Gonzaga University’s department of theatre and dance kicked off their 2019-20 year with a performance of their 24-hour theatre project in Magnuson Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 31. For the department’s second annual 24-hour project, they put on five short plays for a packed house at Magnuson Theatre.
The purpose of the 24-hour theatre project is mainly for incoming, aspiring actors at GU and their peers to become familiarized with the program, their peers and each other.
“I was just hoping that through this, people would meet each other, have a good time, and make connections both to each other and to the theatre department,” said junior Erin Sellers, the theatre department’s coordinator for the 24-hour theatre project.
The project itself began on Friday at 7:30 p.m. exactly 24 hours before the plays were presented to a wide audience. Those interested in being cast in one of the plays being performed Saturday night auditioned to a panel of playwrights and directors where they told either a life story or a short joke with all the bravado they could muster.
After auditions ended, crunch time for everyone involved began.
Every actor who auditioned is selected to be in one of the five plays, consisting of two to three other actors, as well as a student writer and a student director.
Overnight, the writer formulates a story and writes a script. They had to stay inside the genre given to their group while incorporating an obscure set piece and two particular lines of dialogue given to them by Sellers.
The genres were conspiracy theory, romantic comedy, superheroes, detective story and reality TV. With the mandatory set pieces being items such as large nutcrackers and horse heads, and the lines being as uncanny as the phrase, “you look prettier than a Komodo dragon,” it proved to be quite the challenge for the playwrights to still formulate a coherent plot.
“You can’t start writing it early at all because you get all of your lines and props that you have to incorporate 24 hours before the performance starts, so you can’t do any prework or preparation,” said senior Emma VanderWeyst, who was the writer for the first play of the night, "Kindergarten Cops." “The scariest thing was walking out of that theater Friday night knowing that I had to have a play written in the next 12 hours.”
Once the writers finished developing a script, they sent it to the director in the group, who met with their cast the next morning to get them familiar with the script and competent enough to perform it live in less than 12 hours.
Luckily, despite most of the actors in the castings being freshman with little prior acquaintance to GU’s drama and theatre department, a lot of them had prior experience with time constraints.
“Back home during the summer, we had a weekly musical show where we had a week to put on a new musical, and I did that for eight years, so this wasn’t too different,” said freshman Grace Ehrhardt.
“It took a little time to memorize the lines, but it wasn’t Shakespearean English or anything like that, so it was more relatable,” freshman Logan Miller said. “The pressure was something to get used to, but the content itself was super fun to work with.”
By 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, every member involved in the production was ready to go and show the audience all they achieved over the past day of hard work, little sleep and lots of fun. The plays were full of laugh- out-loud humor, moments that made the audience think, and solid performances by every actor involved.
“This is a very collaborative process. It’s cool that one person gets to write, then it gets sent off and another person is responsible for putting in on stage, and then you have totally different people performing it,” VanderWeyst said. “It takes a village just to put one of these on and it’s been really cool to see the final product.”
Editor's note: Erin Sellers is a staff writer for The Gonzaga Bulletin.