Allen’s Alley- 24 Hour Play Festival, Part 2- The Return Of “Almost Improv”

Allen's Alley picLast year I wrote an Allen’s Alley devoted to this unique theatre experience, the 24 Hour Play Festival and now this year, I was asked to be a judge when returning judge, Judy Newmark, found herself otherwise engaged. I was thrilled as I had already planned on going- even purchased my ticket for this fundraiser for both Ryan Foizey’s Theatre Lab and Todd Schaefer’s Players Project. This one was just as raucous, just as entertaining and just as much fun.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, just think back to those days in school- college for me- when you were assigned similar projects for acting, playwrighting or directing classes. In this scenario, five playwrights are asked to write a ten to fifteen minute script in a week. They’re given a genre, a setting, number and gender of characters and a random line that must make it into their script while (hopefully) making sense within the concept of the work. Then five directors chosen draw the finished scripts out of a hat and are given 24 hours to study and block the play. Then a group of actors are randomly drawn and inserted into these plays. They then have 24 hours to learn the blocking, lines and then go on stage and present the finished work. Daunting and exhausting to be sure, but we know our local thespians, playwrights and directors are up to the task.

24hourfullSpencer Green, the playwright who wrote the book for the recently produced “Bukowsical” at New Line, wrote a three woman script directed by Edie Avioli called “In.” This wildly provocative comedy features the three women, Sarah Porter, Rachel Hanks and Amy Kelly, discussing killing their boyfriends. Although Rachel’s character is hesitant- she actually likes her boyfriend- she soon gives IN to the enthusiasm of both Sarah and Amy’s characters. A slight twist of fate allows them to “postpone” their discussion to a later date but delivers a warning to all those guys dating out there- you better treat your woman right! These three lovely ladies won the evening’s award for Best Ensemble.

“Preserver” is a clever script by local playwright and actress Rachel Fenton. Although she’s in New York attending classes and auditioning, she wrote and sent in her script and left it in the capable hands of director Christina Rios Kelley. As the sound of an old movie projector clicks away over the sound system, we’re treated to a gentle, growing relationship between Evan Fornachon and Carl Overly, Jr. It’s tougher to get the required line in this one as it’s all done as a silent movie with placards changing to denote scene changes and the sporadic line of dialogue. But it’s such a clever concept and a delightful story that you’ve got to love it even if the line doesn’t necessarily fit the lovely story. Evan took home the prize for Best Actor for the evening.

Local theatrical wunderkind, Steve Peirick, has put together a sentimental story he calls “About Time.” Directed by Todd Schaefer, we find Wendy Renee’s character breaking into a bar where she is soon discovered by bar owner played by Evan Kuhn. Hostile toward one another at the start, their stories begin to unfold and this turns into a love story that crosses time and space and makes them friends through shared experience. The lovely and delightful performance by Wendy won her the Best Actress award for the night. In addition, playwright Steve Peirick took away the Best Writer honors for his moving story.

theatrelablogoAfter an intermission, we were treated to the wild and zany Zak Farmer script called “Twin Pines” and directed by Ryan Foizey. Old friends Nick Kelly, Brian Claussen and Sarajane Alverson meet- as they do every year- in a park where they accidentally killed one of their mutual friends some years ago. Outrageous dialogue and even crazier events lead up to a surprise ending that leads to even more violence and mayhem. Written as his assignment- a melodrama, we are treated to some very old-time melodramatic dialogue with very uncharacteristic melodrama goings-on. But it had us all in tears of laughter. And, for this one, director Ryan Foizey took home the Best Director prize.

Closing out this evening of what could only be billed as “mostly murder and mayhem,” high school student Carl Wickman brings us another outrageous script called “The Animal.” Director Michael Amoroso brings it his all as husband and wife, Terry Meddows and Rachel Tibbets, quarrel in a restaurant with the worst service we’ve ever seen until it all comes to blows (and stranglings) that delivers delicious black comedy from an up and coming playwright with a very warped mind!

Great music from Chris Sears delighted the crowd before the plays and at intermission and raffles were held during scene changes to give away gift baskets and ticket packages to local upcoming theatrical events around town. We even had some celebrities show up as several members of the new Opera Theatre St. Louis season showed up from nearby Webster University to spend their night off from rehearsal to enjoy what I like to call the “almost improv” feel of the Second Annual 24 Hour Play Festival.

Kudos to everyone involved and I certainly hope both Theater Lab and Players Project raised some well deserved funds for their future endeavors. Thanks again to Ryan Foizey for thinking of me- I had a blast judging these tireless theatre professionals in one of the most fun events of the local theatrical season.


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