The Prague Post

A new theater project turns up the heat

Call it creativity with a time crunch: One day to write, cast and rehearse. Then it’s showtime. The 24-Hour Theatre Project will put a clutch of local theater people in the hot seat by giving them exactly that much time to create and perform five new plays. The imagination pressure process begins Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.

“Five writers will be given some common elements which they have to include in a five- to 10-minute play,” says project producer Anne McDonough, an expat American actor and director. “The elements could be anything — a prop, a line from a movie, something abstract.” They then have 12 hours to write a play with three characters.

At 7 a.m. the following morning, the plays will be collected and randomly given out to five directors, who will have about an hour to review them and choose their actors from a pool of previously auditioned talent. The groups will spend the day rehearsing their plays and then present them starting at 7 p.m. Sunday night.

“This is a way for the English-speaking theater community to collaborate in a way they haven’t before,” says McDonough, who along with producing the project is also one of the directors. “I wanted to provide the community with a fun and challenging project.”

Aileen Loy is a 24-Hour Theatre Project veteran, having been a writer, director and actor at similar shows in Atlanta, Georgia. “I like the spirit behind this project,” she says of her continued involvement. “It takes you out of your own comfort zone.” Acting has been her favorite role, though for the Prague project she will be a director.

“It’s almost terrifying,” says Eric Volkman, one of the writers. “There will be no procrastination luxury; you’ll just have to push it through.” Volkman chose to participate in the project for a variety of reasons. “This will be good for discipline and great practice working under pressure,” he says.

There is another element of this project that appeals to him. “It should be a product of raw talent,” he says. “There’s a chance for it to be more ‘you’ than other things that are planned.”

One of the directors, Pepe Brito, feels the same way about his role. “It will have to be instinctual,” he says. Loy agrees. “You have to find the quickest way to make the actors trust their instincts, too,” she says.

Brito initially had some misgivings about getting involved in the project. “My first reaction to Anne’s e-mail was, ‘You’re crazy and no,'” he says. “But I finally decided, why not do something crazy for art?”

Brito is trying not to think about it too much beforehand. “The key will be casting the right actors and directing them according to the play I get,” he says. Loy plans on doing the same thing. “You have to be willing to work with what you have and get the best story out of the actor.”

This type of project has been done in many U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Minneapolis. But this marks the first time it’s being done in Prague. So what can the audience expect?

“Expect the unexpected,” is Loy’s advice. “You never know what the writers are going to cook up.”

Volkman agrees. “There will be an element of surprise for the audience,” he says. “They won’t know what they’re going to see — a drama? A comedy?”

“The results should be some wild stuff that should be very interesting for the audience to watch,” McDonough says.

Loy offers some final advice for everyone involved, in particular the audience: “All participants should go with the wild spontaneity of live theater.”