"By 5pm we had hit a high of excitement and energy. Considering we’d all been awake for nearly 34 hours… I couldn’t believe we had created something just a few hours prior." #FringeFestErie #24HourShow https://t.co/xlYHfzOdT7 pic.twitter.com/Nq89mpp7Gx
— Edge (@GannonEdge) February 17, 2018
The creation of a full-fledged production can range from weeks to years for professionals. Managing to make one in a 24-hour time period isn’t necessarily what anyone would call an easy feat. It’s long and strenuous 24 straight hours where naps don’t really accomplish much more than making you cranky when waking up after only 30 minutes of rest. This creation process, though unusual, provided an entertaining and exciting new way to produce a play. The 24-hour show is similar to how college students write a ten-page paper due the next by pulling an all-nighter. The feeling of urgency was there, but we did a lot more than just writing, and luckily we didn’t do it alone.
The 24 hour show, a new addition to Fringe Fest Erie 2018, began at 8pm on Friday, February 2nd. The goal was to write the show, cast the show, gather costumes, props, sounds and lights, build the set, rehearse and then perform the first and only performance at 8pm that Saturday. When taking on role as producer, and somewhat a co-director, I recalled the previous attempt at a 24- hour show. The cast prior didn’t enjoy it, to say the least, and Schuster never did it again because it was too stressful on those involved. Despite that caution, throwbacks and reboots are the new style! 24 hours here we come!
The night began with a brainstorming session. Right at 8, all 12 of us scrambled into the green room – located in the Schuster theater – and we wrote down a list of random words. From there we had 10 minutes to create our own little plot lines. We broke into groups of two, and came up with wacky plots, some featuring a magical moose on a quest for a Golden Thong, a dance party adventure while playing cricket and a man who was having the best day of his life because his boss let him eat pasta. The quick thinking led us to an overall theme of dark comedy and a desire to brainstorm ideas immediately.
Did I mention this wasn’t a whole group of theater majors? We had actors and tech regulars, accounting majors and education majors, and even an Irish exchange student.
While we originally planned to leave the script writing to those of the group more articulately inclined, we all became immersed in a singular idea brought up by Luke, Irish exchange student, of a man who could not open up a jar.
After an hour of throwing ideas back and forth, we finally determined this idea about a therapist.
Our idea was, a therapist consults with a variety of clients throughout the day. On this day, our particular character met with:
Steve Guy – a man who couldn’t tie his shoes
Holden On and Lettie Goer – a couple who literally could not hold onto anything or physically let go of anything
Connor O’Tooley – a man who couldn’t open anything
And an unnamed man who could not sit down.
Each had an underlying meaning, their physical issues hinted at their actual internal issues such as not being able to tie the knot, the inability to let go or hold onto anything, the fear of opening up and inability to settle down. We all really enjoyed the humor we could put into each scene. Ultimately, it took us until 1 am to completely write this script.
Finally, at 1, we decided to have a run thru of all the characters and determine how the therapist would fit in, as well as cast the show. I won’t reveal too much though, namely because I went to bed at 2AM and only witnessed a partial chunk of that process. I entrusted our mighty director – Molly – to hold down the fort as I gathered rest for my trip to Buffalo for a broadcaster’s job fair the next morning. Low and behold, when I woke up at 6 and checked on the crew, a new character had been added.
See, you may think writing dialogue for a 10-minute play is simple considering we have 30 minute conversations daily with friends, or listen to hour long lectures. Being surrounded by so many words and ideas should mean that writing a script that times to at least 40 minutes shouldn’t be hard, right? Well, we managed to write five minute dialogue scripts for each of our characters, so we were substantially under our 40 minute run time goal. See, when you’ve been so drained of creativity from already writing and entire script, and you haven’t been able to sleep that entire time either, you don’t really want to write more.
That’s where Birdie came in. Molly – a stage manager and tech girl through and through – had agreed to take on her first big acting roll. And, maybe I feel this way because she is one of my best friends but, she totally killed it.
So, who’s Birdie? She can’t say the “G” word. Literally, she can’t say goodbye. Internally she copes with a type of separation anxiety. Her role helped bring in the rest of the characters, and honestly was probably the most serious. Don’t get me wrong, all the roles played with a serious undertone of issues people deal with every day, but Birdie brought a heartbreaking and tear jerking problem that was scary to watch. Did I mention her entire role was adlibbed? And that Molly can cry on cue?
So what do you do from here? It’s 7AM, and we all have been up for more than 12 hours (really we woke up at 7 that morning prior, so we’ve already reached our 24 hour mark.)
You eat doughnuts and take an hour nap.
Well, the cast naps, I had to drive to Buffalo.
In case you were curious, the drive from Erie to Buffalo at 8am is about an hours and a half, the drive along i-90 is boring, and when you’ve had 4 hours of sleep prior, green lights look a lot like red lights and red lights look strangely similar to green lights. Some of the DJs at 90.5 WERG – Gannon’s radio station, and the Gannon Knight – Gannon’s student newspaper – joined me on an adventure to accurately play “red light/green light” while rehearsing how to approach – or beg – broadcast stations to give us internships.
While the drive up was, well, we made it. Don’t judge my driving skills. We didn’t know what exactly did people do at a job fair? How do you approach these scary authorities that could be holding our future in their hands? Is it like a college fair? It looked similar, tables with fancy cloths and SWAG items and brochures scattered throughout the conference center. But, colleges kind of seek students out more, whereas jobs require more effort on the searchers part. I don’t know who would teach this subject, but it goes right next to how to shake hands and talk on the phone, also known as the skills in life you never thought you’d need. After an hour in a hotel talking to broadcasters all around Buffalo and Rochester, one telling me the distance from Erie to Buffalo was too far and I’d be better of travelling to Cleveland – uh…..okay…. – sadly I did not obtain a job or internship, only a new experience. But back to Erie we went to finish helping a production that was on a strict time limit.
At this point, the set was complete, costumes ready, props on the table and our actors half dead. It was 1PM, which meant t-minus 7 hours till showtime. We were getting down to the nitty gritty of memorizing lines, printing out programs, adjusting blocking and creating light cues. Half the cast I ordered to take naps, the others were “encouraged” (or forced) to play a game to pump up energy.
By 5pm we had hit a high of excitement and energy. Considering we’d all be awake for nearly 34 hours, I was ready to sleep at my light board. But the cast went through the show and honestly, I couldn’t believe we had created something just a few hours prior. With an additional week this show could be more than perfect! We didn’t have a week though, we had 3 hours.
We joined together just before show. As a group we had managed to smoothly create an entire show in just 24 hours. And now, in hour 25, we would perform it. Eyes were droopy, bodies were weak, but the show must go on.
Our 8 audience members watched our simple piece, dark humor and the overall meaning. We had decided to call the show Therapy. It was the inside look on how everyone handles their problems. 40 minutes later the lights went dark and our cast bowed.
The next 24 hours were spent sleeping our Sunday away and trying not to catch the plague that had been festering on campus.
This may sound cheesy, but this group of individuals managed to spend an entire 24 hour period together without killing each other. We created a piece that struck deep chords with each of us.