24 Hour Plays: An Inside Scoop

The weekend before winter long Mr. Ryerson as well as students Sadie Britton ’16 and Chris Bottone ’16 spent the night in Clinton writing one-act plays, which were then directed by Sadie Britton ‘16, Brandy Zhang ’18, and Emma Mohlmann ’18, and performed less than twelve hours later. The casts consisted of frequent players Morgan Williard ’16 and Charlie Stafford ’17, acting trio Brianna Annuziata ’16, Alexander Roberts ’18, and Brandy Zhang ’18, and senior dream team Chris Bottone ’16 and Jenna Faust ’16.

For those of you who missed it, I can tell you it was a truly entertaining night despite the “theme of death”.  The first one act, September, 2PM, written and directed by Sadie Britton, and acted by Charlie Stafford and Morgan Willard, took place in a car on the way to an appointment at Planned Parenthood.  The following two interviews are from Sadie and Charlie discussing both the play itself and their experiences with the 24-hour plays.

(Photo by Sadie Britton)
(Photo by Sadie Britton)

Sadie Britton

Hannah: Alright, first off: five words to describe the 24-hour plays.

Sadie: Okay, uhh… let’s see. Five words, ummm: [counting off of fingers] crazy, hectic, umm intense, fun and rewarding!

Hannah: Awesome! Okay, so for those of us who didn’t have the pleasure of attending, could you please give a brief synopsis of the play so we can know what it was about?

Sadie: Mine?

Hannah: Yes!

Hannah: Okay [scratches head].  So, mine was umm, [sits up suddenly] if you’ve ever read Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway it’s kind of like that but it’s like, modernized- [Phone goes off repeatedly] sorry it’s- it’s my college Facebook chat –

Hannah: -it’s alright.

Sadie: Anyways, it’s a guy, Carson, and a girl, Autumn, and he’s driving her to an unspecified, like, location where there is a Planned Parenthood so she can get an abortion. And it’s basically them talking in the car ride over. That’s basically what mine is about.

Hannah: So obviously the focus point of the play was Carson getting an abortion [Sadie’s eyes get wide] or no, I’m sorry, Autumn getting an abortion.

Sadie: [giggles] Yeah. That would be weird-

Hannah: But so the other part of the story was Autumn discussing how she wanted to be able to leave her town, and create her own life instead of continuing on in the family business. This is obviously a big issue teens from small towns deal with. Could you explain where your inspiration for this side of Autumn came from?

Sadie: Oh, okay. So the play itself is actually based on a short story I wrote and entered in a writing contest, and that short story was based on characters from another novel that I had planned but never actually [wrote]. The idea of the conflict was from the character in the original novel that was never written. That’s also where Autumn came from. The original character ran a hotel in town, and Autumn’s desire to leave came from that, because the first character wanted to leave her town. And [the original character] had had this ongoing relationship with this guy who is the analog to Carson in the play, but he gets out, and she doesn’t. So he comes back about ten years later, when they are both adults, and they reunite.

Hannah: Aww.

Sadie: [Smiles] That was the original plot of the novel. But, yes. Autumn’s desire to get out and have her own life came from the original plans to a different, unfinished novel.

Hannah: Okay, awesome. Next question, do you consider Autumn a strong female character?

Sadie: Ohh, see, the thing about the characterization of these two [thoughtful pause], Autumn in particular, is that… in the play, because it is so short – kind of a slice of life – Autumn has a lot of things happen to her. She gets pregnant. She’s the one who has to go get an abortion. But, in the… I don’t think that means she can’t be considered a strong female character, necessarily. ‘Cause, I mean, I wish I would’ve had more time to write it so that she could be more of an active participant in her own life. Yet in the short story, she has a very emotional introspective way of thinking about her life and, I think, someone who has the maturity to do so is a strong character, and whether they are female or male is incidental.

Hannah: And finally –  as a senior, I am sure you get asked about advice a lot – what is some advice you have for those who will partake in this next year?

Sadie: Ummmmm….. Bring caffeinated drinks!

Hannah: [giggles] Thank you Sadie!

Charlie Stafford

Hannah: Alrighty Charlie.

Charlie: Hannah, do you have to film me?

Hannah: Yep, it is a sit down interview. Five words to describe the 24-hour plays! [Charlie sighs deeply and frowns] It’s not going anywhere; I am going to type it out.

Charlie [sits up laughing] I know, I know. [Smiles] So?

Hannah: Five words to describe the 24-hour plays! Go!

Charlie: Like, a sentence?

Hannah: How ever you think it should be gun-done? Done.

Charlie: [Hesitant silence] Can you ask a different question?

Hannah: Nope-

Charlie: [laughing] Hannah-

Hannah: [laughing] This is how the interview starts, everyone gets this question.

Charlie: Everyone?

Hannah: Yeah!

Charlie: Or just you-

Hannah: Everyone I have interviewed for the 24-hour plays.

Charlie: Okay. Uhhhh. I don’t know, umm… [Blinking off into the distance] I need more time to prepare [laughs down into table]

Hannah: [Laughing] No!

Charlie: Hannah, I don’t know.

Sadie Loeber ’17 interjects: Hannah! Are you filming him?

Hannah: Yes! Charlie, five words! … Charlie-

Charlie: Can we back to that question? Please?

Hannah: Alright. Charlie?

Charlie: [Sits up from what seemed to be a quick nap] Hmmm

Hannah: So you are a three-season actor at Blair, how did the 24-hour plays differ from what you usually do here?

Charlie: [Sits back in chair] Well! [Changes tone to be much more serious] Well obviously it differed as we only had a day. But other than that, umm, I’d say, I’d say the big difference was there was no audition. We just took a picture and then the directors would decide how to cast who based on your picture, so that was probably the biggest difference. Other than that, rehearsals were what I expected them to be.

Hannah: You sound so sad in all of these.

Charlie: I’m just – Hannah – I’m tired.

Hannah: From play rehearsals? Emotionally or physically?

Charlie: Both. It takes a lot out of me.

Hannah: Hmmm… What was it like to play a role that dealt with such a controversial topic, or take part in a play?

Charlie: [Face drops] Umm, it was interesting. I don’t know. It brought out a part of my acting that I haven’t used a lot recently. Umm, I think, I don’t know [chuckles].

Hannah: Were you worried about it at all? Like, how it would be perceived?

Charlie:  Ehhhh [shrugs] I mean a little bit, but – I mean – I don’t know. I wasn’t mortified. I was just there to act.

Hannah: Alright. Favorite part!

Charlie: When we went to the wrestling match.

Hannah: Charlie!

Charlie: Kidding!  When we were all running lines in one room and we could hear what everyone was doing at once. Just being there was really cool – seeing not only what the writers had come up with, but how the actors [Harry Moore ’17 hits Charlie] were doing that [laughs].

Hannah: Alright, final question.

Charlie: Words?

Hannah: Words, and advice for people next year.

Charlie: Okay, well, as an experienced actor – for this you didn’t have to be an experienced actor. I feel like if you just want to try acting, then this a really fun and interesting way to do it. Especially ‘cause it’s not a huge commitment: it’s one day. If it’s something you haven’t done and you don’t have time to do a show for a season then this is a very great opportunity.

Hannah: And five words?

Charlie: [smiles at camera] Very, very, very, very fun.

Hannah: [laughs] Thank you, Charlie.

The second one act was The Interview written by Mr. Ryerson, directed by Brandy Zhang, and acted by Brianna Annuziata, Alexander Roberts, and Brandy Zhang. The one act took place in an interrogation room where investigator Brandy questioned both Brianna and Alex’s characters about a murder. Sadly, we have no insider commentary on this one.

The third, and final, one act play was Chris Bottone’s Clyde, directed by Emma Mohlmann. Clyde began with Chris’s character, Magdalene’s, suicide. Magdalene wakes to find himself not dead, but instead in a small office with a nice desk lady named Clyde (played by Jenna].  The following interviews with Emma Mohlmann and Chris Bottone give the reality behind the incredible, and original concept of this play, as well as some of the behind the scenes dynamics of the 24-hour process.

Emma Mohlmann

Hannah: Ready? 5 words to describe the 24 hour plays!

Emma: Is this like a sentence … 5 adjectives…

Hannah: However you’d like to take it!

Emma: [Contemplative silence] I’m thinking, I’m thinking… Hold on…

Hannah: Are you googling synonyms?

Emma: [Giggles] An amusing [scrolls through synonyms] and enjoyable experience! There we go… That’s five words, correct?

Hannah: [Laughs] Yeah!

Hannah: Okay, so you are obviously an active member of the Blair players (being on stage for the winter musicals), but how was it to student direct instead of act?

Emma: It’s a lot more difficult than you would think it [to] be. Like, oh, you have to take into consideration not only the actors’ capabilities, but what the script entails… You have to think of the aesthetic. It was so amazing, especially with such great people. Like I’d give a suggestion and they’d send one back, it was a great, collaborative experience.

Hannah: Do you think that the time restraint on the actors enhanced or made less of their acting?

Emma: It definitely enhanced it, they had to think quick on their feet, couldn’t slack off. They had to put forth their best efforts [all the time].

Hannah: Would you partake in the plays again?  Do you have any advice for someone who thinks they would like to join in the fun next year?

Emma: I would 100% partake again. … It broadened my horizons, and [I] really got to know people. It was really worth it.

Hannah: Thanks, Em!

Emma: Oh, no problem!

Chris Bottone

Hannah: To start off: five words to describe the 24- hour plays.

Chris: Jesus Christ. That just came out of nowhere. So like, fast.

Hannah: Mhm.

Chris: Fun.

Hannah: Mhm.

Chris: Heart-warming.

Hannah: Mhm.

Chris: Mmm, uhh, yes. And… [Ernesto Lipert ’18 comes over] Ernesto!

Hannah: He wasn’t there?

Chris: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know. But Ernesto just showed up. So, there he is.

Hannah: [laughs] Fair.      

Hannah: [Turns camera back on but with flash by accident] Oh.

Chris: [puts hands up] I swear officer, I’m not drunk.

Hannah: [continued laughter] You both wrote and acted in a 24-hour play-

Chris: Yeah.

Hannah: Umm, was that hard for you? Did you write Magdalene for yourself?

Chris: Well, yeah, because the way it worked was I got to write down the play, right?

Hannah: Yeah.

Chris: And so there was another group of people who were the directors who got to run the play that I wrote in my script… And they did a blind casting, and ended up casting me in my own show, which I thought was pretty cool. So yeah, I did, ah, – it was a lot easier for me to learn the lines because I had the gist of what it was supposed to be like.

Hannah: Mhm.

Chris: But I hadn’t looked at the script since the night that I wrote it. But it was weird, because I was playing a character that I wrote, yet I didn’t see myself as that character. So I kind of had to take on what I thought that character would be – which, obviously, every actor does, but I wrote it for a lot – a diff – a lot different of a character than I normally play, so it was actually really cool to end up playing him.

Hannah: In the play you toyed with the idea of God being non-stereotypical, was this an idea you had walking into the 24-hour plays, or was this something you had been thinking about? Where did this all come from?

Chris: That’s a cool question, because actually the story of how I came up with the idea for Clyde was – I normally, because of senior year and what not, get to be up really late – so I was actually taking a shower really late in Freeman hall, and I tripped and fell because there was water on the ground. When I fell, I almost hit the granite lip on the shower, right? And I thought “Jesus Christ I almost died!” Then, later on, I was sort of thinking about the 24-hour plays and all, and I was like: so what if death was this really, super peppy receptionist guy or lady? And, as I came up with that it turned to be No, what if God was that super absent minded, Flo-from-Progressive-style happy person? From there, I came up with this kind of idea where it is Yeah, God isn’t really that perfect. What would it be like if there was a character that is supposed to be perfect that had flaws, and was an emotional character? And it made that character a lot more interesting, because it is technically this creator, but it has feelings just like you and me. So that’s where I came up with the idea for that, and from there, I just decided, What did it want to be? Was it a tragedy, a comedy?

The whole idea, to me, felt like it could be kind of this dark comedy, so yeah.

Hannah: That was really cool. Finally, I am sure you get advice questions a lot as a senior, but do you have any advice for those who will do the one acts next year?

Chris: Well, my advice for when anybody is trying anything new is to just do it. You know, everybody has the thoughts in their head. Everybody has these cool little thoughts like I should do something, you know what I am saying? And not a lot of those thoughts are active. I was walking down the street like a year ago, in Newton, actually, and I look in the window, ‘cause I knew I was going camping and I was looking for something to get before we left, and a ukulele was on sale for $30. And I thought I’ve never played this thing before, and my friends were telling me “that’s such a stupid impulse buy,” but I did it. Now, I technically run a club here – we will try and have a meeting soon – umm but yeah.  My advice is don’t ever think of yourself as someone who is aspiring to be somebody, if you are going to do it, then you are one, right. Like if you’re an aspiring writer: no you’re not, you’re writing! So you’re a writer! What I do is instead of just having the thought in your head that you are going to do it, is the second that thought comes in your head: act on it! Like the second I heard the 24-hour plays, I was thinking ugh, probably not going to do this. But, I did it anyway, ya know? Sometimes it’s better to just go against “I’ll do it later,” to just jump right in and on something weird.

Hannah: Alright! Thank you Chris!

Chris: No problem!

Overall, the plays were not only a treat to watch, but seemed to hold some amazing experiences that all the participants will keep forever.

(Copyright 2016 Hannah Ochtera)