More than 30 characters, 15 short plays, all appear on one bench in “Ten Minutes On a Bench.”

I’m so lucky to have people in my corner to test and develop my new plays. Ground UP Productions, the indie New York City company run by artistic director Kate Middleton and fellow alumni of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will present a reading of the latest draft of my new comedy Ten Minutes On a Bench on June 24 in Manhattan. Shelley Butler will direct.

A “vignette” play showing more than a dozen first dates between people who meet on a speed-dating app that allows them only ten minutes to get to know each other, the romantic comedy has grown into a two-act experience featuring more than 30 characters played by eight actors of varying ages.

Four men and four women play tracks showing characters is their 20s/30s, 30s/40s, 40s/50s, and above 60. The pairings throughout the play are meant to surprise. There are same- and opposite-sex pairings and room for all kinds of diverse casting in the future.

The June 24 reading features an all-new cast of artists since the first Ground UP reading of Ten Minutes On a Bench, which featured 12 actors directed by Scott Alan Evans in February 2024. A subsequent Florida Repertory Theater PlayLab reading (directed by Stuart Brown) in May 2024 featured a cast of six.

You can read Ten Minutes On a Bench at New Play Exchange or request a perusal copy through the playwright.

The new staged reading in Manhattan will feature Ann Arvia, Travis Doughty, Josh Evans, Kate Middleton, William Parry, Tom Patterson, Jen Sánchez and Maureen Silliman. Kodi Lynn Milburn is the stage manager. Learn more about director Shelley Butler.

This playwright note appears at the top of my script:

“There is an epidemic of loneliness in the human race. Nature eventually urges us to find contact, chemistry and companionship with others. In the early 21st century, some people seek all that through use of technology. The fictional dating service called Ten Minutes On a Bench is not a hookup app for sex; its target is relationship-minded people who want a conversation first. Communication, especially when there’s a ticking clock, is rarely straightforward. Even when you think you’re prepared for the briefest chat, there are surprising sharp turns, dead ends, detours and derailments. This play is a pulse-taking of all kinds of people ready (or not) for relationships. At great risk, they put themselves out in the world in an effort to cure our great epidemic. If a lasting connection doesn’t result, maybe the memory of a misfired exchange or an amiable moment — of grace, kindness, hurt, surprise and laughter — will sustain and inspire the yearners of this play to do better next time, keep looking, keep reaching and keep hoping until they’re no longer alone.”

Learn more about Ten Minutes On a Bench here.

Learn more about the programs of Ground UP Productions.