The first, but clearly not the last, 24-Hour Theatre Project is history now. Let's begin with a familiar final moment: the curtain call. Around 10:30 p.m. on Monday evening, 24 actors, six directors, six playwrights and Naked Stage artistic director Antonio Amadeo (the amiable, unflappable, exhausted young man who served as the event's producer) poured onto the wide stage at GableStage to bask in the applause, cheers and standing ovation of a packed theater. The response wasn't merely a part of the ritual of theater. It was earned, impressively so.
Amadeo observed, "Twenty-seven hours ago, none of these plays existed." That was the magic of a project several people at the giddy after-party called "Summer Shorts on Speed." It was not just that six playwrights could create seven short plays, which could then be rehearsed, blocked and performed, all in the space of a day. It was that everyone could do it so well, that a vast theater community could come together to support four small companies and their fellow artists, and have fun doing it.
In late afternoon and early evening, as half-hour technical rehearsals were making the weary actors, directors and playwrights even more jittery, many were regretting the day they heard of the 24-Hour Theatre Project. Once it was over, anyone who was asked if he or she would do it again replied: "In a heartbeat."
Carbonell Award-winning actress Lisa Morgan, who left her home in Palm Beach County at 5:30 a.m. Monday in order to make the 7:30 a.m. start time for the project, vamped her way hilariously through Ricky J. Martinez's Dime-Store Novel. (That's Lisa at right, in a photo by the Herald's Carl Juste; she's not really crying, just showing the acting chops that got her two Carbonells.) After the bows, she said the curtain call was something special: "That feeling of community was like whoa, wow, we all just did this. It's fantastic!"
And it was. There wasn't a what-were-they-thinking play in the bunch. Most were polished and solidly constructed, particularly given the mere hours allowed for their creation. Andie Arthur's clever Dinner at the End of the World was full of so many literary, religious and historical references that its wee gestation time was mind-boggling.
The 24-Hour Theatre Project was, in every sense, an event. Amadeo is pretty sure he'll be recovered enough to do it again in December 2008. But as for this one: bravo.