BY CHELSEA NEWMAN
Songs about smell, a waiting room with no exit, a surprise visit from Death and summer Olympians’ revenge. For the actors, playwrights, tech and crew of Studio 115’s annual 24-Hour Play Festival, these are the results of an exhaustive but exhilarating 24- hour period. Last Friday and Saturday, UMW students came together for a full day’s worth of auditioning, rehearsing, writing and finally, performing.
“It is a highly accelerated process that offers a new and interesting challenge to students, and, of course, it is a lot of fun,” said Studio 115’s managing director Jennifer Whiteside.
Beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, 16 eager actors auditioned with prepared or improvised monologues in front of directors, stage managers and writers. After auditions, volunteer playwrights Mitch Macdonald, Taylor Williams and Donaya Haymond had from 7 to10 p.m. to compose their scripts. From 10 p.m. to midnight was a series of meetings and from midnight to 3 a.m. the actors rehearsed before a quick nap break. At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, breakfast was served before tech. Rehearsals began at 9 a.m., and proceeded for nearly eight hours. No rest for the weary here.
“24 is a very tiring experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said writer, co-writer and actor for the festival Taylor Williams. “You get so many stories to tell, you get to know so many new people, and in the end you get to say that you were part of a fun show.”
Finally at 7 p.m. on Saturday, just a day after the whole process began, it was show time and despite the lack of sleep, the cast, crew and tech were ready to go. An anxious audience piled into Studio 115, greatly anticipating their fellow students’ hard work. It was standing room only when the lights went out and the first performers were ushered onto the stage.
“SMELLEGIES! A Tune Loop” was the opening act. A musical collaboration between Macdonald and Williams, the show was a quick parody of “Elegies, a Song Cycle,” a play that will run later this semester at Klein Theater. The show featured Williams himself as the pianist, along with characters named only by the numbers one, two and three.
As the pianist sipped from his martini glass and jammed on the piano and ukulele, Laura Horsting, Mackenzie Girard and Maggie Bausch presented four songs about smell, from ballad to opera to an upbeat rap. Each sent the audience into a fit of laughter before its close.
The next on the program was “WAITING” (it’s all in caps, so there’s no copyright infringement). Written by Macdonald and directed by Anastasia Sullivan, the show featured three characters—Jaime, Chase and Alex—played by Paul Morris, Brett Meslar and Mackenzie Vanover.
The scene was set in a waiting room of a doctor’s office where a father and young daughter awaited the child’s checkup. Jamie, proud owner of an STD and obviously anxious to see the physician, grew impatient and asked how long the others had been waiting.
“Twenty hours,” was the startling reply. Hearing this, he stormed out only to find that he could not leave the room. The actors gave an energetic and enthusiastic performance which occasionally shocked and often amused the audience.
You’ve heard of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” but Taylor Williams brought a fresh spin to the confrontation of death in his “Death and a Salesman.”
Directed by Donna Weber and featuring Cameron Doucette as Pat and Taja Lorrayn Winston as Death, the show was a tell-all of a rich playboy’s play against Death. When Death literally came knocking at Pat’s door, he challenged her to a series of games for his soul–board games that is. The bet? If he wins, he is allowed to guess why he is being damned and if he loses, well let’s just say it’s going to be hot where he’s headed.
The show ended in a serious match of Rock, Paper, Scissors with the score tied and the audience wondering who wins at this game of chance.
Last but certainly not least was Donaya Haymond’s “Five Rings of Vengeance.” The show was a timely piece about Olympic athletes rising against impolite and careless commentators. The largest cast of the evening consisted of Bootsie Miller, Evan Butler, Chris Shea, Taylor Williams, Amanda Gold, Lauren Kellough, Merry Saez and Heather Lewis.
The show ended in the murder of CNN’s Olympic commentators by a too-old gymnast, a second-rate discus thrower and a Bronze medal winning equestrian rider with an unusual infatuation with his horse.
Both performances were sold out, proclaiming the festival a huge success. In each of the four shows, the lines were delivered with comedic attention and an ease that left spectators smiling and guffawing in their seats.
“I thought it was great,” said UMW sophomore Meghan Edwards, “It’s amazing how they can come up with such a detailed, full-fledged production in such a short time.”