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‘Writing with limits’: 24-Hour Theater Project returns

  • —Benjamin Sidney


Friday, June 16, 2017

By VERONICA SUCHODOLSKI

 

Now in its 12th year, the 24-Hour Theater Project is returning to Northampton with a reinvigorated crew on Saturday, June 17 for a marathon theater production where six 10-minute plays are written, rehearsed and performed within the span of 24 hours.

The Project begins the night before the show goes up when each writer receives a “trigger line” of dialogue and descriptions of the actors who will participate in the piece. After writing through the night, at 7 a.m., the playwrights bring their scripts to the directors, who work with the actors and technical directors to stage the show for a 7 p.m. curtain.

24-Hour veteran Mark Gaudet is in charge of the Project’s steering committee. While the basic format of the production has remained the same since its inception in 2002, Gaudet said that every year there’s “new blood.” He added that over 50 percent of the team is new this year, including steering committee members, actors and directors.

In particular, two new writers have joined the ranks this year alongside five returning playwrights. Among them is Tomas Roche, who studied theater at Holyoke Community College.

While Roche is a newcomer to this production, he’s no stranger to the kind of intense creativity required by the Project; his résumé  includes the Northampton Community Television 7 Day Film Sprint and the Worcester Film Wars, both of which require writing, filming and editing a film in a week or less.

As such, Roche said, participating in the Project was a logical next step. “There’s something fun about writing with limits,” he said. “I look forward to the challenge of a sudden deadline that pushes me into not overthinking my work. It forces me to think outside the box and write something that wouldn’t have come to mind with too much freedom.”

Also new this year is Trenda Loftin, who teaches theater at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School. Loftin participated in the production twice as an actor, but this year, she said, she was asked to join the Project as a writer.

While she was nervous at first, she responded to the proposal with “an enthusiastic yes,” she said.

“I’m excited by the challenge of writing something that will interest and inspire the creative team of actors and directors,” Loftin added.

For Loftin, the community-building aspect of the Project is what has kept her coming back. “We come together with a clear intention, and we follow through,” she said. “The fact that we know, and the audience knows, that we wrote and produced all of the pieces in just 24 hours brings a levity and an understanding to the vibe of the work.” But, she added, “the levity does not detract from the determination and focus that the creators bring to the table.”

Both Roche and Loftin agree that some of that community comes from not really knowing how the plays will turn out. “It’s a very exciting risk, and we all take it together,” Loftin said.

The 24-Hour Theater Project will go up at Theater 14 in Smith College’s Mendenhall Center on Saturday, June 17 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for students in advance at nohoarts.org or $20 and $17 at the door, cash or check.