A Sprint that Feels Like a Marathon

Amanda McKeon

The term ‘all-nighter’ typically evokes images of bleary-eyed students wallowing in misery and fatigue as they imbibe copious amounts coffee. However, those involved in last Friday’s 24-hour burn took a decidedly unique and enthusiastic approach to the all-nighter, as they energetically rose to its challenges in the name of theater and the creative process.

At 8 p.m. Friday night, actors, directors, writers and crew gathered in Little Hall to begin the whirlwind of the 24-Hour Burn, a theater production in which a play is written, rehearsed and performed in the span of 24 hours. While the idea of working throughout the night (and in fact staying up through the performance) is typically daunting, those involved displayed no panic, and instead appeared energized.

After the shows were cast, writers began to pen their plays, which were due the next morning at 8 a.m. In total, four short, different plays were written. Writer and sophomore Ben Hoover described the writing process as unplanned as he explained that his play came from, “a random tangent.” Hoover also credited the fact that he knew the actors he was writing for and so, knew their capabilities.

With a cup of coffee (the words “Ben’s Cup of Life” scrawled on it) in hand on Saturday morning, he spoke to the challenges the time constraint posed to planning and writing his play.

“It is always interesting writing while exhausted,” Hoover said.

Fortunately, Hoover and the other writers had an excellent sounding board for their ideas: directors were present during the writing process.

“Directors could provide feedback in the read-throughs that went on during the night,” event organizer and sophomore Sarah Tilley said.

Moreover, writers were receptive to input from actors and took their feedback into account. Hoover described the process, stating that his words and the words of other directors was by no means absolute.

“Writing the play was a very fluid process,” Hoover explained.

While penning the plays was a challenge, directing also posed difficulties because of the limited time directors had to make creative choices and decisions for their plays. This difficulty, however, was eased by the fact that directors were a part of the writer’s creative process and so had a sense of what the tone and vision the writers wished to communicate. Additionally, the writers still had an active role in the plays after they finished writing, because they were present at rehearsals.

Tilley, who directed the play It Just Is, explained that the writers had a continued importance at rehearsals.

“They [the writers] have a better sense of the tone. They talked to actors about their show [and] characters’ motivations,” Tilley said.

The writers’ presence certainly helped actors deal with the challenge of familiarizing themselves with their characters in such a short period of time. Actress and first-year Francesca Gallo, who performed in writer Ben Hoover’s Greater Than Oneself, explained the benefit of being able to discuss her character.

“[Hoover] gave us a lot of insight on what he wanted from each character and what the play was about,” Gallo said.

The challenge of getting into character was definitely compounded by the time constraint.

First-year Alyssa Perez acted in Written in a Dark Room.

“It was a lot harder to fully grasp the character in such a short period of time,” Perez said. “I had to just dive into it, no holding back.”

First-year Chelsea Hoffman who also performed in Written in a Dark Room repeated Perez’s sentiments on the challenge of comprehending her character. She explained the time constraints on this process with a fitting metaphor.

“The process of developing a character as a whole is a journey of discovery. With such limited time you tend to bee-line from one place to the next as fast as possible, missing some cool detours along the way,” Hoffman said.

Actors rehearsed all day Saturday, simultaneously trying to memorize their lines, understand their characters and block their movements. By 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, they were prepared to showcase their hard day’s work and to treat the audience to enjoyable mélange of comedy and drama.

Four separate plays were put on: It Just Is, Written in a Dark Room, Greater Than Oneself and Facing the Pillow. Each production was distinct in tone and staging; however, certain themes were coincidentally common to the plays: there were undertones of dealing with change and comprehending grief in all. Despite the time constraints on rehearsal, each play delivered an impressive measure of polish and cohesion, and actors gracefully performed their roles, adjusting to any unexpected gaffes with poise.

The productions served not only as entertainment, but also as opportunities for writers, directors and actors to showcase and hone their talents, while simultaneously promoting performing arts and the creative process at Colgate. Hoover saw the event as affording opportunities for writers.

“It provides for more student-written theater…something that we’re really lacking [at Colgate],” Hoover said.

Actor and junior Allison Salewski reiterated this point.

“Often actors get much of the attention in theater, but the writers on campus are able to highlight their craft in the 24-Hour Burn,” Salewski explained.

The wholly organic process of the 24-Hour Burn also makes it invaluable to promoting the performing arts at Colgate: students create each aspect of the performance and see the results of their efforts in a polished final product.

“It’s important because it involves every part of theater,” Tilley said, affirming the event’s worth.

“Theater is about expression, and in 24-Hour Burn, Colgate students are allowed to conceive of and advertise their own thoughts instead of casting their interpretation on those of others,” Hoffman said, aptly summing up the production’s value for theater on campus.

For those who got to experience any aspect of the 24-Hour Burn, Hoffman’s words ring true: whether you were a part of the all-nighter, or simply came to enjoy the final products, the 24-Hour Burn provided thrills in an atmosphere charged with an exhilarating energy.