Over the weekend, several artists gathered to compose, produce, direct and perform a play in a mere 24 hours. This is an annual event at Newman known as the “24-Hour Theatre Project.”
As Director of Theatre Mark Mannette explained, “(On Friday) at 6 p.m., the teams are chosen. At 8 p.m., the 24 hours begin with the writers writing their plays. At 8 a.m. (on Saturday), the directors and actors arrive to begin rehearsing the plays. At 8 p.m., after just 24 hours, the performance begins.”
It is an exhausting yet exhilarating process that provides a team of artists with the complete creative control of a dramatic production from start to finish.
This year, there were three teams, meaning that three 10-minute plays were created and staged on the spot. Some of the artists involved with the plays reflected on their experiences with the event, as well as how their pieces developed.
Keean Bush, a senior majoring in theater, was one of the playwrights this year. While he has taken on all three roles (playwright, director and actor) over the course of his time at Newman, he really enjoyed writing this year as the challenge of trying to come up with a plot and setting organically within the bounds of the prompt can really bring out some unique elements.
Bush also briefly explained the premise of his story.
“My play was about a woman named Uriah, and because my team drew sci-fi, I (set) it in the future, so she escaped a plague on Pluto that wiped out the colony. She finds love in a woman named Alex and has to deal with the aftermath of the experience she went through.”
He also mentioned what his fellow playwrights came up with.
“The other plays were quite different from mine, and from each other. Cole (Schnieder’s) play was about a man and his wife living in a bunker after the apparent end of the world and the struggles they faced. (Austin Schwarts’) play was a spoof of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”
Schnieders, an English major who is also in his senior year, appreciated the challenging timeframe of the project.
“So this was my second year doing the process, and I think what’s most exciting about it is that you have such limited time. Your actors and directors expect to have a script ready for them at 8 a.m. so that they can start rehearsing right away.”
This quick deadline fuels the spirits of the playwrights just as the brief rehearsal time motivates the director, actors and techies.
“You would think that having 12 hours would be a restraint, but it is actually very freeing. There is no wrong answer. In this 12-hour period, I just have to write, and write freely.”
Time’s arrow, typically the great burden of productivity, becomes most liberating and even exciting to those working on the project. They find themselves using every minute they have to shape and mold the piece into what they collectively envisioned up until they step out in front of an audience.
“I don’t even think it was done until it was performed,” Schnieders remarked.
Schnieders said the project celebrates art in its rawest form.
“You have your idea, your jam session — you turn it into something, you revise it, you edit it, you put in the work, revise some more, and finally, you push it out into the world as your creative process.”