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24 Hours, A Radio Play Challenge: The Director

February 25, 2013

One of my favorite things about NYC theatre is how many 24 hour (sometimes 48 or 72) festivals there are here. The first thing I ever did after graduating college was Assistant Stage Manage and be a playwright for a 48 hour festival. Now, I’ve directed 5, written 3, acted in 2, staged managed once and produced one for festivals of this style and it’s an experience I just love doing over and over!

For those who don’t know, a 24 hour play festival is when plays are written, rehearsed, teched, and performed in (about) 24 hours. Playwrights, Directors, and Actors randomly get paired into groups to work in, and are usually given certain guidelines to follow (i.e. a prop to use, a line, a theme, etc.) so all the plays have something in common. It is intense (although gets easier the more you do it) but a worthwhile experience. Since it’s usually just a matter of signing up or filling out an application, it’s a great way for early career theatre artists to gain experience (while for those who have experience it’s a great way to create art within a time limit).

The last 24 hour festival I was apart of was a little bit different however. This time they focused on Radio plays that are meant to be heard and not seen. All the plays were based on articles that were written in the New York Times that day, and all had one particular sound queue (that typical cell phone ring tone).

In my group, we started by dividing up the newspaper to look for articles of interest, while talking about both social issues currently in the media that bother us particularly character interests/experience and skills of expertise of the actors. Talking as a group, I wanted to make sure that the playwright had what he needed to create the script and the actors get to have their say of characters they would be interested (and felt comfortable) in portraying.

After meeting and having a lovely discussion, the actors and I went home to sleep, while the playwright went home to write all night. When I woke up and was emailed the script, I read it through several times (and read it through several more times in my travel to rehearsal), I developed a few ideas as to how to direct it. I figured that since the actors will be on-book and with it being a radio play that there’s no blocking, that our hours of rehearsal should be focused on the beats.

When the actors and I first started rehearsal, we did a first read-through and talked about the script. We brought up questions and thoughts about the script (which any major ones I texted the playwright, and smaller ones we either figured out on our own or waited until he arrived). Then we created beats together, rehearsed beat by beat (and gave notes in between), and collaborated with the actors to help create strong choices for the play.

After we were finally done rehearsing, we went to the theatre, teched the play (along with watching the other plays be teched) and got to see it up on its feet. Although there were a few kinks in the performance itself and changes I would’ve made it I had more time, it was a great performance for something done in 24 hours.

It was a great experience since I never worked on a radio play before, and I hope I get to work on another one some day since it is a new way to think about directing. I would suggest for any theatre artist to be involved with a 24 hour festival at least once, since a (very) short rehearsal process is a good experience for anyone involved. It’s also a great way for someone to get a new experience in theatre (after all, it was my first playwriting and ASM credits which led to more plays I’ve written and stage-managed). It’s also just a great way to network and meet other theatre artists, along with run into some you may know (for this festival, the playwright had actually acted on stage with my boyfriend before and one of the actors is doing with her life of on the things I want to do with mine) so you never know what kind of fun you may have being apart of a 24 hour play festival.

sarah sig

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