Mark Zuschlag ’15 and Sarah Carroll ’15 auditioned for the 24 Hour Play Festival at 8 p.m. on Saturday. By 8 p.m. on Sunday night, they were married and seeking advice from Brazilian and hippie marriage counselors.
The 24 Hour Play Festival, sponsored by Alpha Psi Omega, the theater honor fraternity, began on Saturday with auditions, followed by casting, writing and rehearsals which began as early as 8 a.m. on Sunday. Students produced six plays, varying wildly in their plots, characters and themes, but connected in subtle ways.
The beginnings and ends of the performances flowed seamlessly — the final line of each play became the first line of the following play. Within the two parameters set and the actors cast the previous night, writers were free to craft their plays.
Coleen Herbert ’14 collaborated with Colleen Patterson ’14 in order to write their play, “Dark. Musical. Comedy.”
“As we began to toss more ideas around, the lines became more flexible; in no time they became generative,” Herbert said. “Colleen and I started the creative process by throwing words around, discussing ideas and interests, and talking about the strengths of our cast. When we started to gather a cohesive plot, we drew a plotline. From there, the play essentially wrote itself.”
Working in Herbert’s dorm room, the pair wrote furiously until 6:30 a.m. on Sunday when they sent the final version to the play’s director, Kevin Place ’14.
Other writers established strategies to cope with writing throughout the night. Logan Wamsley ’12 and Joshua Burns ’12 alternated between writing and napping in 30 minute increments. Burns ended up taking the first nap of the night, while still trying to think of ways to incorporate their assigned first line: “You’ve never done your own laundry.”
“The nap didn’t end up happening because I got caught up in watching game play commentaries on my brother’s YouTube Channel — and I was going to have a tough time incorporating laundry into our script,” Burns said. “When Logan woke me up from my YouTube commentary coma, he had already integrated the line into a rich bedroom drama explored through a laptop drama about ambiguous gender identities and the search for truly loving parents.”
Burns and Wamsley submitted their play by 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, eager to hear feedback from their directors. Burns admitted that working with a partner is like playing Minesweeper; As each writer becomes attached to their ideas or mines, they become protective of their creation. But working in pairs has it’s benefits — no one encounters writer’s block.
“With two writers, there can’t really be a hang-up because hang-ups happen when you’re alone and you lose confidence in an idea,” Burns said. “But when you’ve always got that other writer in the room, twiddling their fingers with excitement because they’ve got a particular idea to share; then there are no hang ups, no loss in momentum. You always got another in the barrel. Stir your partner from his nap — you got a freshened ally.”
With the plays submitted, directors gathered up the actors to begin rehearsals. Some of the actors had participated in other plays at the College before, but for new students, the festival was their first opportunity to continue their passion for acting in college.
“I was going to go into withdrawal if I didn’t join the theater program,” Chris Papas ’15 said. “This festival was interesting. I was glad that it went as well as I thought it would and I’m glad I tried it out.”
For returning students, the festival promised another chance to over-book their day with acting. Bobby Kogan ’12 participated the previous year and decided to return for another year.
“Out of all the festival, I really love the first read-through, because it’s a whole new creation,” Kogan said. “It’s a magical feeling to be some of the first people to act in that play.”
The actors and directors worked all day on Sunday to memorize and perform the plays. Fitting rehearsals into one day proved to be intense, but for many of the actors, the shortened time made the event more exciting.
“After an intense 24 hours, it’ll be nice to just perform it,” Skyler Garrison ’15 said. “But this event just skips the crap and gets to the exciting part of theater.”
Sunday at 8 p.m., the groups gathered to perform the six plays in front of a packed audience.
“Everything about the event was new for everyone,” Kogan said. “There’s an understanding between the audience and the actors. It’s our first time performing a brand-new creation and people really understand that.”
For the writers, Sunday evening was the first opportunity for them to see their creations take shape.
“It surpassed all my expectations,” Herbert said. “[Colleen Patterson and I] were nervous to see it performed, but as soon as the opening lines were heard, I knew that everything was going to be all right.”
Only 24 hours before, the writers and directors had selected their cast and received the opening and ending lines for their plays. Despite the fears that plagued some writers while crafting their scripts, the finished products surpassed any expectations.
“It’s always more than you hope,” Burns said. “The actors, the directors, your writing partner — they all blow you away, and you’re left asking, ‘Did I make myself so clear that they could run off with my idea and take it to places that I didn’t think of going?’”
Participants condensed the normally lengthy routines of theater into only a couple of hours. Diverting from the regular track of theater, the festival allowed participants to experience theater at the College in a very unique, fast-paced and thrilling environment.
“The festival is a strange beast because when it is happening, it’s nothing more than making connections with your cast, performing for each other, but when it’s over, everyone just goes their separate ways,” Burns said. “I mean, if you didn’t save your program, you might not even have known it happened.”