The Naked Stage’s 24-Hour Theatre Project 2009 at The Miracle Theatre

The Naked Stage’s 24-Hour Theatre Project 2009 at The Miracle Theatre

Last night, at the historic Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, FL, I had the pleasure of seeing 8 brand spanking new short plays that didn’t exist 24 hours earlier.  The event, which officially kicked off the South Florida Theatre Festival, was, honestly, every bit as enjoyable as any polished, pricey, full-length performance I have seen lately.  The Actors’ Playhouse, the professional company in residence at Miracle Theatre, sponsored this event.  The Naked Stage is the resident company at the Pelican Theatre on the campus of Barry University.
Historic Miracle Mile Theatre
Here’s how the 24-Hour Theatre Project worked:

This past Sunday evening, 48 South Florida theatre professionals met at The Miracle.  Each of the 8 playwrights in attendance selected a theme upon which to write a short play, drew four actors at random from a hat, and was assigned a director and a stage manager.  And, then, they were off, in 8 teams of 6, to write, rehearse, stage, and perform their new creations just 24 hours later.  Scanning the playbill, I must admit I was a little disheartened to see that the male to female playwright ratio was 7:1 and director ratio was 6:2.

For me, there were a few standout plays and performances.  My first half favorite was “The Purloined Sweater” by Lucas Leyva.  Metadramatic at its core, this play centers on bored, grown, and sheltered daughter Joan (a fabulous, even if unintentional, reincarnation of Gilda Radner circa SNL’s golden days) and her mother, an affected, self-indulgent playwright whose plays are the stuff of grocery store romance fiction.  Unlike her mother who is content to live vicariously through her own writing, Joan longs to go out and live life.  Her mom’s career is eclipsed when she answers the door to find a martini-sipping raptor (yes, as in bird of prey) with an apparently literal appetite for dull playwrights and their adoring agents.  The raptor, hilariously played by Ken Clement (pictured below), first devours mom’s sweater (hence the title) and then mom herself, followed shortly thereafter by her agent.  In a final jab at living room (aka kitchen sink) drama, the raptor whisks Joan away to a presumably more dramatic life than she has ever known.

The Raptor

My post-intermission favorite was “Abacus Jones: Boy Detective” by Andie Arthur.  Thirteen year -old lisping lad, Abacus, teams up with his 10 year-old neighbor Catastrophe Calliope to find a dog that has gone missing from the Downtown District Dog Show.  The play is a parodic delight with excessive yet effective tongue-twisting alliteration and punny humor.  Even the sock puppets, used in lieu of actual or imaginary dogs or stuffed animals, were befitting.

“Haunted” by Andrew Rosendorf was the only serious play, and I mention it more for that fact than necessarily for its merits.  The play treats an unarguably dramatic experience: deciding where to scatter the ashes of a deceased loved one.  We are meant to believe a mother and son have been searching tirelessly for a sign so they’d know where to stop and disperse the ashes.  While the mother is defecating in the woods and wiping with leaves (not kidding and not sure how this fits with the moment’s mood), the son is visited (I think) by dead’s spirit, who indicates this is the spot; unfortunately, vagueness and ambiguity in dialogue and characterization prevent us from knowing if this female spirit is his sister or his girlfriend.

The experience last night has gotten me thinking about the typical conditions under which I write; perhaps, my conditions are too safe, too isolated, too nitpicky.  Maybe, I would benefit from more intensely dramatic deadlines such as this now and then.  Have you ever written under similar constraints to the 24-Hour Theatre Project? If so, how was the experience?  What did you gain from it?

One Response to “The Naked Stage’s 24-Hour Theatre Project 2009 at The Miracle Theatre”
  1. Tillman says:

    Who doesn’t like a good show? I think the creators’ 24 hour time constraint boosted the viewers’ curiosity. I can imagine the audience entering the theater with a “lemme-see-what-cha-got” attitude. The shorts you described here sound amusing and seem to have a very fun quality about them, but I am more interested in exactly how the creators worked together during the 24 hours. It’s neat when professionals bring their talents and disciplines together on one accord to achieve something great. I just wonder what type of approaches and strategies each team used. Whatever methods they employed must have been spontaneous and impulse-driven. On their website they compare the artist’s blank canvas with a bare or “naked” stage, which alludes to the concepts and values that abstract painters held in the 1960s. These early painters saw the canvas as an arena in which to act and express themselves rather than as surface upon which to demonstrate something. In short, they believed that adhering to rigid procedures limited their artistic capabilities and that spontaneity lends them access to their true underlying nature. I think procrastination and outrageous deadlines kind of foster this spontaneity and allow you to create or write something that you wouldn’t have normally thought of.

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