I’m a few days late with this one (ok, I’m nearly two weeks late), but I’m here now and that’s all that matters.
Think on this:
“Diversity means more than just black and white.”
Do you agree? I know I do, and so did my theatre professor which explains why he chose that very prompt to be the catalyst for our 24 Hour Play Project final. There is more to life than black and white. In fact, we aren’t all black and white. I know for a fact that I am not black. I am brown. A lot of my friends are more cream than they are white. Skin color is only part of what makes people different. In the grand scheme of things, skin color is maybe 5% of what makes up the various means of diversity. I mean, there’s sexuality, gender, economic status, genetics and heredity, abilities and disabilities, etc. Race is nothing when you look at the big picture.
At 8 p.m. on Wednesday January 27, 2010, my THR 309 class met in the greenroom of the theatre and set to work on devising a production to best portray this prompt about diversity. For about and hour and a half, we sat around a white board throwing out ideas of how to go about writing a script. We needed characters, a plot, conflict, a purpose…and upon coming up with a basic idea, we left our three playwrights to themselves to create for us the perfect script for our production.
Of course, we didn’t expect for it to take nearly 8 hours…
We expected the script to be done by maybe 2 a.m. Obviously the creative writing process takes longer than we thought. Now, maybe 8 out of 24 hours doesn’t sound like anything too bad. I mean, what are you doing at 5:30 a.m.? Sleeping cozily in your bed? (I know my high school theatre teacher had been up and about for about 2 hours by that time, and when I responded to one of her texts, she had to do a double take because she had forgotten why I was even up that early considering how I am a college student and all.) But when you stop to look at things, 5:30 a.m. was a little late.
Not to say that we weren’t making good timing, but consider the following:
- the set designers couldn’t design a set because they didn’t have a script
- the costumers couldn’t design and pick out costumes because they didn’t have a script
- the lighting crew couldn’t hang and focus lights because they didn’t have a script
- the directors couldn’t start directing because they didn’t have a script
- I couldn’t be a stage manager because I didn’t have a script
I hope you get the picture. We couldn’t really do much of anything else without the script, so there was a great deal of time that a lot of us were doing absolutely nothing because we couldn’t actually do anything else but nothing. In the theatrical realm, that is a sad state to be in. In the theatrical realm where you’re producing plays in 24 hours…that’s an even worse state to be in. Why? Because we didn’t get very much sleep…
But upon getting our script, things started going in full swing. And there is nothing I love more than theatre productions being in full swing with everyone working hard to do their part (well, almost everyone). Of course, what made this whole production so complicated and worth the challenge was the fact that our tech people also functioned as our actors.
Now how do you plan on being in two places at once? I, personally, have yet to figure that one out. I’m still trying to figure out how to stop time…
I guess we somehow managed to figure it out because things were moving like clockwork. Costumes were picked out and ready, lights were focused and programmed into the light board, sound cues were ready to be cued, blocking was coming together, partial memorization and a great deal of improv was being acted…and me? I got to be the stage manager I always dreamed of being. (But my hopes and fears about stage management shall be saved for another day.)
By noon, we were done. Sort of. We had been so far ahead of schedule that all we needed was to go and rest. A 5 and a half hour long break to sleep, shower, eat, relax, do any last minute preparation before coming back to the theatre for call so that we could prep ourselves in our last hour and a half before the house opened and our fans came streaming in to see a never before seen once in a lifetime production? We were down for that.
Side note: Sleep is a wondrous thing. Being up for over 24 hours working on something that intense? Definitely worth the 3 hour nap. End of side note.
Well, by the time 6 p.m. rolled around and we were getting ready to start our final dress rehearsal, we get the news:
“We added some stuff to the script so that the audience will truly be able to follow.”
That is not the kind of news a stage manager wants to hear 2 hours before curtain.
Luckily for us, Edwin had it all written down and he got to read it off the paper because he was acting as the narrator and narrators are allowed to read off paper.
Unluckily for us, as Lacey so graciously worked hard to program those specials into the light board, the cues managed to reprogram themselves and practically everything was lost in terms of lighting.
And all of that happened 30 minutes before the house opened.
Imagine the panic exchanged between the light board operator and the stage manager via headset (and boy have I missed wearing one of those) when you’re 45 minutes from curtain and you lack lights. The stage manager has to call the show from backstage only she can’t see anything because there are two curtains clouding her vision, and the light board operator is frantically trying to reprogram the light board while simultaneously attempting to follow cues so that the actors know what they are doing…talk about stressful.
With every production comes roadblocks, yet even those blocks can act as a way to reveal the strengths of the people involved. To me, working under pressure never felt so good.
In the end, an audience of nearly 150 in a theatre that can seat 250 was not so bad. For 24 hours of work, we produced a 30 minute play. After having gone almost a year without stage managing, I called a show with limited mistakes for the 24 hours that we had. And at the end of it all, the audience saw a show that was not only entertaining, but it spoke to the true nature of our class and of the prompt:
“Diversity means more than just black and white.”
There’s no clear cut way on how to devise a production. There’s no clear cut way to write a script or to attack such a prompt. All you can do is give it your all when you try. And even if you fall flat on your face, you can at least say you fell with dignity. Of course with THR 309, we didn’t fall at all. We flew higher than anyone, and they simply can’t touch this.