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Monday September 22nd 2014

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From Page to Stage in 24 Hours


By Lilia Del Bosque Oakey Whitehouse

Putting on a play is, normally, not something that happens in a day. But, at Pensacola Little Theatre, “24 Hour Theatre” breaks tradition and challenges actors, writers and directors to produce an entire play in a single day. From the first word on the page to the final bow, it all has to come together in 24 hours.

It all begins on Friday, March 22 at 8 p.m. with auditions. During auditions, four teams of writers and directors make notes, jotting down ideas based on the actors’ strengths and talents. Then, each team chooses their cast and the writers get to work, writing a new, original play tailored for their actors. In the morning, actors learn lines, directors’ block and crewmembers pull costumes and set pieces.

Somehow, it all needs to come together by 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 23.

“It is nothing like a regular play,” said Renee Jordan, lead director and coordinator of “24 Hour Theatre.” “Some of the plays have a theme or are about an idea, but some are just chaos.”

The time crunch also pushes months of rehearsals into just a few hours.

“Normally, you have 6 to 8 weeks to learn your lines and blocking, but here you have about 10 hours,” said Jordan. “Normally, tech is a week. With ’24 Hour Theatre,’ it is 30 minutes. It’s a really hurried glimpse of what it’s like to be onstage.”

Jordan believes that “24 Hour Theatre” is the perfect opportunity for experienced thespians to challenge themselves and push the boundaries of their creativity and skills.

“It’s fast-forward theater. It’s hurried and you only get one chance to perform it,” said Jordan. “You don’t have the chance to perfect it, but it’s fun and exciting. Even for people that have done theater forever, it’s a thrill to know you can learn lines, do blocking and put a show on in a day.”

The fast paced setting allows writers and directors to produce organically, letting them play to actors’ strengths and even alter scripts on the spot to make the play as strong as possible. The result is a play that is tailor made for the cast, an opportunity that actors don’t normally receive.

“24 Hour Theatre” isn’t only for experienced actors, it is the perfect opportunity for new actors, people who have thought about acting, and those who haven’t acted in a while to get exposed to theater and to get a feel for the stage. Each play runs about 10 minutes, allowing for a brief exposure to the stage, and the writer and director teams try to cast all who audition.

Jordan also considers “24 Hour Theatre” a perfect opportunity for actors at other local theaters and performing groups to come together.

“We have a lot of theaters and groups in Pensacola, but it’s important for all of us that do community theater to intermingle as much as possible,” said Jordan. “We are all doing the same thing and it’s important to know that everyone is welcomed everywhere.”

In that spirit of collaboration, local improv group Improvable Cause will be performing at “24 Hour Theatre.” To put their improv skills to the test, the troupe will have their own writer and director team writing a scripted play just for them.

They will also contribute mayhem, which Jordan believes is always needed in “24 Hour Theatre.” “People come to the show to see a train-wreck but it always seems to come together,” said Jordan. “Normally, if there is a problem, the only people that notice are the actors. But this year, with the help of Improvable Cause, we are throwing a few curve balls so it might be more of a train-wreck. We are just letting them create a little bit of havoc this year.”

But Jordan assures that, even with a little bit of havoc, “24 Hour Theatre” will still showcase local talent and highlight the depths of the cast’s and crew’s creativity, all in a unique theater experience.

“This year, we have a group of writers that have all written before,” said Jordan. “We are lucky to have amazing writers and directors that are sure to make the production a blast.”

STUDIO 400 PRESENTS: 24 HOUR THEATRE
WHAT: Five plays that are written, casted, and performed in 24 hours.
WHEN: Auditions are Friday, March 22 at 8 p.m. Performance is Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Cultural Center, 400 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $10
DETAILS: pensacolalittletheater.com