24 Hour TheaterFest Vol. 2

Last night, (and to an extent, just a few hours ago) I finished the script for the 24 hour play festival I talked about in my last post.

To begin with, turnout was lower and much younger than expected, so the talent pool was smaller than organizers had thought it might be. I too thought there would be a few more people. But that is what it is.

It became clear also that there would have to be a lot of room made for kids under 16 years old. I hadn’t planned for this to be as big an issue.

Still, I made it work. Once the three directors met after auditions and hashed out who would be playing in what play, (a process that went faster than any of us thought it would) it came to pass I had to write a script for four people, and two “kids” though in my case they are probably closer to teens than children.

Once the place cleared out, I set up my laptop in the men’s dressing room of the theatre, basically in the same spot I put my stuff when I am in a show there. I had a few very broad ideas in my head, but decided early on which to go with. And because I had gathered what kind of opening to a play would as I watched the actors audition, the start of the writing was fast going. Though I had to take a break and ponder a small issue in the narrative for 15 minutes or so, I was almost constantly writing the piece.

I’d say I had a finished on-act script after a little over two hours of work. About 15 pages of text, though, that is a very different thing when writing a script than when writing a novel or story. Depending on how well the actors commit it to memory, I estimate it will actually take little more than ten minutes to perform.

There are a hundred ways to go about a challenge such as this. My own approach was to come up with a story wherein two people wanted something, and neither had it, nor had the desire to undertake what they needed to get it. Instant friction.

Second, I wanted to make sure most of the lines I gave the characters were one or two sentences, both for ease of memorization and because in this setting I think a back-and-forth play is more effective, and in my case, more funny. A sitcom pace, to some extent.

Something this short to me ought to be memorable for what is being said. If I had all the time in the world, I could of course add more nuance, as a polished theater piece should have, but given the constraints, I opted to put most effort into the dialogue. As an actor, I would appreciate that, so I wanted to give the actors playing these parts fun things to say. If i create something that is not fun to rehearse within the frantic 12 hours the actors and directors have today, there is no point in any of it.

After reviewing it a few times, (and letting the other two writers in the TheaterFest read it and offer thoughts) I decided around 1:15 AM this morning that yes, I had a script that was short, fast, fun, and still up to my standards. Something I was willing to put my name on. Something I would enjoy performing, if I had to.

Did I succeed in all of these goals? No way to know yet. But I will head to the theatre soon, and join the actors and the director as a passive observer of the rehearsal process of my words. I will not be co-directing. I am leaving the interpretation and presentation wholly in my director’s hands, and those of the cast she (mostly) chose. I will know throughout the day if the actors have a good time with it, and will know tonight if the audience did as well.

Check back in here for an update.

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