This is part 2 of a 2 part post. Click here to read part 1.
At 7 am on Saturday morning, November 5, six directors headed into the conference room of The Candy Factory to read six ten-minute scripts that had been written since 10 pm the night before and photocopied within the previous hour. After reading each script the directors worked out a system to decide who would be working with each one and subsequently the pre-selected actors.
The actors returned between 8 and 8:30 am, when we announced the casting assignments. Actors immediately began reading through the scripts that they would live with and work to memorize over the next 8 to 10 hours. Chestnut Hill Cafe
brought in a wonderful assortment of muffins and lots of great coffee to get everyone going for the day. Brian returned to finish preparing the stage and lights. Steve and Jennifer worked on securing locations in other parts of the building for each of the teams to rehearse. Susanne began plugging titles and assignments into the show’s soon-to-be-printed program. I handled some general support, answering questions, tracking down missing actors, and delivering rehearsal schedules to the teams. Each team would be allowed one hour on the stage to rehearse and figure out logistics like prop location and lighting cues. By 10 am, we had set the day’s rehearsal schedules, we had a tentative order for the show, and everybody was busy working. Steve and I were ready to crash, so we both headed home for a nap and a shower.
Hard at work - Photo: Quin Baker
I returned to The Candy Factory by mid-afternoon where I learned that everything was running relatively smoothly. Sa La Thai had provided a delicious lunch of pad thai and fried rice, the teams were moving through their rehearsals on time, and there was an incredible buzz of energy in the room; a mix between excitement, nervousness, frustration, giddiness, and terror.
Susanne left to print and copy the programs and Steve, Jennifer and I did our best to keep things running as smoothly as possible. At 4 pm a tech walk through started on the stage, so everyone could practice lighting cues and turning over the stage one last time, followed by a chair reset and general cleanup. Some of the actors left the space for a break, some continued to work in isolation on their lines, and others continued to work with their teams. Tim Baum, an ambient improvisation musician who would be performing a prelude and short instrumental pieces between each play using synthesizers, guitars, flutes and an oboe, began his sound check and the room finally began to settle a bit during the final hour before show time.
I put the final touches on our welcome speech and finally took a break around 6:30 pm, just as the sold-out audience began to arrive. I have been facilitating presentations and performing music publicly for over 25 years, but I can’t remember a time where I have been as nervous as I was during that last half hour before the show.
Curtain call rehearsal - Photo: Quin Baker
For months the 24 Hour Plays had just been a crazy idea that Steve had heard about a decade before and finally decided to make a reality in Lancaster. Each week leading up to the show we were making judgment calls about things we really didn’t know anything about. We had 40 people dedicating their time, talent and emotional energy to this project, all because we had simply asked them to. Also, we had sold out our 100 tickets 48 hours prior to the show and had been turning people away all day, so we knew that the community’s anticipation was great. And I had just witnessed the most talented, flexible, courageous, and hard working group of artists that I had ever even dreamed existed pouring every ounce of their creative energy into this project. I just wanted them to hit the biggest home run ever!
In my humble opinion, they did just that. After a brief thanks to all of our sponsors (listed here
), and a short explanation of what had transpired over the course of the previous 24 hours, the show kicked off and ran without so much as a glitch for 90 straight minutes. The crowd laughed at the humor, sat on the edge of their seats during the drama, and roared at the end of each play. Tim’s music filled the space with an eclectic ambiance, beautifully tying each of the six pieces together to form one cohesive show. It was one of the most magical 90 minutes I have ever witnessed in my entire life. I was, and continue to be so proud of everyone who took part in Lancaster’s 24 Hour Plays
. After the curtain call, I could barely hold myself together.
After the show, we all gave a collective sigh of relief and the audience raved as they made their way out of The Candy Factory. We all continued to get to know each other a little better at the after party and strengthened the new connections that we all made during this process. Our mission was accomplished!