The 24 Hour Play Festival
8 Writers, 7 Directors, 20 Actors and 24 Hours.
The weekend before Blue Monday, producer Kelly Litt decided to inflict the writing, rehearsal and production of The 24 Hour Play Project on his LIPA peers. After forcing his writers to create short plays in the space of 12 sleepless hours starting at 7.30pm the previous evening then handing these pieces over to the actors to rehearse at 7.30 on Sunday for the next 12 hours, it’s a wonder he has any peers left.
I caught up with Kelly Litt and one of his victims’, writer Sam Birch, after some well needed rest, to find out more. To my surprise, Sam was in high spirits about the project, even praising his torturer for the organization of this event. Kelly gave Sam and I little time alone together, heightening my suspicions that his tormentor was keeping him quiet. But as the evening continued with Sam showing no symptoms of Stockholm syndrome and giving no indication to me that he was in need of rescue it became apparent that there may have been benefits to what Kelly had inflicted on those involved.
Often as drama students, as Sam explained to me, their course normally requires a lot of “concentrated focus” on scene studies drawn out over weeks. As there isn’t enough time to perfect the script or experiment within the rehearsal time, this project helps you to trust your creative instincts. Before 7.30pm on this fateful Saturday the writers had no knowledge of their assigned prop, or the number of actors they would be working with, which prevents any premeditated script writing. All writers involved have therefore created their pieces tailored to their actors and their props, all ideas being freshly plucked from delirious minds in the early hours of the morning.
Kelly Litt informed me that his project aimed at “displaying the creative process,” making it just as important that the audience was let in on its development. This was executed flawlessly through Facebook, sending out updates on the groups’ progress and even giving us a peek into the creative chaos ensuing around him. Last week a documentary was also released by Nicolai Suphammer, giving the spectators a deeper look into their experience over those intense 24 hours.
On the night of Sunday 15th January the Buyers Club was packed out, brimming with excited bodies eager to see what the sleepless experience had created. The 7 pieces shown were diverse in nature, some being comedies, other more conceptual serious works. The opening sketch featuring a baby doll rotating on a large chair quizzing it’s carers to determine who was the Masterminder, which whilst hilarious also highlighted the fears of a new mother. The audience laughed through the first half almost continuously along a light path with a romantic comedy, a piece in God’s Waiting Room, and a group of housemates struggling through a black-out. The second half showcased two plays with more serious tones that were every bit as enthralling as their comic predecessors. The first a rather Black Mirror-esque conceptual dance piece in which three women found themselves stuck in the continuous loop of realizing that they were being manufactured. The second, with a different concept entirely, highlighted the relationship between the model and the artist, looking at the value and price of being immortalized on the canvas. To bring these dynamic performances to a close it ended on a humorous note with Sam Birch’s play in which a group of homeless people debate the possible uses of a telescope they’ve found on the street. This piece provided a great ending to the evening due to its ludicrous nature, as well as highlighting the joy and importance of storytelling.
What made this experience unique was not only the very different angles that each team took to the task, but the ‘off the cuff’ feel given to it by the extreme time limit. There were a few very minor slip ups in the performances, and as they were laughed off by all involved, these rare occasions actually made spectators like myself aware of the support and communal enjoyment felt over the course of this project.
To all those who not only survived this project but indisputably conquered it, congratulations on creating such an impressive production. I can’t even begin to imagine the impressive level each writer, director and actor will reach when given a normal time frame and more than a few hours’ sleep.
To producer Kelly Litt, who received a well-deserved standing ovation for his initiative in creating and organizing the event, it’s a remarkable feat to be able to convince forty people to work tirelessly for 24 hours and still have them smiling at you by the end. That alone speaks volumes about what you have created, I look forward to seeing more.