24 Hour Theatre = Improvising in my own Brain

I’m participating in another 24 hour theatre event tonight/tomorrow.  If you’ve never done one of these, do yourself a favor and try it out.  They’re a lot of fun.  You get the suggestion for a play then go write a 10 minute (usually) play.  No time to question things, or over-think it, because you’ve got to get it off to the actors by the morning so they can learn it and get it up on stage… all within 24 hours.

Okay.  So, I started this post before the event, but time got away from me so I never finished the post.  What I was going to talk about was how writing plays is usually like playing out an improv scene in my head, except I get to be all the characters.  However the experience with this 24 Hour Theatre event was different for a couple of reasons.

First off, I wasn’t writing for someone else, I was writing for myself to perform.  Secondly, I was writing with two other very talented improvisors.  Thirdly, since the event was an hour and half drive from home we didn’t really have the whole 24 hours to write.

What we ended up doing was driving to Wausau at 2:00 – 3:30 a.m. and on the drive we hammered out the concept and outline of what were were going to do.  Then we went to sleep until about… oh. 11:00 a.m.  Got up and filled in some more details and specific lines.  We rehearsed part of it a couple times with me giving direction.  Then we rehearsed the whole thing one time with everyone performing.  This rehearsal was done in a hallway behind the theatre about 20 minutes before we were going to hit the stage.  The rehearsal was interrupted several times by audience members walking through our “rehearsal space” (read: hallway) and we didn’t use any of the props we had.

On a side note about 24 hour theatre and props.  I love to use props in plays.  They’re part of the fun of plays.  Over the years some of the fun props I’ve written into plays include: A large blue sausage-shaped alien baby,  A seagull on a stick, a spiked ball on a chain, and a cardboard moon on a hinged stick.   When doing improv I don’t like using props or costumes at all, as I feel they’re too restrictive.  And, when writing for a 24 Hour Theatre event, I try to avoid props because we’ve got enough to worry about without having to worry about finding and using props.

For this event, however, we were required to use a loaf of bread and a screwdriver…. so, there’s that.

After the hallway rehearsal we sat in the house and I jotted down lines that I was going to use, and wanted to remember.  I did give myself the character of a Professor with a clipboard so I could have some notes.  As I’m newly fond of saying; This ain’t my first rodeo.  I know several sneaky ways to avoid having to quickly memorize a bunch of lines.

Then we did the performance.  It was the first time  we’d done the whole thing together with all props and cues.  It went great.  So great, in fact, that we won.  ($50 in pizza gift certificates).   And the pride of winning.  First Place in the First Annual UW-Marathon County 24 Hour Theatre Contest.

Since the script currently only exists in notes and scribbles and what’s in our brains, (and luckily in video form as well) you can’t read it yet.  You’ll have to wait for me to transcribe it, that might take awhile.   Just know that we won and that the method of improvising and re-improvising, directing and just doing works great for 24 Hour Theatre.

The play, by the way, is titled “Time and Space and the Relative Nature of Bread”

Meanwhile, if you want, you can read another play I wrote for a different 24 Hour Theatre event here:  Future Tense



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