When you are in the audience during a play, you might not appreciate how much work goes into taking an idea from concept to the stage. But Lindsey Humphries, a senior theatre major from Carrollton, Tx., can tell you all about it.
Lindsey recently participated in a "One Day Only" 24-Hour Play Festival sponsored by Rover Dramawerks, in Plano, Tx. The festival, advertised as "Concept to Curtain in Just One Day," gives new theatre talent a chance to write, rehearse, direct, and produce a play starting with nothing more than a concept phrase.
“I found out about the competition when I interned at the Rover Dramawerks theater this summer,” Lindsey said. “They have this weekend play competition which they do about twice a year. I wanted to do it so I went. I left class Friday and was back on Monday and did all this in between.”
“All this” consisted of casting, writing, acting in, or directing one of seven one-act plays in a 24 hour period. “It started at nine o’clock on Friday night,” Lindsey said. “There were seven writers, seven directors, and 40 actors, all crammed in the theater in Plano. We all took part in an activity called ‘speed-bonding.’ The writers and directors stood together, and groups of actors were sent in. We had to literally meet six people every 45 seconds. I remember at most two people from the whole thing, but I ended up casting one of them.”
Lindsey says writers and script ideas were assigned by drawing slips of paper from a hat. “Everyone wrote a phrase on a piece of paper, put in hat, and then the writer pulled one out. My writers drew ‘Richard Simmons Jazzercise,’ of all things. Then the writers went home and stayed up all night writing their scripts. They wrote through the night. At 7 a.m. the next day, we directors showed up, read the scripts, fought over the scripts, and ended up with what we got.”
She says the script she chose to direct was “the strangest script I’ve ever read,’ but that it worked. “Two of the characters were Siamese twins because that’s how the costuming worked out. I cast them with one Afro-American girl and one white girl. The props we had to work with were things we threw in our cars. The script called for the twins to do a lot of square dancing, so that was fun to figure out.”
Another of her characters was a dog with lots of lines. “He was very philosophical, in fact the sanest person in the whole production. He kept telling the other cast members to ‘redefine their notion of what a dog is.’”
The participants rehearsed the play during a 10-hour stretch on Saturday. She added, “Actually, we really only had maybe eight hours of go-time, but that included makeup, etc. I was amazed that everyone learned their lines. One of my actresses just had the strangest lines.”
Lindsey said the event wasn’t a competition per se, but added, “I’ve never seen someone as excited as my playwright was, seeing his work on the stage. And apparently,” she added with a smile, “our play got the best audience response of them all.”
Lindsey said her class work at U of O was integral to her success in Plano. “I went to Dr. Farmer a couple of days ahead to ask him his advice going into this, and he said, ‘Actions, just focus on their actions, what they’re trying to accomplish, and everything else will fall into place.’ And he was right! And I did something none of the other directors did. Because we rehearsed in some really small spaces, I would go around the room and ask each actor, ‘What is your character’s objective?’, which I learned here. And there were all these levels in the play the writer didn’t even know he’d put in. So techniques that I’d learned in directing about finding those connections really helped.”
Lindsey added her work at the U of O in costume design and lighting design contributed immensely to her success in organizing the ‘look’ of the play. “It’s wonderful how fast you can you get things done. And it was also amazing to me how innate a lot of the stuff I did there has become due to working with Farmer and Brown.”
"The best thing I brought back from the competition was a lot of confidence in myself as a director. One of my actors was a professor. I was one of the youngest people there, 15 to 20 years younger than the others. A lot of them thought I was in some sort of specialized directing workshop somewhere, rather than that I was just an undergrad theater student.
Lindsey said the event turned out to be a great way to make theater contacts in the Dallas community.
“My advice for new theatre students here? You’re not going think you can do a lot of this, but you can. They will help you. So do everything you can. You can do anything we’re doing here, even things you wouldn’t think in a million years you could do. You can do it.”