Students at the School of Drama handle being locked in a room for twelve hours far better than most people would.
This week, the Yale Cabaret continues its yearly tradition of “24 Hour Theater” by writing, rehearsing, and directing a series of plays in, surprisingly enough, 24 hours. Each year, several School of Drama students are each sequestered and given twelve hours to write one-act plays, with only a few restrictions (such as the use of a specific setting or prop). The crew is then given six hours to rehearse the plays, which are put on in the last six hours. The result for the audience is an entertaining and (considering the circumstances) surprisingly coherent production. The show, however, means much more to the Drama students responsible for its production, who regard it as something approaching a theatrical miracle.
There are usually few opportunities for beginning drama students to have their own shows produced. The 24-Hour Theater, with it’s egalitarian premise and informal nature, is unique in this respect.
Matt Gaffney, a shop carpenter at the School of Drama, described the project as an ideal opportunity for students to explore new dramatic venues.
“It’s open to anybody–you don’t have to wait to be asked. Pretty much anyone can come in and do it,” Gaffney said.
Two of this year’s shows were directed by first-year students.
“It’s a night where people can get used to doing things they’re not yet used to,” said James Noonan DRA ’06, the show’s artistic director.
24 Hour Theater’s low-stakes nature (opening night was limited to fellow Drama students) also makes it an important opportunity for aspiring dramatists to fill roles outside of their specialty. In fact, most of the show’s authors are not playwrights, and the cast consists mostly of non-actors.
“We strive to create an extremely enthusiastic and safe environment in which to showcase this new work,” Noonan said. “It’s new not only in the sense of it being entirely original and created within the 24 hour limit, but also new in the sense that for many of these students their work in a particular form has never been seen publicly.”
Drama students see “24 Hour Theater” as a way of maintaining the Cabaret’s reputation for unconventional theater.
“When people come to the Cabaret, they expect to see something that pushes the boundaries,” Gaffney said.
The seven short pieces that comprise “24 Hour Theater” certainly hewed to this premise. While a few dealt with serious subject matter, most of them verged on farce. The show’s characters included a murderous teddy bear and a crime-fighting, cross-dressing Catholic priest. As might be expected, the writers, given an extremely limited amount of time, shied away from the complexities of tragedy.
Gaffney believes that the show’s lighthearted nature also makes it more accessible.
“It’s just easier for the audience to get into comedy,” he said.