Six Salt Lake Community College student directors and playwrights hold their breath, waiting in the college’s Black Box Theatre for actors to show.
The actors, also students, step in, and not a moment is wasted. Each actor, some with previous theatre experience and others without, has 60 seconds to do anything that might make them stand out. One actor covers the song “A Whole New World” from the Disney film “Aladdin,” while another performs an operatic rendition of Khia’s song “My Neck, My Back.”
These were the experiences of students who participated in a theatre festival on Sept. 9 and 10, in which directors and playwrights had just 24 hours to cast, direct and perform an original play.
“It was the first time I have ever sang in front of that many people, and so it was very nerve-racking, but overall, it’s just such a fun environment,” said student Katy Howard about auditioning. Even through all her nerves, Howard said she would love to be cast in a musical production.
On the first day, the directors emailed actors with their casting choices. Stage manager Tyler Ricks and and lighting designer Val Seiler readied their equipment for the next day, and student stage crew members constructed backgrounds and stage props.
“I hope this entire event will be a blast,” Seiler said on the first day. Ricks added that he was nervous because the festival would be his first production as stage manager.
On the second day, the directors arrived at 7 a.m. sharp, ready to read and discuss their scripts, and the actors’ arrival followed one hour later. A seven-hour practice day then got underway.
The groups spent the second day condensing typical production work – which includes rehearsing, line memorization, and learning stage placements and actions – in the allotted seven hours before showtime. Each play was limited to 10 minutes in length.
When time was up, the theatre invited audience members to enter and watch the performances. The 24-hour theatre festival produced a total of six plays, each with unique ideas and creativity on full display.
“Round II: Project Adam and Eve” told the story of Adam, Eve and the forbidden fruit with commentary from God and Satan. “Zoo Hates Gabby” revolved around a friend group looking for places to eat, revealing secrets along the way.
And “The Edge of Summer,” a musical, followed two girls in a coming-of-age story that explored friendship and what it means to them.
After the performances concluded, stage members enjoyed a joyous feeling of accomplishment. “Being stage crew is a lot of work, but also incredibly rewarding,” Ricks said, adding that there’s pride in seeing people come together to produce so many productions.
Zac Curtis, the theatre program director, felt exhausted after the festival’s conclusion, but he expressed excitement in having seen so many students collaborate and experience the art process.
“I wanted this project to let people come together and let anyone enjoy this process,” Curtis said. “I wanted the process to be enjoyed by anyone who wants to try it.”
More information about the college’s music and theatre departments can be found on the performing arts web page. To catch one of the many theater shows planned for the coming weeks, visit the Grand Theatre’s website for times and dates.