That was the time limit set in place for three teams of young actors to write, memorize, and plan out an original 10-minute performance to open in front of an audience. Welcome to the Red-Eye 24-Hour Play Festival boys and girls.
The start of it all. Poultney High School was the first and last to arrive on campus. Due to scheduling conflicts, multiple schools in the area were unable to take part in the event. Other schools simply didn’t respond to the Red-Eye’s invitation.
But that didn’t discourage the Poultney High School students; in fact, a weight was lifted off of their shoulders.
“I was expecting a lot of different schools,” said Poultney junior Deirdre Thacker. “I thought we’d have to mingle with the other schools.”
Emily Franklin, also a junior from Poultney, promptly chimed in saying, “I’m not as nervous now that there aren’t as many schools here.”
Because of rehearsal for the upcoming production of “Guys and Dolls,” Castleton University students would not join the high school students until at least 8 p.m.
Brainstorming ideas was the first step for the young students; and Poultney senior Kerah Book, who had written an original show for Poultney last semester, came prepared.
“We’re thinking about a time-travel kind of thing. Two friends meet up again, something happens and they time travel back to kindergarten where they first met,” she said while standing a few rungs up a ladder in the room.
“Every time they high-five they travel to a different memory until they get back to the present,” Book said.
When asked about the original script she wrote last semester, she began to laugh a little.
“It all started out as a joke. I said (sarcastically) ‘Pfft I can write a play, that’s easy’ and our director said with a straight face ‘if you write a play we’ll perform it’. So I came back the next day with a summary of what the show would be about, and handed out printed copies for everyone. Everyone started laughing and saying that they loved it, and I was like ‘wait, what?’. Staci, our director, said ‘ok we’re doing it, so you better start writing’ and I spent all summer writing the play.”
After graduation, Book said she would like to pursue a career in special education and definitely wants to work with kids.
With Castleton and Poultney students settled down in the Blackbox Theater, Production Manager Matthew Eckler went over some details regarding the next 22 hours. He explained that the shows can be on any topic, should be considerate and tasteful, and must adhere to a particular rule.
“You can use one swear-word in your play, that’s it. Otherwise, you have to make it up yourself. You get one, and it’s up to you how you use it,” he said.
But that wasn’t the only thing that the groups had to consider. Matt had one more surprise for them.
“I’m going to send you a couple of challenges throughout the night that will either help you along, or hinder your group.”
These challenges included: incorporating the titles of five Disney songs, using multiple accents, and working random objects given to each group into their scripts.
From there the groups went their separate ways.
“The hardest part of this process is working as a team. It starts very collaboratively but throughout the day, it has to by nature move to a single director’s view,” Eckler said. “Some people don’t want any control of a situation while others struggle to let go of it. It ultimately comes down to how serious you can take this without making things so serious you can’t get along with the group.”
At this point, each group was discussing possible ideas. Group 1 was intrigued with the idea of focusing on a punk band. Group 2 was debating about the time-traveling idea.
And then there was Group 3. They were…well, you’ll see.
For Group 3, the Monster and Red-Bull was flowing. The five members sported an assortment of kimonos, which were their ‘thinking kimonos.’
“They’re very important,” said Castleton junior Leo Richardson.
And think was exactly what they did for the next two hours.
Castleton senior Katy Albert was rocking a feathery kimono, which left a feathered-trail with every step. Molting was the term used by the group.
Deirdre Thacker suggested a superhero theme, which the other members of the team erupted in support of.
“But the villains get to win. Because the hero always wins,” she said.
But there were some ‘heroic’ moments during the evening in which other students entered Group 3’s lair and noticed the stockpile of snacks.
“You can have some snacks. I bought them to share,” said Thacker to Castleton students.
“I wanted to make friends so I bought some food because that’s the best way to make friends,” she said.
Then things took a turn for the best. Vines became the center of conversation alongside all the possible variations of famous musicals if they incorporated the word “beef” into them. Favorites were “The Sound of Beef,” “Legally Beef,” and all the lyrical parodies that the group could come up with and sing.
It will come as no surprise when you find out that the title of their original 10-minute play was named “Tons of Puns and Finger Guns: An Adventure in Kimonos.”
With scripts due at 10 a.m., all groups had finalized their ideas and were now preparing to rehearse.
Group 1 took a drastic turn from Punk Band to their finalized show, “Heel in My Heart.”
Group 2 decided to go with a Freaky-Friday-Inspired play titled “If I Were You.”
And Group 3 … well, they hadn’t finished yet. But they were still going with Kimono-wearing Supervillains.
“We’re doing alright. We’re more behind than the rest of the groups, but we’re having more fun,” Richardson said.
Most groups were running on three to four hours of sleep.
Some members of Group 3 were running on just over an hour of sleep.
“My back hurts, my stomach hurts,” said Thacker. “We slept in the theater because it’s the only warm place in this building.”
The Blackbox Theater was filled with excitement and exhaustion as the festival neared its conclusion with performances from each team.
Group 1 opened the performances with their show, “Heel in My Heart,” where the narrator enters, appears to have a heel lodged in his chest, and collapses dead.
The humorous aspect of this show was that even though each performer was playing a role, it appeared as though they were portraying themselves. The writing was witty and well-paced, and prompted consistent laughter from the audience for the entire duration of the show.
Group 2 followed with “If I Were You,” where a bully and the boy she picks on mysteriously switch bodies after he presents her with a gift and she throws it on the ground.
It was the most thought-provoking of the shows performed, and momentarily stumped some audience members as they processed what had transpired.
Group 3 closed the evening. The team immediately stood out with the inclusion of distinguished vine quotes in the program for each of their biographies. The show, titled “Tons of Puns and Finger Guns: An Adventure in Kimonos,” did not disappoint.
There were indeed tons of puns and finger guns; and yes, they were in kimonos the whole time. If I had to describe it, it was like watching a 2018 version of “Monty Python” unfold filled with references that would fly over the heads of anyone older than 35. Between the Alexa utilization and Fidget-Spinner, it was hard to find a favorite moment because the entire show was one giant inside-joke that everyone was included in.
Eckler said that next time he would like to have more people come.
“In the future when we do this event or something similar, I’d like to reach out much more face to face with other theatre departments,” Ecker said.
The Poultney students said they’ll definitely return and be even more prepared if Castleton held the event again next year.
“We would definitely come back,” said Thacker.
“We’d bring blankets or sleeping bags next time,” said Poultney freshman Cassie Dupont.