USC Lab Theatre presents New 48 Hour Play Festival Nov. 22 & 24

November 1, 2013

The University of SC Theatre program will present two exciting, experimental evenings of brand new short theatre works November 22 and 24 at the Lab Theatre.

The short play festival, entitled whose words all ears took captive (a line from Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well) will be brought to life in just 48 hours by students who won’t even have scripts – or, for that matter, know who will write, direct, design and perform them — until two days before the first performance.

Faculty supervisor Professor Robyn Hunt says the event is inspired by other short play festivals around the country, especially Seattle’s 14/48 Festival, which produces, from concept to production, 14 plays in 48 hours. Hunt has been in communication with Seattle professional actor/director Shawn Belyea, executive producer for 14/48, in tailoring the process for the university.

Participation in the festival is open to all interested university students. All that is required of the participants is that they are present at an initial meeting to be held November 20th at 6:30pm at the Lab Theatre, and that they commit to being involved each day through the final performance the evening of Sunday, November 24.

During the initial meeting, participants will be randomly assigned to roles as writers, directors, designers or actors, and Hunt will randomly assign concepts from which the plays must originate. Hunt says the topics will be culled from suggestions from the participants, and will be made up of simple nouns such as ‘boot’ or ‘kiss.’ Those ideas must then become a leitmotif in the scripted work.

She explains, “If the word is, say, ‘wallet,’ I can imagine one person doing a comedic piece where a character finds a wallet and a phone number in it, and he ends up in an insane series of events. Then, I can imagine another story involving a lost wallet and it’s from someone who has been killed. Or, perhaps a third idea where characters have a confrontation over one person being in possession of the other’s wallet. We want to encourage the participants to ask themselves how potent can they be with whatever the idea is in such a short amount of time, whether what they write is comedic, dramatic or otherwise.”

After the initial assignments, the participants will have 48 hours to write, design, direct and rehearse before performing the works for an audience on November 22nd. After the close of that evening’s performances, new topics and assignments will be chosen at random, and the process will repeat. A brand new set of plays will be presented the following Sunday, November 24th.

During both evenings, local rock band Those Lavender Whales will perform in between each play presentation.

While the plays will rely heavily on the student artists ability to improvise ideas in an extremely short time period, Hunt stresses that the finished performances will not be improvisational. “Writers will have created scripts, actors will have memorized words, and directors and designers will have staged it all. It will be the same process as a normal show rehearsal, just condensed.”

Hunt says that the underlying purpose of the festival is to use extreme limitations to inspire creativity. “I think that in this age of budget cuts and scarcity, to take something that imposes from the beginning a certain set of limitations, that turns around our expectations about how theatre can be made well, is really valuable. We know that if we take the element of surprise and we blend it with an optimistic love for what’s possible, something exciting could result. And if we can inculcate that possibility, those limitations can actually inspire us to be more creative instead of less, and instead of shutting down we can actually turn on.”

She adds, with a sly smile, “This is no insult to discipline. You know, sushi chefs don’t get to pick up the knife for seven years; they just make rice. And I’m a formalist. But that doesn’t mean once in a while we shouldn’t shake it up a little bit.”

Performance time for both the November 22 and November 24 performances is 8pm. Tickets for each night are $5 and only available at the door. The Lab Theatre is located at 1400 Wheat St., in the Booker T. Washington building, across from the Blatt P.E. Center.

For more information on whose words all ears took captive or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at (803) 777-9353 or via email at [email protected].