taken the stage at prestigious locations, such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In 2014, The Kennedy Center instituted the National Gary Garrison 10-Minute Play Award given to the best 10-minute play written by a university dramatist. Two years later, the Kennedy Center awarded him the Milan Stitt Outstanding Teacher of Playwriting in the country. In 2022, Tusculum instituted the Gary Garrison Award for 10-Minute Plays for dramatists throughout the country.

Vince Gatton

Gatton is a New York-based playwright and Drama Desk-nominated actor. His full-length play “Alexandria” won Sanguine Theatre Company’s Project Playwright Festival and was a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award. His short “Better” was one of the winners of the 2018 Samuel French OOB Festival. “The Oktavist” is the winner of Tusculum’s 2023 Gary Garrison Playwriting Award for 10-Minute Plays and will be featured in the 2023 issue of The Tusculum Review, the university’s international literary journal, which is scheduled for release in the fall.

Hank Kimmel

Paige Mengel, foreground, and Laura Dupler rehearse another scene in “Swept Under the Rug,”

Kimmel is an Atlanta-based playwright. He writes about religious strays, former athletes, distressed lawyers, and overwhelmed parents. This year, he will have two productions in Australia, a showcase of three tennis-related plays in California and the publication of two full-length plays by Next Stage Press. He is a founding member of Working Title Playwrights, serves on the Board of the Alliance for Jewish Theatre and is a longtime member of the Dramatists Guild. “The End of Summer” was the runner-up for Tusculum’s 2023 Gary Garrison Playwriting Award for 10-Minute Plays.

David Muschell

Muschell’s plays have received more than a dozen national and regional awards, including The Beverly Hills Theatre Guild’s Marilyn Hall Award and the Southern Playwrights Competition. His work has been produced by many theater companies and university theater departments, including Colorado Christian University in Denver and Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Thirteen of his plays have been published, and his most widely produced play, “Mixed Emotions,” has been seen in more than 23 states, Canada and Japan.

Amy Zipperer

Zipperer is an award-winning playwright whose short plays have been produced across the United States and Canada. Two of her short play collections, “Happily Never After” and “Characters, Inc.,” are available from Brooklyn Publishers. She is also a feature writer for BroadwayWorld magazine. In addition, she served as assistant drama editor for “Arts & Letters” at Georgia College and wrote one of the plays for the 2021 “5 X 10 Plays.” She is professor of creative writing and theatre at Georgia College.

Josie Norton, left, the writer, and Gracie Weems, the director, watch a rehearsal for “Swept Under the Rug,”

“Holding the ‘5 X 10 Plays’ has provided an exceptional opportunity to showcase the skills of our students and others making an imprint on theater,” Thomas said. “We are proud of the high standards we have established and are grateful to honor those who have contributed to this production’s success since we started. The fact so many distinguished playwrights are joining us as this year to mark another outstanding run is a testament to the quality of our theater and creative writing programs.”

Show dates and times for this year’s “5 X 10 Plays” are 7 p.m. Friday, April 21; Saturday, April 22, Friday, April 28; and Saturday, April 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 23, and Sunday, April 30. The cost is $15 for anyone 12-59, $12 for those 60 and older and $5 for anyone 12 and younger. Tickets can be purchased at

More information about the university is available at