An evening of original 10-minute plays by Utah playwrights, the return of one of the region's most popular actors - Patrick Page - for a limited engagement at the Broadway Stage (see separate story in this section), the latest in a series of monthly dinner-theater performances by the Junior Shakespeare Company, and two community Halloween productions are among this week's stage openings.

- "UTAH SHORTS: TEN 10-MINUTE PLAYS," will be presented Oct. 25-Nov. 11 by TheatreWorks West at the Art Barn in Reservoir Park.The 10 plays, ranging from light comedy to poignant drama, are by nine Utah writers - some new at their craft, others experienced and familiar to many theater patrons. The playwrights are Rick Gould, Brad Henrie, Kate Lahey, Russ Lees, Laurel Randquist, Jennifer Richerson, Kathryn Roach, Aden Ross and Debora Threedy.

Just as the authors are a cross-section of Utah artists, the plays showcase a diversity of form and style - the humor of "Threading A Needle" and "Best Years of Our Lives," the dashing wit of "Lost Scene from Cyrano," the domestic drama of "Food Fights" and "The Waiting," the rhythmic beauty of "Feet," the pounding beat of "The Possibility of Precision at a Distance," the poignant charm of "Air Guitar" and the on-the-edge unpredictability of "Nightscapes" and "Gnostic Terrorism."

Among the newcomers whose plays were in the more than 50 works submitted in TheatreWorks West's competition is Westminster College senior Laurel Randquist.

She enjoyed reading and writing short stories as a high school student in her native Price and currently edits The Ellipsis, the college's literary magazine.

"I also write when the mood hits me. I've had fiction and poetry-writing classes at Westminster," Randquist told us during an interview on Thursday.

"The Waiting" is a two-person play about an older couple expecting a phone call from their son about the birth of their grandchild.

"It's a cross between comedy and drama," said Randquist. "When I wrote it, I didn't realize it was as funny as it was until I saw it being performed in rehearsals."

While the play is the first she has had staged, Randquist had previous experience with the 10-minute format during a playwriting class last spring taught by Gail McCulloch, who encouraged her students to write short plays in a variety of dramatic themes.

"This is probably easier than writing a full-length play - it depends on how many characters you have in your script," Randquist noted, adding that longer plays are most likely a series of 10-minute scenarios all strung together.

Her father - Robert Gilbert of Price - is probably more pleased than surprised about Laurel's expertise as a writer. He, too, attended Westminster and edited the school's literary magazine. He also acted with the Westminster Players.

After graduation, Randquist's big dream is to write the Great American Novel or, perhaps, become the next Edward Albee.

"But I'll probably go into publishing or editing," she said.

After interviewing one of the "Utah Shorts" fledgling writers, we talked briefly to one of Utah's most prolific and gifted playwrights - Aden Ross, who recently began working for Salt Lake Acting Company as its literary manager.

Ross' part of "Utah Shorts" is called "Feet."

Short play. Short title.

"Feet" took its first step a few years ago when Ross, during a cross-country drive, saw a man, a woman and a small child walking in the desert without so much as a backpack between them - just the clothes on their backs and 40 miles from the nearest town.

"I slowed down to see if they needed a ride, then saw that a truck driver behind me had stopped," she said. Looking back, she could see that the man did not want anyone to pick them up, so she drove on.

But the rest of her journey, Ross wondered about these three people. Why were they walking in the remote desert? And why did they refuse any help? Out of this brief experience, "Feet" took form.

In her play, Ross has a Vietnam veteran and a Southern woman confronting several issues - his fathering of her child, the fact that he was abandoned when he was a child, and his coming to terms with children being abandoned by other soldiers who served in Vietnam.

Writing a 10-minute play is similar to "the discipline of poetry or a short story," said Ross. The writer must pack all of the necessary dramatic elements into an extremely condensed space and time.

"This is the smallest of one-act plays," Ross said, adding that "this one wasn't difficult. It was dictated by the material."

Ross has some other projects in the works, including one just commissioned by SLAC about the Emily and Charlotte Bronte of "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" fame.

"They're the original dysfunctional family," said Ross, who is now immersed in researching the Brontes. The play could be mounted during SLAC's 1991-92 season.

The "Utah Shorts" productions will be directed by Vicki Pugmire, Barb Gandy, Fran Pruyn, Jean Roberts and Teresa Sanderson. The cast is an acting esemble comprised of the five directors and five men (Daniel Weinstein, Rodger Reynolds, Tyler Shaw, Jeff Owen and Jaime Lara).

Tickets for "Utah Shorts" are $8 on Thursdays and Sundays and $10 on Fridays and Saturdays, with discounts for students and senior citizens. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Sundays through Nov. 11.

The Art Barn is located at 54 Finch Lane between South Temple and First South, just west of the University of Utah campus.

Call 583-6520 for reservations and further information.

- THE JUNIOR SHAKESPEARE PLAYERS of Salt Lake will perform vignettes from Shakespearean works at Dudley's Restaurant, Layton, on Friday, Oct. 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

For dinner reservations, call 773-1000.

Under the direction of Frank and Jill Gerrish, the troup of teenage actors will present scenes from such works as "Macbeth," "A Comedy of Errors," "Taming of the Shrew" and "Romeo and Juliet."

The cast for this month's performances includes Tim Maness, Michelle Cordray, Mara Featherstone, Dan Beecher and Jessi Christiansen.

- "SEVEN WIVES FOR DRACULA," a half-hour play being staged in tandem with a spook alley ("Field of Screams"), will be presented on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25-27, at the Bluffdale City Hall, 14175 S. Redwood Road.

Performance times for the play, directed by Kenn Turner and sponsored by the Bluffdale Arts Council, are 7:30 p.m. nightly, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The spook alley is open from 6:30 until 10 p.m. all three evenings, and from 3 until 5 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $2 for both events. For further information, call the city hall at 254-2200.

- "A NIGHTMARE'S ILLUSION," written and directed by Christopher Strong, will be presented by the Layton Arts Council on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25-27, and Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 30 and 31, at 7:30 p.m. in the Layton High School Little Theater. Tickets are available in advance (for $2.50) at the Layton Surf 'n' Swim front desk or Major Chord music shop. Tickets at the door on the evenings of the performances will be $3.

- SUNDANCE THEATRE'S fall production of "Baby" has been extended through Thanksgiving weekend.

Performances are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 24 in the 140-seat screening room of the Sundance Institute at the Provo Canyon resort. All seats are $10 ($9 for senior citizens). For both dinner and theater reservations, call 225-4100. Weekend packages including theater, lodging and brunch are also available by calling 225-4107.