Acting Elis go for 24 Hour Theater

Twenty-four hours is also 1,440 minutes or, to break it down even further, 86,400 seconds. Or, at least for the Yale Drama Coalition, 24 hours is enough time to create theater.

During the 24 Hour Theater Festival on Sunday, the YDC will present several 10-minute plays that will be written, staged and performed over the course of exactly 24 hours.

The challenge facing the YCD: 24 hours is not a lot of time.

But the intensity of the project is precisely the point, YDC board member Sinead Daly ’10 said.

“You have to love theater in order for this to succeed,” Daly said. “You have to have a passion to create something that’s done in 24 hours to work.”

It was his own experience with 24-hour theater that prompted Matthew Strother ’08, who is not a YDC board member but is involved with undergraduate theater, to approach YDC about staging a 24-hour theater production.

This past summer, while Strother was in residence with the Hangar Theater’s Lab Company in Ithaca, N.Y., he participated in the company’s 24-hour theater production — with liberating results.

“It’s just a crazy sleepless affair,” Strother said. “You don’t really have any time to second-guess yourself. You have to make big bold choices and just sort of run with them, whether they’re stupid or brilliant.”

Participants will gather on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 9, to kick off the 24-Hour Theater. After the announcement of the production’s theme, prop or other unifying motif, playwrights will write and actors will frantically learn their lines, while directors struggle to pull the whole thing together in time for the final — and only — performance Monday, Dec. 10.

Although the quick pace of the preparation may preclude those who are behind on their schoolwork from participating, the purpose of the 24-Hour Theater Festival is not to deter but to inspire the theater community to form closer ties, YDC artistic director Lian Walden ’09 said.

“There is a really large theater community, but [it] isn’t necessarily a strong community in that everyone is doing a ton of plays, becomes tight with the cast for a month and then moves on,” Walden said. “We wanted something that everyone could be a part of to take away pressure from the community.”

Although the Yale Cabaret has also created a 24-Hour-Theater, the YDC’s program distinguishes itself not simply by being open to undergraduates but by being open to all undergraduates — regardless of their past theater experience. Participants will be encouraged to work in a different genre than they normally perform in, YDC Vice President Mike Leibenluft ’10 said.

“Part of the idea is to have people get out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Leibenluft said. “We’re encouraging people to do an area that’s not their specialty. If you normally direct, we want you to write or act. This way everyone’s on a beginner’s level.”

Over 50 people have already expressed interest in the project, including theater majors, members of improvisational groups or sketch comedy and some complete beginners, YDC board member O’Hagan Blades ’10 said.

Blades, who is organizing the project, said she hopes that including people from all backgrounds of theater will help to make the marathon a positive experience.

“The project isn’t supposed to be competitive, which is sometimes hard for Yale students to get,” Blades said. “We’re trying to encourage camaraderie. Theater here is so stressful, and it isn’t supposed to be.”

The 24-Hour Theater project also provides a forum for interested beginners to get acclimated to the Yale theater scene, Daly said.

“It’s a great way for people who haven’t done theater in a while, or who’ve never done theater, to get a crash course in theater,” she said. “There’s a fair amount of people who’ve never done theater before and are interested, but it’s kind of daunting to go to an audition.”

But for YDC Business Manager Martine Forneret ’08, a good time is the name of the game.

“It’s just a fun creative exercise — a wacky way to kick off reading week,” she said.

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