Call it reality theatre.
Fueled by adrenaline and caffeine, a group of Elmira Theatre Company performers take to the stage tonight (Saturday) to cap a 30-hour marathon of writing, casting and rehearsing a series of one-act plays.
Think of the theatre-thon that marks ETC’s 30th anniversary as a trapeze act without a net.
Or, jokes the group’s first president who’ll be emceeing the night, think of it as going to a car race to see if there’ll be a wreck.
“It’s reality theatre. It will certainly be real, as opposed to reality TV,” said Quentin Martin.
“It’s a neat concept. It should be an interesting evening.”
The theatre-thon will see five plays written, directed, rehearsed and performed within 30 hours. Five writers gathered at the theatre company’s Howard Avenue facility at 6 p.m.
Friday, each charged with creating a one-act play.
From 6 to 7 a.m. this morning, directors and stage managers read through the scripts. By 6:45, actors begin auditioning. Stage managers select their crews. Rehearsals begin at 8:45 a.m., running until 5:30 p.m. At 6:30, company members will be prepping the theatre for audiences, with the doors opening at 7:30.
Everything has to be ready by show-time, notes producer Chris Grose. It’s a fair bit of ground to cover, especially as the whole process starts from scratch. And pretty much everything is an unknown factor. The only real preparation for the actual productions was the selection of a writer, director and stage manager for each of the five plays, the jist of which was still in the writers’ heads up until they sat down in front of the blank screens of the laptop computers provided for them.
“We’re looking forward to this. The place will be abuzz with excitement,” she said in advance of a hectic weekend, the planning of which has been underway since before Christmas. “We thought it would be a cool way to celebrate our 30th anniversary.
For Martin, one of those who staged ETC’s first-ever show (The Mousetrap) back in 1981, the evening will be a chance to review the group’s many performances over the past three decades.
“The sheer volume of stuff produced over that time is mindboggling.”
As emcee, he plans to keep things moving along for the audience between each of the five performances through video clips of shows past, and by relating some ETC history. Fellow group members will be brought up to the stage and put on the spot, he joked.
He’s looking forward to the finished products that will emerge from the marathon theatrical session.
“The material will be raw. The performances will be fairly raw. The spontaneous nature of the productions makes for greater uncertainties … and risks,” said Martin.
“This is going to be a lot of fun.”
The culmination of the full day of fun starts on stage at 8 p.m. Saturday (May 28) with the first of five plays on tap for the evening. Tickets, limited to 100, are $10, available by calling 519-669-3230. The Elmira Theatre Company is located at 76 Howard Ave., Elmira.