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The Montana Repertory Theatre's play-reading series is stretching out this year. This year, it's been bumped up to 24-minute plays.

"I like to create cognitive dissonance for the writers," said Greg Johnson, the artistic director of the Montana Repertory Theatre. Their contributors were comfortable with 10-minute scripts from prior year's play slams and from the last year's 15-minute format.

The 24-minute running time is popular with both comedy and drama on television, although their sticking with the playwriting format. It does, however, allow playwrights to stretch out into a plot-driven mode compared to the 15-minute plays.

The first "4 by 4 Episode Slam" is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10, at the the Masquer Theater in the University of Montana's PAR/TV Center. A minimum donation of $5 is requested at the door. The next entries will be Nov. 19, March 11 and May 6.

One month prior to each reading date, the 12 writers in the pool were given a prompt, which for September’s edition was “bullies.”

Writers then have three weeks to write and present a 24-page manuscript to Montana Rep. The plays are anonymously adjudicated by UM staff and qualified readers. The Rep assigns directors and casts the four top-ranked scripts. This round, the selected writers are Elizabeth Bennett, Cathy Capps, Kathy Witkowsky and Maria Yost.

One-day rehearsals are held before the Sunday readings, when the audience gathers to celebrate the writers who were selected.

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