You can never accuse the Short+Sweet festival of overstaying its welcome. The long-standing festival, which started in Sydney and is now hosted in 14 countries, is known as the biggest little festival in the world. Its “bite-sized” format has made an impact.
The Short+Sweet festival is made up of 10-minute segments of various arts categories – be it theatre, musical, stand-up comedy, song, dance and junior dance. In Malaysia, the festival celebrates its 10th anniversary in September. The festival, organised by the Actors Studio, will see the various Short+Sweet categories being rolled out at KLPac from Sept 6 to Oct 29, while PenangPac will host it from Nov 1 to 11.
“This year sees a record-breaking three weeks of theatre, showing that the enthusiasm for Short+Sweet is expanding at a rapid rate,” says Datuk Faridah Merican, the executive producer and festival director.
Short+Sweet will run for a total of 10 weeks, with over 500 artistes competing for top honours.
The first few weeks of the festival at KLPac will see the stand-up comedy, song, musical and junior dance categories in action before the theatre categories start on Oct 11. PenangPac will welcome the dance and theatre categories, starting Nov 1.
“We are including a junior dance category for dancers 16 and below to cater to young and aspiring dancers, particularly from dance schools,” she adds. “We would like to eventually increase the numbers for musicals, too. Malaysians love their musicals.”
Shirina Hamzah, principle and founder of Dancesteps, for example, often submits young dancers for the competition despite the festival’s much older competitors.
“There are no losers in Short+Sweet, because the festival celebrates talent, supports effort put in by participants, and promotes team spirit along with a sense of unity,” shares Shirina.
Short+Sweet has certainly come a long way from its small community of theatre enthusiasts in Sydney. More than 30 cities, including Melbourne, Chennai, Singapore, Manila and Hollywood, are part of the Short+Sweet network. In Hollywood, which is now entering its second year, a new short film category is being introduced.
Malaysia is no exception to the craze behind the festival.
“When Short+Sweet began, we had only one category – theatre in 2008, quickly followed by dance in 2009 and musical in 2010,” says Faridah.
“It grew from a duration of two to five weeks over a period of three years. The number of participants involved has also gradually increased from 300 to 500 in the span of five years.”
The festival runs in Penang, as well, where only theatre and dance exist as categories.
“The festival in Penang started much later than in KL, so there’s some catching up to do there,” she admits. “They go through exactly the same process as KL, including workshops, open call for entries, auditions, and they stand to win the same prizes too.”
This year, Short+Sweet received over 80 scripts from local writers, indicating just how popular and highly regarded the competition is in Malaysia.
Those on stage and behind the scenes alike will face the tremendous challenge of encompassing entire narratives into 10 minutes. Its unique format also ensures that an audience will walk in never knowing what to expect from a performance. As the acts are kept short and undeniably sweet, viewers are able to experience up to 12 different performances in one night.
“Writing a short musical isn’t necessarily an easy task. It needs to have a solid structure, a good plot, fleshed-out characters, strong music, and conflict and resolutions … all within 10 minutes. That’s easier said than done!” says Nick Choo, a music composer, who is a regular participant.
Unlike most other competitions, the audience, too, are present to play one of the most important roles. They participate in rewarding the performers by choosing their favourite act. Their votes are essential in determining the Audience Choice Award.
With the overwhelming response from local and few international playwrights and performers, participants must be carefully selected to compete. The team behind Short+Sweet worked tirelessly to ensure that new talents have the opportunity to shine in the competition.
“Each year, there is an open call for submission before the festival,” says Faridah.
“We started calling for entries in April 2017 after completing our Short+Sweet workshops. Talents ranging from comedians, singer-songwriters, composers, lyricists, music directors, musical performers, choreographers, dancers, playwrights, directors to actors register their interest to participate in the festival. The participants do not have to pay a fee to join the festival and, as such, they get the Short+Sweet experience almost for free and will be guided through the production process until their pieces are premiered at the festival.”
Participants, mostly aged 18 to 35 years, will compete for the opportunity to eventually perform at the Gala Finals, where they stand a chance to win the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Award for Creative Excellence. Artistes will also be competing for the Samantha Schubert Award, introduced last year in memory of the late actress. Industry experts will judge the winners of each category for these prizes.
For more info on the Short+Sweet Festival, visit shortandsweetmalaysia.blogspot.com or FB: Short+Sweet Malaysia. Tickets available at www.klpac.org or www.ticketpro.com.my.