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Spotlight: 24-hour Theater Project in Northampton; ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Northampton High School

Published: 11/7/2019 3:32:35 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 3:32:24 PM

The clock is ticking

Theater is designed to be an intense, immediate experience, with nothing between the actors and the audience: no cover for missed cues or lines, no time for rewrites or second takes.

Care to make it more intense? How about trying to write, rehearse and perform a play in just 24 hours?

That’s the premise of Northampton’s popular 24-Hour Theater project, which returns this Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Center for the Arts for two separate showings, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., at which five 10-minute plays will be performed — plays that were all created from scratch beginning the previous night.

The format for the event, begun in the early 2000s, is this: The playwrights meet with project organizers on Friday at 7 p.m., at which point they’re given a “trigger,” a simple statement or question that serves as a theme; they also draw the descriptions of unnamed actors from a hat. Using that information, writers have to craft a play overnight, then hand off the script to a director by 7 a.m. on Saturday.

The directors then rehearse the plays with their assigned actors, while other people involved in the project gather costumes, props and anything else needed to stage the shows by 7 p.m.

This might seem like what one participant once called “theatrical mayhem,” but it’s also about “building the Valley’s theater community by growing our relationships with one another, and with our audience,” says Susanna Apgar, one of the playwrights for this Saturday’s event.

Joining Apgar this year are fellow playwrights Siobhan McManamon, Tomàs Roche and Peter Shelburne — all veterans of the 24-Hour project — and Liz Duffy Adams, whose play “Or” led her to off-Broadway success. Directors are Ezekiel Baskin, Mark Gaudet, Tatiana Godfrey, Caitlin Guzman-Bailey and Gina Kaufmann. Over 20 actors, including Northampton City Councilor Bill Dwight, another longtime participant, are involved in the productions.

Tickets are $20 ($15 for students) and can be ordered online at

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore
art thy skateboard?

There’s 24-Hour Theater, and then there’s Shakespeare. But even with The Bard, there’s room to improvise, or at least to recast. Students in the theater program at Northampton High School have done just that with a new interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet,” updating the classic story of star-crossed lovers and family rivalries for what director and NHS theater teacher Stephen Eldredge calls “the generation of Juliets, Tybalts, Mercutios and Romeos taking the stage in today’s ‘Globe-al’ theater.”

The play, which will be staged Nov. 14, 15, and 16 (next Thursday, Friday and Saturday) at the NHS auditorium, also offers a musical score written by students.

This version of “Romeo and Juliet” imagines a world that’s a mix of old and new: stone arches and graffiti-covered walls; skateboards and swing sets; costumes with a “neo-grunge” look; and duels fought not with swords but other things that come to hand, like shopping carts, plumbing parts and barbed-wire necklaces.

The actors also explore different gender identities and preferences in the characters they play, providing new twists on a classic tale of romance and posing questions on how one steps into adulthood.

Show times are 7 p.m. on Nov. 14-15 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 16. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and can be purchased online at

— Steve Pfarrer

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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