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The View From Oyaron Hill

An Insider’s Look at 24


Abbey Vermeal

This past weekend, September 18 and 19, the Cardboard Alley Players (CAP), Hartwick’s theater club, hosted the eighth season of the “24 Hour Play Festival” in the Lab Theatre of Bresee Hall, with the assistance of theatre professor Marc Shaw.

If you are not familiar with 24, it is what the name suggests: an entire festival of four short 10-minute plays, put on in 24 hours. From tech, costuming and props, to scripts, directing and line memorization, every task needed to put on a show must be done within the time constraints.

Every year for the past eight years, a group of brave individuals has come together to do their best to rise to the challenge, and this year was no different. At 6:30 p.m., everyone gathers in the Lab Theatre in the basement of Bresee, ready to receive their tasks and get started. As one of the actors, Josh White, said, “It’s organized chaos.” The writers and directors (four of each) are chosen by the CAP E-Board. Volunteers show up to handle tech. The director/writer teams select their actors, and the groups are set. As if putting on a show in 24 hours isn’t tough enough, the CAP E-Board also provides different prompts and stage directions for each director/writer team which must be incorporated into the final production. The prompts and stage directions change from year to year, but they always result in truly unique shows, with the added guarantee that the writers will use the entire 12 hours at their disposal in order to meet the challenge provided by the constraints, rather than finishing their scripts within a few hours.  

This year, the writers were each given a season and a corresponding element that their play has to include. Not only that, but each play had a random action that had to be incorporated into the story: an actor must come out of the audience, a trapdoor in the stage platform must be used, an actor must act like an animal, or something must be thrown from the sound booth. Each group also had to use a door that was placed on stage. Lastly, each group was handed one of the following props: a Jesus statue, a parasol, a Christmas wreath, or a globe. With the understanding that they must use only eight light cues with the lighting and minimal set provided, eight set blocks, any costumes they can find and a few extra props if need be, the teams were released for the long night ahead.

At 7 p.m., the writers begin drafting their scripts. They are limited to 10 minutes for their play, and they have until 7 a.m. the following morning to get their script in to the production staff.

Then the director/writer pairs meet to begin the process of bringing the script to life, bringing in the actors for a communal breakfast at 8:15 a.m. to begin read-throughs and rehearsals. Taylor Morin, the vice president of CAP, says this is her favorite part of 24. “[…] on the morning of the second day[,] Everyone is there, they’re ready, they’re pumped, you can see it on everyone’s faces, they’re ready to tackle the day.”

Throughout the day, the directors and actors work to get everything together. Each group is given a 30-minute block of time in the Lab to practice the technical aspects of the play, such as lighting cues and blocking. Apart from these 30 minutes, rehearsals are held throughout the day, scattered around classrooms in Clark Hall. There is an hour-long dress rehearsal at 4:30 p.m., and then it’s showtime at 7 p.m., with a second performance at 9 p.m. With a half-hour long strike following the second performance, the Lab Theatre is cleared out, as though nothing had ever happened. What really happens, however, is nothing short of incredible.

Director Nathan Skethway said 24, “teaches you to think on your feet and think fast, which is something that you need, especially when you have a program that teaches its students to make the best possible work with what you’re given.”

Another director, Tom Horton, also had thoughts on how the festival as a whole reflects the theatre department: “Anyone can tell you that the department is a little chaotic and fun-loving, but somehow we are always organized enough to get together and create something, no matter what. We can do it right out of the blue - I don’t think you can get that experience so spontaneously and so genuinely anywhere else.” On the difficulties of directing in a limited amount of time, he said, “The hardest part about directing is when you’re given your script and you’re like, ‘okay, I have 12 hours. Someone took 12 hours to make this awesome, I have 12 hours to make the second half awesome. I have to make sure that just as much effort as was put into making this is put out, displaying it and showing it.’”

  • Photo by Marquis Sampson
    Photo by Marquis Sampson
  • Photo submitted by Brian Cook
    Photo submitted by Brian Cook
  • Photo submitted by Brian Cook
    Photo submitted by Brian Cook
Photo by Marquis Sampson
Photo by Marquis Sampson

One of the main rules of the day is, expect the unexpected. Anything can and will happen, and participants have to handle it accordingly in time for the show. Because of this, and the time limits, there will be flaws.

“You can’t go into 24 as an audience member expecting things to be perfectly polished. People are going to forget their lines, things are going to go wrong, because we’re doing the near impossible. We’re throwing together not just one show, but four completely separate 10-minute shows in 24 hours, in less than that, because 12 of it is the writing,” said Lindsey Partelow, one of the writers for this year’s 24.

Partelow also talked about the process of originally writing one script, and having to scrap it and start over, because it just wasn’t right. That’s how the day goes: trying things, moving on from what doesn’t working, and finding something awesome. “It’s just something to try. It’s so experimental. So it’s sort of baptism by fire. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard, but it’s also really gratifying and a lot of fun, and a great way to meet new people.”

On the note of expecting the unexpected, sometimes things go wrong, and quick and drastic measures have to be taken to keep the ball rolling. The show must go on, even if that show involves a member of the production staff stepping in for an actor that ended up not able to make the performance. Alyssa Ralph, an original member of the production team, was cast at the last minute for one of the shows. “You’re all in this together, to be a little cliché … you’re working with everyone, you’re not going to drown on your own,” said Ralph.

With this being the eighth year that the festival has occurred, the question must be asked: what motivates CAP to continue it? After speaking to several people involved in different areas of the project, it is clear that this is a well-loved event, and one that is looked forward to with anticipation and excitement year after year.

When asked what motivates him to continue with the festival, Alex Austein, CAP president, had this to say. “I think that ever since my freshman year, I’ve always thought that 24 reflects on how the year is going to go. If we have a good 24, the year is going to go really well, and vice versa. And this year, I think we’re going to have a pretty good year for the Theatre Department.”

At the end of the process, despite all the difficulties, the night of September19 finished with two complete shows. With subjects ranging from space to hell to aliens to game shows, it was a night of hard work and a lot of fun.

Shawexplained the significance of the event. “What it creates is a high-impact experience, and [students are] able to see that they can contribute their talents and learn with others, and we don’t really have boundaries. It doesn’t matter if you are a first-year, if you’re a senior, if you’re a major or non-major, there’s no hierarchy that you have to be this or that to be involved in Hartwick Theatre. We want everybody to get involved, and that’s the true spirit of Hartwick theatre.”