To put on a theatre production is no easy feat. A lot of man power goes into the whole shebang, from casting and directing, to learning lines and understanding choreography and blocking, not to mention appropriating set and costume design, and all of the technical aspects of a show. Most theatre folks, if they’re lucky, have a good four to six weeks to work through these decisions and push together to form a collective entertaining piece of work. But imagine only having 24 hours to do it all.
That’s precisely the challenge Big Dawg Productions will put forth this weekend with their first annual 24-Hour Play Fest, made possible by the Wilmington and New Hanover County Arts Council. “This project receives support from the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts,” Big Dawg’s artistic director, Steve Vernon, clarifies. “Our arts council is such a welcome addition to our community. We would like to see it thrive and get the recognition it deserves. Whether it is a theater company, an art project or any other creative venture, having an arts council as part of our community is big plus!”
Big Dawg received a grant from the council to help produce their season. In between their Mother’s and Father’s Day performances, they decided to open the floor to the community at large. Specifically, teams of four to six actors write, rehearse, and produce a script, based on 10 elements handed to them in an envelope in advance. They’ll enact the show 24 hours later at the home of Big Dawg, Cape Fear Playhouse.
“We have a few people that have voiced interest in participating,” Vernon says. More importantly, Vernon iterates participants need not be actors. He hopes to see everyone from local organizations to church groups to families join in on the fun; however, children’s teams will be required to have an adult moderator.
“There is really no way to know what kind of scripts we’ll get,” he continues. “The rules are simple: Each team must use the existing set and lights prepared for the show. Costumes and props must ‘come from home.’ All rehearsals and writing take place away from Big Dawg’s theater.”
The shows must be 10 to 15 minutes only as well, and they will be judged by a panel of locals. The judges will consist of theater critics, actors and audience members from across the area. “I wanted each panel to represent as many different types of people as possible,” Vernon notes. “Groups will be judged within a number of areas, including how they incorporate the 10 elements supplied to them the night before.”
Vernon decided to include the 24-hour fest as part of Big Dawg’s lineup after learning about college groups challenging themselves in these formats nationwide. “There is even a company that has created 24-Hour Play Fest Kits that you can purchase to put your own event together,” he states. He loves the idea of bringing the local theatre company even further into the community. In fact, spectators will be able to watch the final shows for free—but they need to arrive in time to secure one of 50 seats at Cape Fear Playhouse. Seats will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis the night of the shows.
Vernon says they’ll be accepting teams up until this Wednesday at 5 p.m. Adult groups officially meet at 7 p.m. on May 21st to get the criteria for Thursday’s performance; a second round of adults can meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. to showcase on Friday. Then youth groups meet at 7 p.m Friday and will be ready for Saturday’s performance, and again on Saturday at 2 p.m. for Sunday’s performance. It’s $10 a person to be part of a team, with monies raised going to Big Dawg.
“All interested parties should send a representative to 613 Castle Street for those meetings,” Vernon assures. “I would love to see six to eight teams every night of the weekend, but [with this] being our first try at it, I’m not expecting that many this year—but a boy can dream!”
There will be one adult group and one children’s group winner. Each will receive two, rent-free weekends at Cape Fear Playhouse ($1,000 value) to put on a show or event of their choosing. All extra funding needed to cull the productions and happenings will be the responsibility of the winners. Pending the popularity and response of the play fest, Vernon hopes to see it return to their lineup year after year.
Folks who have questions on how to participate can call Steve Vernon at 910-477-2383.
24-Hour Play Fest
Adult shows: May 22nd-23rd; youth shows, May 24th-25th, 8 p.m.
Free for spectators; $10 to join a team
Cape Fear Playhouse
613 Castle Street
Steve Vernon: 910-477-2383