In most cases, when you sit down to watch a play, the production you see is the result of months of rehearsal, planning and preparation.
That won’t be the case this weekend when Durango Arts Center Theatre hosts its first “24hr. Theatre – The First Weekend Fling.”
What makes this production different than others is that the whole show is put together and performed in a span of 24 hours. Literally. From the time writers gather at the DAC at 8 p.m. Friday to the time the actors take the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, that’s all the time allotted for the whole thing.
DAC Theatre Director Jason Lythgoe said he first learned about the idea of 24-hour theater about 20 years ago when he was involved in a theater company in California.
“Some friends of mine went up to San Francisco and saw something similar to it. And so they came back and said, ‘We are doing this thing.’ And we did it five times with that theater company and then a couple of times with another one,” he said. “I loved it so much back then that I was actually even able to do it in Colorado Springs – I was there about eight years ago as well, and so when I moved to Durango, it was, ‘OK, I need to get 24 in Durango. I need this project to happen somehow, some way.’”
It’s now that time, he said.
The project will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, when the participating writers will gather at the DAC theater – including a couple joining by Zoom. Once gathered, the writers will be given a set of prompts – Lythgoe said they each get the same line of dialogue to incorporate into a 10-minute play, a prop, a sound effect, a location and a character name. Then they’re set loose in the DAC to write, bounce ideas off each other and bond. And probably drink copious amounts of coffee to keep the ideas flowing.
“They write from about 8:30, 9 o’clock when we finish the intros and doling out all the stuff. Then they write until about 4 in the morning. They have to have the script turned in by 5 because we then print them,” he said. “Then at 7 o’clock, eight directors show up, get assigned their script, they read it a little bit and get some ideas, and at 8 o’clock actors show up, get assigned a director, and then they go rehearse all day. And then perform Saturday night at 8 o’clock. So from 8 o’clock start time we start that 24-hour countdown.”
There will also be a matinee on Sunday afternoon to give the actors a second chance at the performance.
“It’s so much fun. And what’s great about it, too, is that we’ve got such a wide variety of not only the writers that are attached to it, which are amazing, but the actors – there are seasoned veterans and students,” Lythgoe said. “They can memorize if they want to, they can hold a script if they want to, and it’s really just this project to show an audience that we can create something that didn’t exist 24 hours ago and tell a story and actually tell eight stories.”
Lythgoe said that all of the participating actors are local and are made up of students, seasoned thespians and everyone in between. The directors are all local, as well, and have been involved in the local theater scene.
Then there are the writers, who are a mix of students and professionals – including Evanthia Bromiley, poet Suzanne Tyrpak, best-selling Durango author Blake Crouch (who will join in by Zoom with his wife and a couple of other writers) and award-winning writer and producer Michael Grais, who, among other projects, co-wrote “Poltergeist.”
“I’ve got this great range of student writers and Academy Award-winning screenwriter and all in between. And then the same thing with the actors and directors,” he said. “It’s this perfect community project where everyone can just come together and play without having a monthlong rehearsal commitment and three weekends of shows.”