This Saturday night, I sat down full of hope and vodka, surrounded by people I love, and enjoyed my sixth and final viewing of the One Day Plays, a showcase that exhibits what Wesleyan students can create theatrically within the time limit of a mere 24 hours.
The One Day Plays are a Second Stage tradition in which writers, directors, and actors collaborate over a 24-hour period between Friday to Saturday evening to produce seven short original plays. It’s an act of collective insanity that leaves most participants (certainly myself) in a zombified state for the entirety of the day that follows. And yet, it is wonderful. It is theater making that does not thrive if too much ego is attached, a pure rush for all who are involved, and a showcase that, even after four years, has never failed to surprise me.
For my last One Day Play, I decided to participate as a writer, in collaboration with my dear friend and housemate Hazem Fahmy ’17. During the process, drawing inspiration from my former editor Dan Fuchs ’15, who covered the One Day Plays with Michael Darer ’18, I decided to also write about the writing, walking the audience through what it takes to be a part of the frenzied production in all its glory and shortcomings. This is a direct homage to that two-and-a-half year-old piece.
Because of this, I will not be reporting on the actual show, nor making a qualitative analysis of other people’s work. This is just my personal experience in my last One Day Play, writing with a friend and making something strange and silly with the most restrictive of deadlines.
10:00 p.m.: Hazem and I walk down to the ’92 Theater to meet the writers, directors, and actors we will be working with. We introduce ourselves and our props (I brought a giant duck stuffed animal named Phil, who, less than 24 hours later, was being thrown across the stage) and sit in preparation for the rest of the night.
10:45 p.m.: After lengthy introductions to what will take place, we sit down with the writers, and through a lottery system, our show is cast. It’s not late, but I already feel tired.
11:00 p.m.: Luckily, I brought an industrial size jug of coffee with me. I’m not usually one to drink coffee, but these are extenuating circumstances. Other writers sneak a sip or two to fuel their own work.
11:05 p.m.: First thing’s first, we have to find a comfortable place to write. We settle on the windowsill of the Zelnick Pavilion. I’m wary of the fact that a building entirely made of windows will get colder the later we stay here on this snowy night, but Hazem wisely observes that this is the best back support that we can find, so it’s time to start writing. We set ground rules: as few pop culture references as possible, make sure the jokes are funny even for those who don’t know both of us, and definitely, definitely, definitely not too long.
11:45 p.m.: We write the first four pages with great speed, fueled by coffee, wine, and mozzarella sticks. The jokes make us laugh, though I’m worried a post-apocalyptic world built around hummus is an alienating concept, and two adult women pretending to be babies to make it on the Broadway stage even more so. We take a break, I go to the bathroom, Hazem goes out for a cigarette, I read and laugh at some other people’s scripts. It’s a good crop!
12:15 a.m.: The break lasts longer than we think, and the next few pages come out more slowly. Still, miraculously, what we’ve written, and what we keep writing, makes us laugh. I hope it’s not a delusion, but it’s probably too late for that.
12:45 a.m.: Six pages in now. Despite our resistance against the use of pop culture references (which is proving to be difficult, as Hazem and I have just seen “John Wick, Chapter 2” and can’t stop thinking about it), we decide to include one. The baby on Broadway, who inspires our characters to attempt to become “Broadway Babies” is revealed to actually be Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean from “Les Misérables.” I do not know why this is funny, but it is. We’re starting to get a little sloppy, and exhaustion makes the script funnier. We would both be up this late on a normal Friday, but with the pressure of writing a short play, the weariness hits us faster.
1:30 a.m.: After a relatively unproductive half hour, we decide to take another break. Hazem, bless his heart, goes out and gets us Whey [Station]. It tastes better than it ever has. I read some more scripts and watch some funny YouTube videos, and draft a series of possible conclusions in the interim. It’s starting to feel rather late, so, full of cheese and bread and potato, we endeavor to finish the script.
2:30 a.m.: We have written our ending and spent a good amount of time rereading the script, tweaking lines, making sure everything lands. We giggle into each other’s shoulders and feel good about our work. But we want to make sure. We share it with other writers and see either stunned faces or consistent giggles –exactly what we’re looking for. There’s a lot of pride, but at this point, the exhaustion is real, everything is a little blurry, and coffee is no longer helping.
2:45 a.m.: We send it in and, struggling to stand up, push our way into the cold night, shuffling toward warm beds and the relief of sleep.
Less than a day later, after spending the night in this ordeal, Hazem and I sat in an audience and saw our show, along with six others; laughing, groaning, grateful. I will miss these One Day Plays–this amazing, silly, stupid, wonderful tradition. I write this, half-asleep, behind on work, strangely sore, and knowing I’m going to miss this truly, deeply, dearly. Who knows? Maybe next year, you’ll find me in the audience, remembering my time here, and how much the One Day Plays shaped who I am. Or maybe I’ll just look at a jar of hummus and smile.