Long day's journey to opening

Colonial Players staging 24-hour sprint of casting, rehearsal

June 11, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

The approach of its 60th birthday is not time for coasting at Colonial Players, but rather a time for blasting off into bold and uncharted territory: Jam the entire process of creating a play into a sleepless 24-hour period, culminating in one-night-only performance on Saturday.

The purpose is to funnel into 24 hours all of the activities that usually take Colonial Players at least two months to accomplish. It should interest serious theatergoers and fascinate anyone dreaming of a career on stage or behind the scenes.

Members of the public are invited to go to the theater at any time to view as much of this process as they wish and even to offer assistance. It is hoped that a sizable audience will arrive for the 8 p.m. curtain to view the completed one-act play. A donation of $5 is suggested.

Colonial Players artistic director Ron Giddings initiated the project, which has been tried at Yale, in New York City and in Canada, and is known for creating dynamic theater.

Giddings will be joined by Judi Wobensmith as production consultant and Edd Miller, who has signed on as play consultant. Only these three will know in advance which play has been chosen. Together, they must cast, stage and rehearse the show for performance in front of a live audience. During the process, the three will be joined by set, lighting and costume designers, and engineers.

Almost everything will happen at Colonial Players Theater, at 108 East St., except for the casting. That will occur at the Colonial Annex at Renard Court from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, when actors will perform a one-minute prepared monologue and go through some improv exercises. The cast will be chosen immediately and will do a reading of the play. After the reading, the director will block the entire play, a process that is expected to end about midnight, when the actors will be dismissed for a nap. Actors will be expected to report back to the theater at 7 a.m.

During the earlier reading, costume designers will measure the actors whenever they are available. Designers will create costumes, hang lights and build the set during the early morning, then nap from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. A cue-to-cue on the show at the theater with all participants is scheduled for 2 p.m. After a short dinner break, rehearsals will frantically continue until the 8 p m curtain time.

Whether this process is stressful or blissfully filled with camaraderie will largely depend on the early choices of the director and play and production consultants. This project will also require confident participants, because there would seem little time for second-guessing.

The five men and five women chosen as actors must learn their lines or at least feel comfortable in their characters, and must learn where to stand and when to sit, and where to exit and enter.

Crews will set lights and check sound and select props and create a minimal workable set.

The fun on Friday and Saturday will be seeing how this theatrically seasoned trio and associates can cope with inevitable crises. Theater is sometimes described as "controlled chaos," guaranteed to be intensified by the rapid pace demanded.

Giddings, Miller and Wobensmith said they welcome the challenge, expressing confidence that it will result in a production of excellence.

Information: www.cplayers. com

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