Starting this Friday at 8 p.m., the Yale Drama Coalition will sponsor a 24-hour orgy — an orgy of dramatic creativity, that is.
Actors have been instructed to convene in Trumbull College’s Nick Chapel at 8 p.m., sporting a single costume piece and carrying a prop of their choice. The YDC will then randomly divvy up the thespians among participating playwrights. Wannabe Shakespeares will have until 8 a.m. the next day to compose a 5- to 10-minute script inspired solely by the actors’ costumes and props and, of course, their preferred caffeinated beverage. Saturday morning, the brand-spanking-new scripts — finished or unfinished — must be passed off to the directors, and the performers then have 12 hours in which to memorize, block and rehearse their plays. The curtain rises at 8 p.m., at which point 45 lucky audience members in Nick Chapel will be able to taste the fruits of the theatrical labor.
While the Yale Cabaret produces a similar event every year, YDC member Lisa Siciliano ’05 was inspired to stage the 24-Hour Theater Project for undergraduates after a positive “24-Hour” experience this summer while working at a professional theater in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I met a lot of people in the theater community [in Cleveland] that I never even knew existed,” Siciliano said. “That’s one of the things that I wanted to bring to Yale, more of a kind of community.”
According to Siciliano, students in past years have had a plethora of opportunities to become involved with theater, even as inexperienced freshmen.
“This year, you can count on your hand the number of Sudler shows that have gone up.There aren’t enough characters in casts to create a theater community that can really support each other,” she said.
She added that the 24-Hour Project was designed to encourage turnout from actors, playwrights, and directors who may not have had any stage experience at all.ÊWe’re not auditioning people,” she said. “We just want to give people the freedom to explore, to create a more supportive and happy theater environment.”
Justine Isola ’05, president of the YDC, sees the event as primarily community-building rather than producing finished theatrical masterpieces.
“I think that one of our goals in sponsoring the project is to encourage collaboration in the theater community and to reach out to both more experienced actors, directors and playwrights and to offer less experienced students the chance to get to know each other and the older members of the theater community,” Isola said.
Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts mean that the shows will begin on Saturday, the night of the Freshman Screw.
“What I’ve been telling freshman is that no one goes to the Screw starting at 9 p.m. anyway,” Siciliano said.
Load-in for “Floyd Collins,” the Dramat Fall Mainstage Production, also conflicts with the 24-Hour Project and obviously draws upon members of the theater community who might have otherwise participated.
Currently, about 10 actors, two directors and five playwrights have committed to the project. Because turnout so far has been lower than the anticipated 10 plays with four actors per show, the YDC has altered its original plan to include already-rehearsed theater scenes and monologues. Siciliano said the YDC now hopes to offer Nick Chapel as a venue “just to have a place to come for students to come and perform their work.”
What is the value of a timed event as opposed to merely a gathering of theater minds?
“Timed projects encourage risk-taking and creativity because the stakes of a 24-hour project are not as high as those of a full-length show,” Isola said.Ê”They’re also a great opportunity to involve people interested in theater who are not able to commit to a full-length production.”
Siciliano, who participated in the Cleveland 24-hour project on the acting end of the theater triumvirate, noted that the time limitations offered a very condensed and intense acting experience.
“You have to be free and available to come up with something in such a short amount of time; you have to come up with a character and a motive — which could actually take months in real life. This project helps with improve skills, memorizing lines, and learning the craft of acting,” she said.
Isola also said that because the Dramat has elected to flesh out its Playwriting Festival, expanding the production time from a mere one week to a full-fledged spring show, the 24-Hour Theater Project will allow space for writers to toy around with ideas and to brush up on playwriting skills.
Both Siciliano and Isola expressed hope that this event will turn into an annual tradition.