Somewhere between a meticulously planned, thoroughly rehearsed stage play and the frantic insanity of improvisational theater lies the twilight zone of “The 24 Hour Plays.”
At 8 p.m. Tuesday, a diverse selection of some of Nevada County’s most talented, promising and accomplished writers, directors and actors — not to mention backstage crew — will challenge each other’s creativity and ability to perform under pressure.
By 7 p.m. Wednesday, the curtain will go up on six original plays that did not exist when the group met the night before.
All proceeds will go to benefit the Miners Foundry Cultural Center.
Theatre from scratch
When they meet Tuesday night, none of the writers will know what they’ll write, none of the directors will know which play they’ll direct, none of the actors will know whom they will play, and none of the stage crew will know the props, set, lighting, sound effects, costumes or whatever they’ll be expected to manage.
The only thing that exists Tuesday night is the concept:
• At the initial meeting, just to blow away anyone’s preconceived notions, the producer introduces a theme for plays.
• Next, the actors (and a prop of their choice) perform cold auditions for the six writers and six directors. The actors and directors then go home and try to sleep.
• Meanwhile, the writers discuss and negotiate for whom they want to write. They don’t go home. They are sequestered in Miners Foundry with only their laptops and their muses. Scripts are due at 6 a.m. Writers then go home and try to sleep.
• At 7 a.m., after the scripts have been printed and bound and the directors arrive to read and bargain for which (anonymous) script and actors they want to direct.
• At 8:15 a.m., the actors arrive to discover the role they will be playing and who will be directing them.
• Rehearsals start at 9 a.m. in assorted sections throughout out the spacious foundry. Before lunch break, each troupe gets 45 minutes of on-stage rehearsal. They get a second “cue-to-cue” tech run-through in the afternoon.
• Everybody takes a break at 5:30 p.m. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and ready or not, the curtain goes up at 7 p.m.
And it’s all up to producer Sands Hall to make it happen.
“I don’t think I’ll get much sleep,” she said.
Psyching up for performance under pressure
Hall and some of the writers, directors, actors and stage crew shared their apprehensions and aspirations this week with Prospector for their one-night stand next Wednesday.
“Nothing’s more inspiring than a deadline,” joked writer Gary Wright. Given less than eight hours to come up with a 10-minute to 15-minute play, “We skip the boring part and go right to the magic.”
“You have to put a cork in your inner critic and just do it,” agreed writer Maggie McKaig.
Producer Hall was adamant that the directors and actors will “give the playwrights the honor of performing what they wrote.”
“We’re locked into the script,” affirmed director Carolyn Howarth, but still, when it comes down to it, “I have to go with my gut.”
Writer Robin Wallace wasn’t worried. She said she’s looking forward to how the director and actors bring her characters to life.
Actor Grace Fae confessed she was looking forward to the “adrenaline rush.”
Actor Kim Wellman admitted, “I am a little bit intimidated,” but, “I like to try things I’ve never done before.”
Actor Jeffrey Mason was more relaxed about it. “It’s just a compressed version of what we normally do,” he shrugged, but then he conceded, “It requires a certain amount of courage, panache and foolishness.”
As for Hall — an accomplished writer, actor, director and teacher in her own right — this is her first venture as a producer. She concluded: “It’s going to be thrilling to have so many talents under one roof at one time, creating something so unique and special. We’re creating theatre — live, wacky and miraculous.”
When I asked Sands Hall who “the principals” were in her production of “The 24 Hour Plays,” her answer was firm and simple: “There are no principals.”
In other words, everybody has an equal opportunity to shine or flop, including Hall herself.
“It’s sort of like a sport,” said director Jimmy McCammon. “It evens the playing field.”
Therefore, I elected not to clutter my article with the comparative credits, credentials and backgrounds of anybody quoted or mentioned.
Besides, there’s not enough room to do justice to all involved — but you can go to http://minersfoundry.org to see who’s who.
Tom Durkin is a freelance writer in Nevada County.