24-Hour Theatre Project Rises Once Again At Theatre Lab

Not even half of the participants at the curtain call for the 24-Hour Theatre Project (Staff photo)

By Bill Hirschman

A worn-out Hillary Clinton balked at putting on makeup before her first major address since the election. Actors auditioning for an avant-garde Dr. Pepper TV commercial drank the soda out of a cereal bowl. An alien queen who owns a pop-up bar came to claim its dead lounge singer. One play ends when the cast rebels at the lame ending supplied by the playwright,

You know, just your average run of the mill premises on display in eight plays presented Monday in the one-night-only 24-Hour Theatre Project now sponsored by Theatre Lab, the professional company at Florida Atlantic University.

Ten years ago, Naked Stage co-founders Katherine and Antonio Amadeo created the local version of a national event: Local playwrights, actors, directors and technicians volunteer to unite during a 24-hour period to write, rehearse and perform plays no longer than 10 minutes or so for a paying audience. The event has become a highlight of the South Florida theater season featuring unrestrained absurd and anarchic presentations.

Some plays work better than others, some are polished and inventive, some collapse into a mess, but a feeling of camaraderie and hilarity carries the evening. The project raises money, especially since most participants and the host venue donated their services. But the entertainment/artistic results aside, the joyous, raucous and somewhat crazed effort is emblematic of and strengthens the ties among local theater professionals.

Some of this year’s proceeds will support a new play festival at the FAU-based company on May 10-14; some will support the Lab’s intern program, which has the unique philosophy that interns should be paid,

As usual, the playwrights and directors gathered Sunday evening about 6 p.m. when writers were assigned directors and casts at random and the writers chose from nonsensical titles. They then worked through the night composing plays – usually from scratch.

At 6:30 a.m. Monday, the casts, directors and technical staff began rehearsals, accumulating props and costumes, and accommodated on-the-fly adjustments to the scripts – all with an eye toward a 7 p.m. curtain.

Unlike most years, all of the actors had most of their lines memorized, although one skit – a musical performed to a digital soundtrack – found the cast flailing around for the lyrics, which was all the funnier.

The evening also gives local theater artists opportunities to expand their profile. Some of the directors and playwrights are better known to the public as actors, although they have had experience in those other offstage roles.

The Amadeos, who are moving to Colorado this summer, gave Theatre Lab their blessing to carry on their tradition. Antonio Amadeo was present Monday night.

Theatre Lab, the professional resident company at Florida Atlantic University, is a 19-month-old undertaking focused on developing and presenting new plays. It was founded by former Florida Stage leader Louis Tyrrell.

This project was headed by Associate Artistic Director Matt Stabile with the aid of Lab stalwarts David Nail, Rich Szczublewski, Josh Stoyughton, Cassanra Krism John Shamburger and Jill Carr among others.

The works were:

*** Choose Your Own Adventure: The Lost Chapter, by Andie Arthur, director Clayton Phillips; Cast: Clay Cartland, Sabrina Gore, Carey Brianna Hart, Laura Hodos; stage manager Mariah Busk, assistant stage manager Jacob Altman. An office drone is transported into wild storybook adventures.

*** 80’s Power Ballads & Other Things You’re Ashamed Of, by Cliff Burgess, director Kevin Black; Cast: Jovon Jacobs, Christina Groom, Frank Vomero, Patrick A. Wilkinson, stage manager Alex Chimient, The assignment included the direction “must include the line: “ (deep exhale) All day long I been slurpin’ Dr. Pepper from a cereal bowl.”  Indeed, a bizarre commercial director had actors audition with that line.

*** A Raisin In Every Bite, by Jessica Farr, director Jana Tift; Cast: Vanessa Elise, Michael Gioia, Debbie Richardson, Shein Mompremier; stage manager Roman Alexander, assistant stage manager Joshua McKinney. The sole serious play has a young woman bring her lesbian lover home to meet her stepmother and acerbic offensive father.

*** What About My Needs? by Michael Leeds, director Gail Garrisan; Cast: Meredith Bartmon, Larry Buzzeo, Joseph Ferrarelli, Barbara Sloan; stage manager Abby Nigro; assistant stage manager Rebecca Andros. Newlyweds in bed on their wedding night are kibbitzed by their parents.

*** I Can’t Stop Watching Cable News, by Josh Mesnik, director Elizabeth Price; Cast: Beverly Blanchette, John Felix, Leah Sessa, Adam Simpson; stage manager Emma Magner, assistant stage manager Caleb Williams. Hillary rebuffs efforts by her campaign manager and a longtime makeup artist to doll up for her first speech since November.

*** An Exceedingly Difficult Explanation of a Simple Subject, by Theo Reyna, director Amy London; Cast: Diana Garle, Julie Kleiner, Noah Levine , Kevin Reilley; stage manager Madison Spear. A woman joins a group of quirky folks seeking the secret of life.

*** Lunch Money, by Arianna Rose, director Kim St Leon; Cast: Carlos Alayeto, Jordon Armstrong, Shane Tanner, Bonnie Sherman; stage manager Rachel Chin, assistant stage manager Joe Steiner. A musical in which the new kid in school is teased by some of the students and embraced by another.

*** The Dead Guy’s House, by Paul Tei, director James Samuel Randolph; Cast: Irene Adjan, Mia Matthews, Christian Vandepas, Conor Walton; stage manager Josh Vasquez. The assignment dictated “Must include the prop: ALIEN SPACESHIP.” So a drummer/standup comic walks into a pop-up bar populated solely by a dead lounge singer and a waitress until the Alien Queen arrives.

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