24 Hour Play Festival

Katy Hillbo

Twenty-four hours. In this span of time, you could pull an all-nighter or watch a marathon. You could go to a day spa. You could catch and get over a 24-hour bug. Or you could do as the students involved with the 24-hour Play Festival did — write, direct and perform a play. Or six plays.
Starting at 7:30 p.m. last Friday, the 25 actors, six playwrights, six directors and six technicians met to begin their adventure, bearing props that would serve both to provide inspiration and somehow be incorporated into the plays.
Working in shifts, playwrights wrote plays, directors worked with the actors, actors memorized lines and technicians learned lighting cues. By 7:30 p.m. Saturday, six plays were ready for their debut.
The plays, though brief, were all complete, self-contained stories. They represented a broad range of experiences — from the heartbreaking account of a mother’s suicide and the impact of her life and death on her family to the exploits of a possessed teddy bear with a mouth like a sailor.
Not to mention senior Aram Monisoff in a rather memorable Halloween costume.
All of the productions were created with an air of mystery in order to keep the improvisational flavor of the event alive.
As producers Maria Giere and Jem Herron explained, “No writers can have preconceived ideas” about the plays that they write. “It all has to be out of the moment.”
The actors were also kept in the dark.
“The actors don’t find out whose play they’re in until they read [the playwright’s] name on the program,” said Herron.
Working against the clock, the students also had to contend with the effects of sleep deprivation. Although caffeine, pre-show naps and food were useful in keeping the students motivated, Giere and Herron joked that they had an even better solution: “We have Britney Spears’ new CD and a Britney remix.”
Giere and Herron are among a line of students who have worked to make the 24 Hour Play Festival a Lawrence tradition. The festival was started at Lawrence by Julie Silver of the class of ’07 after she saw it done at another school.
Other students, including Matt Murphy ’07 and senior Emily Meranda, have produced the festival in previous terms.
The festival is held every term with permission from the 24-Hour Plays group.
The 24-Hour Play Festival is not limited to thespians, however. The mission statement notes that it is “designed to be a highly accessible, collaborative experiment … [where] the experienced and inexperienced alike can join forces, unleash their raw creative power, and partake in all the immutable magic that we’ve come to know as theater.”
Giere and Herron agree. “No experience is needed, sometimes it’s even better [to have inexperienced people involved],” said Giere.
“Anybody can get involved — it’s not intimidating,” added Herron, explaining that, although the festival is conducted with standards in mind, there is less pressure on those involved. “We’re not expecting Tolstoy in 24 hours.”
If you have always wanted to try your hand at theater, the 24-Hour Play Festival is a great way to have the experience with a low level of commitment. As the festivals have consistently demonstrated, a lot can happen in 24 hours.