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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

24 hour theater

There's a television show that runs on the Food Network called Chopped. It places four chefs in competition with each other eliminating one after each challenge until there is a final winner.

Each chef is given a basket with the same four ingredients and they are asked to make a meal that must include each of the items. The trick is the combination of items tends to make no sense. They could be peanut butter, sardines, horseradish and stale rye bread.

It is actually pretty impressive to see what each chef comes up with. But since television is a visual medium, not an interactive one, I have to trust the opinions of judges who actually taste the dish. I do know that if I were to go to a restaurant and saw an item that included peanut butter, sardines, horseradish and stale bread - I would not order that dish.

That said, it is a lot of fun to watch the show and appreciate the creative expertise of the chefs. Some of the things they come up with are inventive and near-brilliant. What makes it more compelling is the pressure they are under to produce something original within a half-hour.

I'm looking at the 24hr theater marathon that takes place between Friday and Saturday nights at the Troy Arts Center on River Street in much the same way as I do Chopped. It will be a creative challenge for the 50 theater artists participating in the event and probably a lot of fun to watch. However, I do not expect to see any of the finished products end up on the menu of a local theater company.

The idea is that on Friday night, during Troy Night Out, five playwrights will be given a "trigger". It can be anything - a word, an emotion or a concept. The writers have to take that "trigger" and incorporate it into a play they must write overnight.

Also on Friday night they pull names out of a hat to find out who will direct their piece. The same random process is used to determine not only who their actors will be, but how many actors they must write for.

On Saturday, they bring the finished script to the arts center and give it to the director. The director assembles the actors, assigns roles and begins to rehearse. That evening starting at 8 p.m. the plays will be performed on a set, in costume and with theatrical lighting.

Without question it is a daunting experience. Perhaps the challenges of the event is the reason so many of the best professional talent are participating in the project. The playwrights, directors and actors are an all star lineup of area talent. Adding additional interest is the talent pool is shared between people who live and work in the Capital District and those who live and work in the Berkshires. This is networking taken to a new level. Indeed, it is the hope this project will forge new relationships between theater artists in both regions.

There are many reasons that the project has value. The most important is seeing five original pieces on stage - even if they are only ten or 15 minutes in length - can be fun. But, I sense the participants will have the most fun. There is a sense of theater camp about the entire project.

I'll probably attend, but it will be to enjoy the process, not with the expectation of seeing great theater. With the greatest of respect to the talent involved I do not think this is the way to create lasting or even good art. But, I repeat, it can be fun.

I just hope the trigger for the playwrights is not peanut butter, sardines, horseradish or stale bread.


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