Teens put together play in 24 hours

TheatreWorks festival pushes young playwrights to create quickly

A lot can happen in 24 hours. Just ask the group of 54 teens from around the Bay Area who converged on the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood City this weekend -- from Friday evening through Saturday evening -- for the TheatreWorks 24 Hour Play Festival.

It's exactly what it sounds like, according to Jake Arky, associate director of education and playwriting for TheatreWorks.

The event's 9 teams, composed of kids from all over the region, including Palo Alto, showed up at 6 p.m. on April 11 and were promptly given a theme. From there, they had to write a script, produce and rehearse a play, and then perform it at the end of the festival in front of a panel of TheatreWorks judges.

The participants slept (if they slept) in tents, which they set up inside the Sobrato Center.

Putting the teens under such a tight deadline forces them to work hard, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes, Arky said. In fact, one group decided to throw out their script at 5 a.m. on Saturday and begin anew, because their original idea "just wasn't working."

The winning team, a group of drama students from Westmont High School in Campbell, learned first hand the importance of an understudy, according to Arky. One of their team fell ill just a few hours into the festival and they had get on their cell phones and convince a replacement to come up from Campbell to replace him.

"Stuff can change in theater really fast and at a moments notice," Arky said. And the 24 Hour Play Festival is a great way to drive that lesson home for teens who might be thinking about pursuing theater as a career. "Of course," Arky added, "it's fun, too."


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