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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 3
Real theater - only faster
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Real theater - only faster

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

14/48: THE WORLD'S QUICKEST THEATER FESTIVAL
ONE WORLD THEATRE/3-CARD MONTY (AT ACT)
January 4, 5, 11, and 12


It's the time of year for the winter 14/48, where a bunch of theater talent of all stripes gets together to make and perform plays in a 24-hour time period. The theme for January 5 was 'Over the Edge,' which produced seven very different plays on the topic.

In His Eyes had a young Catholic novitiate pushed over the edge because her farts got her in trouble. The Unknowable focused on an archeologist who was so intent on finding a lost library that she followed a guide toward a huge tentacled beast of some kind. 21 Run (pictured) featured a 21-year-old on his birthday who gets stinking drunk and conjures an armadillo ninja buddy to help him reconnect with an old friend. The Destiny of Li'l Davy had a family of women who are cursed with all the men in the family dying but Davy - who runs away to become The Edge and play with Bono. Snow Birds was a bittersweet reverie on older couples who move to sunny climes before they die. The Eyrie at the End of the Lane had a Daddy bird bond with his chick, who needs confidence to learn to fly (over the edge). Slice of Life introduced a man and the wife from hell, on her birthday, at a fancy restaurant where she picks on him, he picks on the wait staff, the wait staff pushes the cook, and the cook pushes the kitchen helper, until the kitchen helper goes (wait for it!) over the edge.

Eric Lane Barnes, of Seattle Men's Chorus and Captain Smartypants acclaim, wrote that last piece of the evening and has participated in 14/48 shows for a number of years now. 'I did my first 14/48 five years ago,' Eric reports. Not surprisingly, he was invited to be a part of the 14/48 band, which is a staple of the evening. As Eric describes it, 'The band functions as many things - opens the evening, opens each play, does sound effects and songs internally if plays need them, plays the plays off, and finishes the evening with (hopefully) a big rousing number.'

Often, at least one original piece of music is also written during the day for one of the pieces. So, they have to find music that goes with each piece or write something appropriate and get ready to play and sing it. Eric recalls, 'The first weekend (I ever did) 14/48 was intense. It was so much time, and so much work. I considered calling in sick the second day, but decided it would be a totally crappy thing for me to do. By the end of that second day I felt like we had all achieved something really great.

'I think I've done 14/48 nine times now. I have done the 14/48 band thing many times. I wrote several songs for the band for several of the shows. One was 'Into the Fire,' which I arranged for Sensible Shoes (from Seattle Women's Chorus) to sing in Denver last summer.

'There is something about having to go with your first instincts - it forces one to think through entire problems in one fell swoop. It's been a great exercise in seeing the different elements in seeing a theatrical project through. Except rather than doing it in four or five weeks, you do it in one day. It's ridiculous, and insane, and exhausting, and fun.

'After several years of being in the band, they invited me to be a writer when they did their all-men's show. Being a writer feels like a lot more pressure, but I absolutely love it. It's given me an opportunity to write things I'd never have had a chance to write before.'

So, the evening of each day of a weekend, they give the writer a theme and a slot - a particular position in the seven-play evening - and a certain number of characters. It could be all one sex. There is always a two-hander, for instance. The writers write overnight and must deliver a 10-minute, six-page play by 8 a.m., meet with a director at 9 a.m., and find out who their actors are at 10 a.m. Eric says, 'Then (after deciding internal casting of roles, and answering any questions) it's naptime for me.'

In regard to his ideas for 'Over the Edge,' Eric describes, 'Each time I've done the writing bit I've gotten my idea while driving home. I've worked in restaurants a lot. I like how roles are pretty clearly defined in restaurants from customer to dishwasher. It's almost always a very high-stress situation - cooks are yelling at waitpeople, waitpeople are yelling at cooks, managers are yelling at everyone, but when you go out on the floor everything has to look calm and cool and happy. This seemed to be a great set-up for someone to be pushed over the edge. And while it seems like any one of them might be the one to go 'over the edge,' it was the dishwasher who delivered the coup de grace.'

Also, a play in the final slot has some other considerations. Eric says, 'For a final number (I drew #7 both nights) you don't want a slow, thoughtful piece. You want something that goes out with a bang.'

Now you know some of what a writer goes through on the night before you come to the theater to see what they all cooked up over 24 hours! It's not unusual for people to plan to go all four nights of each two-weekend presentation. And in September (6-14), they have announced plans for a nine-nights-in-a-row event, though we have no further details about how that will work.

For more information, go to www.1448fest.com or www.acttheatre.org, or call (206) 292-7676.

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