Student association puts together full theatrical production in just 24 hours

Beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, over a dozen students accepted the challenge to write, practice, and perform a play in under 24 hours.

The participants, while primarily theatre students from the University of Ottawa, also included a few other Gee-Gees who specialize in music and French.

This unique experience, titled “24 Hour Theatre,” served as an opportunity for actors and writers alike to hone their performing abilities under intense pressure.

Franco Pang, a third-year student and the president of the Student Association of the Department of Theatre (Thespis), explained that the production was split into two halves. The first 12 hours are used to write the play, while the following 12 are used to perform what they’ve written in preparation for the big show.

While there were some people who grew tired and went home, Pang explained that “it’s 24 hours (and) as the name implies, people pretty much stay in the building for 24 hours.”

Luckily, for the brave souls who decided to endure the marathon-style play production, their student executives provided snacks, breakfast, and games throughout the night to keep everyone happy and motivated.

The hard work of this small group of students eventually paid off Saturday night, with a short but highly enjoyable show.

In the past, the participants of “24 Hour Theatre,” a semi-annual event put on by Thespis, were given a theme around which they could then structure their play. But this year Thespis wanted to change things up.

Instead of giving the students a theme, they were assigned an adverb, two lines, and a setting by the event’s organizers. With these minuscule ingredients, these students were tasked with creating a side-splitting performance.

This year’s play was about four aliens who crash-landed on earth because their “spaceship was defunked”—a line the actors were given to incorporate into the show. In order to fix their ship, the aliens needed to find its power source: music. Luckily, the aliens ran into some strangers who, after some persuasion via a dance session, let them use their iPod to power their ship and go home.

Due to unexpected last-minute technical difficulties, the participating students had to adapt the nature of their show to increase its length.

The adapted version of “24 Hour Theatre” included a variation where actors had to change their lines when hearing the host clap, a variation where actors had to adapt to any lighting and sound changes, and a variation where actors had to sing their lines at a moment’s notice.

The result of these changes was a whimsical performance that had most audience members in Academic Hall on the edge of their seats.

It was a very impressive feat, considering that some of the actors had been awake for over 30 hours with minimal sleep.

The only sleep that Emily Walko, a first-year theatre student , got while enduring the 24-hour challenge was a 30 minute nap. When asked how she managed to stay up this entire time, Walko attributed her wakefulness to the constant activities that the Thespis representatives encouraged her to take part in.

However, staying awake for the 24-hour period was only half of the challenge for the actors.

Members of the cast had to fight exhaustion just to remember their lines, and then modify them when the play took an improvisational turn.

Despite the added difficulties Walko wasn’t fazed, and explained that “as soon as you’re on the stage that gets forgotten, because you have a whole rush of adrenaline and energy that hits you.”

To learn more about Thespis, please visit the Department of Theatre section of the U of O website.