24 Hour Theatre production requires teamwork and caffeine

Allison Mueller

Ana Alexander/ Winonan

Winona State hosts 24 hour theater in the PAC blackbox. Photo: Taylor Nyman
Winona State hosts 24 hour theater in the PAC blackbox. Photo: Taylor Nyman

Students involved in the 24 Hour Theatre performance had only twenty four hours – as the event’s title suggests – to produce a complete show. This includes writing the scripts, holding auditions, casting actors and putting together the set. Everything must be completed down to the props, costumes, sound and lighting.

Actors, directors, writers and crew members gathered in the Performing Arts Center to begin their production on Friday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

The event began with the writing process. Writers were chosen ahead of time and were given about three hours to write three different scripts. To make the process more challenging, one line was randomly drawn, and it had to appear in all three plays. The chosen word ended up being “crickets,” which subtly materialized in various forms throughout the show.

Emma VanVactor-Lee, an actress in the show, commented on the amount of sleep students got during the process.

“I think I got the most out of everyone, which was maybe like seven hours; some people got like forty-five minutes.”

Students powered through with naps and caffeinated beverages to create the show.

“A lot of Dr. Pepper was consumed. Everyone is running off of artistic freedom and caffeine,” VanVactor-Lee said.

The artistic freedom and caffeine led to the production of three shows titled “The Writer,” “Family Circus,” and “Valuables.”

“The Writer” centered on an author beginning his novel, in which the characters soon revolt against his writing skills, demanding to be written in different, more interesting ways. The writer, played by Brad Krieger, argued back and forth with his imaginary characters until a pizza deliveryman appears. Krieger’s character has a moment of enlightenment when he realizes his characters no longer need him, and he is free. With that, he runs offstage, leaving the pizza deliveryman, played by Ross McNall, onstage with the remaining characters, asking who was going to pay for the pizza.

The second play, “Family Circus,” depicted a family who began confessing their secret dream careers, brought on by the son’s declaration that he wanted to become a clown. This confession inspires the mother to say she dreams of being a king. The father then admits he wants to work in a boring office, drink crappy coffee and say hello to his coworkers, including one named Jeff who was played by McNall wearing a similar costume to his deliveryman character. The play ends with the grandfather telling the son to find a better job other than being a clown, and the grandmother telling him he was adopted, which earned laughter and a round of applause from the audience.

The final play in the show, “Valuables,” focused on two burglars Butch and Darrell, who were robbing a house that was supposed to be empty for months. Butch, played by Kilat Fitzgerald, asks several questions of Darrell, played by Keagan Anderson, about what to steal and whether or not Darrell ever thought he’d end up as a thief. Darrell’s annoyance is cut short by the arrival of an animated Realtor®, played by VanVactor-Lee, who is trying to sell the house to a young couple.

Eventually, the realtor discovers the two thieves and calls the police while Butch runs offstage. McNall again enters the stage, this time slightly altering his costume to fit that of a cop. Butch emerges dressed as a woman and convinces Officer Ross he is the owner of the house, and the Realtor® was the true robber. Officer Ross then leads the  true robber offstage, handcuffed and on her way to jail. The play ends with Darrell finally answering Butch’s questions from the beginning of the show, confessing he once aspired to be a rapper named “Cricketz.”

With the allocation of only 24 hours to produce the three shows, teamwork between students was vital.

“The thing about this which is kind of cool is it’s so collaborative. We were all working on the set, finding props, pulling costumes from our houses,” VanVactor-Lee said. “It was really cool because it was this constant flow of artistic juices from everyone.”

For Casey Howe, the writer of the first play, “The Writer,” the best part of the experience was seeing everyone’s collaborative creativity come to life.

“Just being able to witness all the collaboration between everyone all coming together after 24 hours and seeing the final product [was the best part],” Howe said.

The 24 hours of creativity and cultivation ended in a burst of applause from the audience, and congratulations in the PAC entryway to all those involved in the long 24 hours of hard work, where VanVactor-Lee summarized part of the appeal in 24 Hour Theatre.

“The beautiful thing about this is a day ago, none of this existed,” he said.