BWW Blog: I Did a 48-Hour Play Festival! Here's What It's Like.
For the past few years I've been infatuated with the concept of 24 and 48-hour play festivals and last month I finally had the opportunity to participate in one as a playwright! My school, Marymount Manhattan College, hosted the event over 2 complete says with student writers, actors, and directors. Playwrights had a total of 24-hours to write a complete short play and directors/actors had the following day to then take that play, get it on its feet, and perform it to an audience.
It all kicked off on a Thursday evening with a festival meeting where everyone involved from producers to writers, actors, and directors, met and mingled about. The writers were given their ingredients while the directors and actors were given a breakdown of their expectations and requirements. All of our names were then put into a hat and drawn in succession: playwrights drew out their directors and then the directors, in turn, drew out their 4 actors. This is where the real fun began. The recipe? I had to write a show that somehow, someway revolved around the theme of unstoppable change. It had to include a moment of enlightenment, a flashback (or something to do with time), and a glass of water.
My group consisted of an all-female powerhouse with myself, our director, Molly Levine, and our three amazing actresses, Joelle Schwedland, Rachael Wooley, and Nicole Leblanc. I had never written explicitly for a creative team completely made-up of women, so I was extremely excited to jump in and create something equally fun and special. After having a few moments to interact, get to know each other, and discuss everyone's excitements, concerns, and performance limits and it was off to races. It was my time to get busy.
I spent my walk back to my apartment brainstorming how I was going to incorporate the talent I was provided with the ingredients it required. It sounds simple enough, right? I was literally handed a base design on what the show had to look like, but still an underlying feeling of dread surrounded me. What if by the time I sat down to write a wave of inescapable writers block washed over me? Or what if once the rest of my team received the script they absolutely hated it? However, those "what if's" were nothing that a quad-shot iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks (#NotAnAd) couldn't solve. By the time I arrived back to my building, I had my inspiration and I was ready to sprint. After 10 straight hours of writing and re-writing (and watching the sun set and rise), my 10-minute play, Subway Grates, was born and sent off to my team.
The following day Molly took off with Joelle, Rachael, and Nicole into rehearsals starting at 6am as they prepared for the festival debuting that evening at 7. By the time I showed up to the rehearsal space at around 3 I was floored by the impeccable progress made by this wildly talented and hardworking group. Subway Grates was completely blocked, set, and the actors were completely off-book all within 7 hours of first seeing the script. The next 4 hours seemed to fly by as they continued to fine tune the piece and perfect it. By 5:30pm not only was everyone running strictly off of espresso shots, but it was time to move into our performance space and do a quick transition rehearsal with the 5 other teams. It was finally time to debut all of our hard work!
Watching everyone's pieces come together and thrive onstage was an experience I will never forget. It was especially fulfilling to watch the diversity of content which spawned from the same set of ingredients. No to shows were even remotely similar. Each was unique to their own and brilliantly displayed the beauty of art and the interpretations of it. As a writer, this process was something unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Generally, in a theatrical setting, the process of getting your work from a page to a stage is a long (and sometimes seemingly endless) process. It's not very often were you have the opportunity to see your words performed just hours after they're written.
Looking back at the experience, it definitely was not an easy one. Although time seemed to fly by, there were several moments where I would just stare at my computer screen and question what the heck I got myself into. In the end though, I believe the most rewarding aspect of it all was not "getting it done" but being able to understand it's okay to be okay with imperfections. And not just be okay with it, but to see the beauty in it. Especially as a writer. Writing is trial and error, and 80% of the battle is just starting the story in the first place. This entire process is one that I will forever remember and, if ever given a second opportunity, I would do it again in a heartbeat! Keep on creating!