The last time I spent 24 hours doing something, I learned more about Robot Unicorn Attack than I thought possible. This time, I began not as a girl, not yet as a woman, and emerged both a cat and a man.
At Wesleyan, theatergoers are, for the most part, familiar with the biannual 24-Hour Play Festival. Before last week, I was relatively unfamiliar with said event, as my efforts to see last semester’s show were thwarted by the ’92 Theater’s lack of seating and what I assume was a crew of secretly vindictive ushers. The resulting blissful unawareness of the extent to which I would eventually have to embarrass myself proved a key factor in my decision to perform this year.
It began on a seemingly innocuous Tuesday afternoon. Because I’m ahead (read: behind) in all of my classes at the moment, I was searching for some activity to occupy my upcoming Saturday. Drawing on the skills I’ve gained from all the time-management workshops my student portfolio has encouraged me to attend, I concluded that the most efficient way to divide my weekend time would be the allocation of approximately all of it to one unnecessary activity. I emailed coordinator Lu Corporan ’13 asking to be a part of this semester’s 24-hour production, and thus was planted the seed that would eventually grow into my best impression of a feline superhero.
Here’s how it works: the plays are coordinated, supervised, and bureaucratized by an oligarchy of crazy people who hate sleep, also known as Corporan, Ellie Rudolph ’15, and Dan Storfer ’15. Without these people, the plays would either be impossible or indistinguishable from the usual hordes of unorganized weirdos rolling around Wesleyan’s campus.
Anybody can participate (including you, intrepid reader!), and each participant signs on as a playwright, director, or actor. The writers assess and cast the talent using a thorough process of equitable, unbiased auditions. By “unbiased auditions,” I mean looking at our photographs.
Participants are asked to bring a prop that can serve as inspiration for the writers. However, I forgot that I am an admittedly forgetful and unreliable person to work with. While the writers were robbed of the magnificent artistic inspiration I’m sure my “Go Diego Go!” mask and mini-sombrero would have accorded them, they made do. I did manage to dig up a used Kodak Funsaver full of potentially incriminating film and the bottle of lemon juice I assume most other college students also carry around.
Introductions were made, class years disclosed, and for purposes of exploitation, actors were asked to share their special skills (if they were indeed special enough to have any, which of course I am). You may not know this, but we actors possess a wide range of impressive talents in addition to our theatrical prowess. Coz Deicke ’15, for example, can recite the entire alphabet backward, and Maddy Oswald ’14 is an expert at being Canadian. I told the group about my magnificent backwards somersaults and ability to fit my fist in my mouth. I neglected to inform them of the skills I acquired from my mafia background, figuring them irrelevant.
It is customary for the cast and crew to remain for strike after the meeting. I would explain the process, but seeing as I generally don’t believe in “being helpful,” it would be against my values to even mention doing work ever. At around 10 p.m., I returned home to indulge in a “quiet” night of “productivity” and “introspection.”
Meanwhile, after choosing from the lineup of actors, the dramaturges slap on their writin’ pants and work until 5 a.m. crafting short plays that are 100% original, 99% unconventional, and 73% vegan. Directors arrive at 6 a.m. to barter scripts and talent. Actors arrive at 7 a.m., or in my case, 7:20, to act.
The rest of the day unfolds as one might expect. Basically, all aspects of rehearsal and production are condensed into 13 hours of fun, mayhem, and Usdan waffles. Should you accept the 24-Hour challenge, you’ll stand through hurried cue-to-cues, frantically try to memorize lines, and ultimately perform what your team has put together. It’s thrilling. It’s fulfilling. You will achieve both self-actualization and nirvana. There will be blood.
But be warned. If your playwright is a) insane, b) Solomon Billinkoff ’14, or c) both, you may be given the role of Catman, defender of truth and guardian of “meow-stice” in autobiographical narratives. If your director is Sivan Battat ’15, you may be asked to sing Catman’s theme song while rolling around the Usdan courtyard during Saturday brunch. Wesleyan Cardinal football players, I hope you enjoyed watching our rehearsal.
Unexpected athleticism aside, participating in the 24-Hour Plays was a thoroughly awesome experience and one I wholeheartedly recommend to theater virgins, anxious frosh, or anyone looking for a good time (if you know what I mean). With any luck, this bizarrely idiosyncratic account of the process will give you some idea of whether you’d be interested in getting involved next semester.
I look forward to my Tony nomination.