Kennesaw State University Theatre students team up to create plays in only 24 hours

 24 hour play poster
Watch live on Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. 

A writer, director, and stage manager lead performers in original works performed live

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 19, 2021) — Writer’s block? Indecisive? Can’t remember your lines? Nope, not allowed this weekend. It’s the 2021 24-Hour Play Festival, produced by the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS) at Kennesaw State University and live streamed on Saturday, January 23 at 8 p.m. from the Stillwell Theatre through ArtsKSU Virtual.

Four student-creator teams—including a writer, director, stage manager, and performers—will grapple with chance and choice to conceive, create and perform their original works in a 24-hour period. It is guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind adventure for creators and audience alike.

TPS senior lecturer Margaret Baldwin Pendergrass and assistant professor of acting Emily Kitchens are coordinating this year’s festival. Pendergrass says audiences will enjoy “short plays that will focus on visual or physical storytelling. Each script will have a minimal number of words allowed, and, thus, they will be more like movement theatre or dance, but in the context of everyday life.” To add a little more to the challenge, each play must incorporate some musical element, physical objects, plus a few other surprises. “It’s storytelling about what it means to be human on one day in multiple lives, in different landscapes,” adds Pendegrass.

This year’s theme is “COVID Happenings: An Almost Silent 24-Hour Play Festival,” borrowing inspiration from artist Allan Kaprow in the 1950’s and early 1960s. Kaprow popularized the concept of “Happenings,” a precisely scripted sequence of events that invite the performances and audience to “play” in a creative space.

Participating students are excited about the prospect of playing in a creative space, even though they will be required to wear masks and socially distance. Junior Nakia Lambert, in the role of stage manager and performer, is a little concerned about the timeframe, but is interested to “see how well a play can be put together in such a short amount of time, and where the most fun and creativity will happen!” Sophomore Jade Roman, a writer for this year's festival, is excited to work “with other talented people who share the same passion as I do to create an awesome performance.” 

Additional faculty mentors include Chuck Meacham, chair of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies; Kyle Powell, assistant professor of acting, and Amanda Wansa Morgan, coordinator of Musical Theatre and associate professor. 

Morgan says, “The 24-Hour Play Festival has been a project that students can stretch their wings in writing, directing, devising, and creating together. They not only get to create original material but also to engage in unique problem-solving skills, building a very special bond and sense of community.”

Junior Sebastian Lopez knows that sense of community, as he previously participated in something similar at another school, but was surprised to learn that while actors slept, writers were slaving away to finish the script. As a writer, he hopes to learn how “to be more open minded with the ideas that we create; to not censor or thoughts or shut them down immediately, and to explore the parts of ourselves we don’t want people to see.”

The format seems right for such exercises. Kitchens adds, “This is a beautiful space where TPS scholar artists own the act of creative process. Whatever their role—writer, director, performer, stage manager, etc.—it’s theirs from the inception.”

A veteran of 24-Hour Play Festivals, student Nicholas Gilomen notes that “as a writer, I have learned that done is pretty. Of course, I edited my script and put thought into everything I did, but when it's five in the morning or ten minutes until curtain, it's better to just enjoy the fact that you created something brand new and breathe.” Gilomen, who will direct this year, encourages patrons to watch live online, as the event is “where theatre makers energized by caffeine and adrenaline do the theatre version of The Amazing Race except there are no losers or winners, and all aspects of the production were completed in under 24 hours.”

To watch the 2021 24-Hour Play Festival online, simply make a free reservation and the live link will be sent to you. To learn more about the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, visit arts.kennesaw.edu/theatre

--Kathie Beckett

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