24 Hours to Immediate Theatre

“Here’s your script, here’re your actors, go!” said Casey York ’10, describing the 24-hour Play Festival from a director’s point of view. York, the co-production manager for this year’s festival, began running the festival last year. Her instructions are aptly reminiscent of the lines spoken in anticipation of a race. Open to all students, the festival encompasses a 24-hour window in which participants must create and perform a 10-minute play from scratch.

The clock started ticking at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Participants met in the Makepeace Room in Greylock and were arbitrarily broken into five groups comprising one director, two actors and a writer. After a brief group meeting and discussion of the play, the directors and actors left while the writers settled in for the night to write the script for the play. In addition to this already daunting task, the writers needed to include three details in the script: a severed head as a prop; a sentence including the words “orc,” “meander” and “overlapping”; and a rhyme. With the script due in 12 hours, the writers undertook a classic all-nighter. The room was silent except for the striking of keys and the occasional string of profanities. Energy drinks, caffeine and the occasional cigarette fueled the creative process and kept the writers awake.

Early in the morning, the exhausted writers handed over the creative license of interpreting the play to the next in the relay, the directors and actors. Like the writers, the directors had additional challenges, which involved including a movement sequence and a 10-second silence within their plays.

When tech was added to the mix at 3 p.m., the stage was stocked with the props for all the plays as the fictional settings of the five different plays collided. The flash of multicolored lights plunged the actors and directors in and out of darkness as they rearranged the set for the next production. Costumes were pulled down and wrapped around in fluid motions. The ever-changing stage lighting and the quick transition of actors mirrored the fluidity of the plays at this point.

At 7 p.m. Sunday night, the performances began. Each group had been given a different genre, ranging from royal-court drama to sci-fi comedy. The audience watched eagerly for the aforementioned constraints. Every group used the constraints differently and creatively, resulting in remarkable variety.

“Secondhead Smoke,” written by Annie Eddy ’13 and directed by Michaela Morton ’12, used the severed head as a stage prop created by a melodramatic teenage girl. In “http://

The press for time and the challenging constraints put on the writers and directors showcased the creativity and adaptability of all participants. In “Secondhead Smoke,” the movement scene, in which Lucy’s crush decides to fence an imaginary rival using a severed hand prop as his weapon, reinforces the character as being whimsical and somewhat oblivious. “http://

The 24-hour time constraint proved stressful for almost everyone involved in the festival, making one wonder why anyone would happily volunteer to stay awake all night to churn out a script or limit oneself to a few hours to memorize and perfect a script. But the immediate and inflexible deadline seemed to be an incentive for all participants. The writers especially felt that the timeline provided an extra push to get a piece of work done. There are no excuses. “It’s gotta happen,” said David Phillips ’12 as he mulled over potential rhyme schemes to write into his work. Writers Michael and Segan said that their incentive was “instant gratification.” As Segan explained, “It’s a chance to see your work on stage almost instantly.”

Similarly, the time constraint reaped benefits for the actors and the directors, providing an environment which welcomes newcomers to the theater as well as veterans. Despite the added stress, the overall time commitment to the play was concentrated and brief in comparison to other productions which can rehearse for months. Some viewed the 24-hour constraint as an exciting challenge. “I’ve directed before, but I usually have a longer time,” Chiang said. “I wanted to push myself outside of my normal boundaries.”

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