Naked Stage returns with the second 24 Hour Theatre Project
By Jonathan Wemette
|Katie and Antonio Amadeo, two of the founders of Naked Stage and of the 24 Hour Theatre Project Photo: Mary Damiano
If you didn’t catch the first 24 Hour Theatre Project last November, you missed out on something special. Thirty-six of South Florida’s top playwrights, actors and directors came together at GableStage to conceive, write, memorize and stage six new plays in exactly one day. (And they actually overachieved, producing seven when playwright Marco Ramirez decided to write two short plays in the time allotted.)
But if you weren’t a member of the project’s first, nearly sold-out audience, you’re in luck: the 24 Hour Theatre Project is back on Monday, August 25, this time at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, home of Actors’ Playhouse. And while the nature of the event won’t allow us to declare it “better” just yet—the plays haven’t even been imagined yet, much less rehearsed—it’s definitely bigger than ever, with eight more actors, two more playwrights and two more directors getting in on the act.
A Fundraiser on Speed
The 24 Hour Theatre Project is a fundraiser for The Naked Stage, one of South Florida’s most promising young theatre companies. When the company’s founders, Antonio and Katie Amadeo and John Manzelli, started to talk about an event to raise money for their fledgling theatre, they each had their own idea what it should look like. Mrs. Amadeo wanted it to be performance-based, Mr. Amadeo believed it should involve the larger theatre community and Manzelli was excited by the idea of “24 hour theatre,” which has been done in other cities and on college campuses around the country, but never in South Florida before. The 24 Hour Theatre Project was the natural outgrowth of all three ideas.
In its first year, The Naked Stage invited three other young companies to join them—Miami’s Mad Cat Theatre Company, Davie’s Promethean Theatre, and the Kendall-based Ground Up & Rising—and the event was billed as a joint venture with the profits split four ways. This year, artists from all four companies will be participating, but The Naked Stage is taking sole responsibility for running the event. Even so, Antonio Amadeo says, “We’re going to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to those other companies because they’re our friends.”
|Marco Ramirez, Michael McKeever, Deborah Sherman, Stuart Meltzer and Ricky J. Martinez, some of the participants of the 24 Hour Theatre Project Photo: Henry Perez
The basic structure, unchanged between the first and second year, is this: on Sunday night, August 24, the playwrights draw the names of four actors and a director out of a hat; then, they choose a play title from a menu created by the Naked Stage. For the next 12 hours, the playwrights pen the script, with some input from their collaborators. The next morning, at 7:30 a.m., the directors and actors begin rehearsing the play. At 8 p.m. on Monday, August 25, the shows are put in front of a paying audience, whether they’re ready or not. The Naked Stage proudly bills the event as “the creative theatre process on speed!”
In its first year, the 24 Hour Theatre Project was, by all accounts, a wild success. Christine Dolen from the Miami Herald called it, “a smash, a collaborative triumph and a statement about the growth of the region's talent pool.” It’s no surprise, then, that many of last year’s participants are returning this year for another go-around.
One of the returning artists is Paul Tei, atistic director of the Mad Cat Theatre Company, directed last year but will try his hand at writing this time.
“I’m writing right now for Mad Cat anyway, so I’m kind of in that mode,” says Tei. “But it’s definitely going to be harder. I’ve only ever written in my apartment where I can chain smoke and listen to music, so to be somewhere else is going to be a challenge.”
|Mad Cat’s artistic director Paul Tei dons his playwright’s hat for fundraiser on speed
Andie Arthur, playwright and executive director of the Theatre League of South Florida, is also returning for the second time. She’s particularly enthusiastic about the event, crediting it with the South Florida theatre community’s growing awareness of her writing talent.
“I was mostly known as ‘the executive director’ before, but after it, people said, ‘Oh, she writes plays!’ and that got me a few readings,” says Arthur.
That sort of happy outcome is very much something Amadeo had in mind when the Naked Stage began the 24 Hour Theatre Project. The event is as much about bringing the entire theatre community into one room as it is about creating new works.
“There’s been a movement toward unity in the theatre community recently and last year went a long way toward achieving that,” says Amadeo. “I want to continue that this year. And being able to open it up to more writers and directors and actors will help continue that growth.”
One of the new faces this year will be Beth Dimon, one of South Florida’s busiest actors. She’s never done anything like this and admits to being a little nervous.
“I’ve never been good at improvisation—I know it’s not supposed to be improv, but it’s so immediate,” she says. “I’m panic-stricken every time I think about it. But at least we’ll all be in it together.”
Because Dimon lives in Palm Beach County, she also faces some practical concerns. The actors are encouraged to participate in the brainstorming the night before, but they have to be ready to rehearse at 7:30 a.m. the next morning.
“I think I’ll spend the night at a hotel there as opposed to getting up at 5 a.m. and driving down there,” says Dimon.
A New Venue, An Old Friend
And where will the writers be working in the early morning hours? Last year, they each went their separate ways, wrote all night, then returned to GableStage in the morning. This year, they won’t have to leave the host theatre.
|Bechir Sylvan and Todd Allen Durkin are both scheduled to perform in this year’s 24-Hour Theatre Project Photo: Mary Damiano
“We’re going to be here all night,” says David Arisco, artistic director of Actors’ Playhouse. The theatre will even be providing cots for the playwrights if they need a little 4 a.m. nap.
The inclusion of Arisco and Actors’ Playhouse this year has a special significance for the Amadeos.
“David Arisco is sort of my father in the community,” says Amadeo, which is one of the reasons Arisco is not only hosting the event, but will be acting onstage for the first time in more than four years. “He really wanted to find some way to help this year, and having it there, and him being an actor, is just going to be awesome.”
Arisco returns the sentiment. “I’ve known Antonio since he was 16 years old and running spotlights,” Arisco says. “And Antonio met Katie while doing The Sound of Music here. It’s just really nice to welcome them back and offer them and their company a little bigger venue for the event.”
But that won’t be the only return of note for the Amadeos this year. Katie Amadeo was in a serious car crash at the beginning of June, and the 24 Hour Theatre Project will be her first time onstage after what has been a difficult, but steady, recovery. With an event that generates this much enthusiasm, though, it would be hard to stay away.
“I’m excited for it because it is such a unique event,” says Antonio Amadeo. “It’s the premiere theatrical event of the year because it has all of the area’s best artists creating together, on the spot. And for the audience, it gives you a chance to come for one night and see all the actors you love doing work that is brand new, created by them that day.”
|Lela Elam, who won the Carbonell Award for Best Actress last April, will return to the 24-Hour Theatre Festival
Antonio Amadeo won’t say much about the long-term future of the 24 Hour Theatre Project at this point. He’s too immersed in this year’s plans to think about more down the line. Still, he’s not shy about the immediate effect he hopes it will have on the theatre community.
“We’re hoping that other companies pop up with all sorts of crazy stuff throughout the year because they were inspired by it.”
And maybe they will. But they certainly won’t come up with anything quite like the 24 Hour Theatre Project.
The 24 Hour Theatre Project will be presented Monday, August 25, 8 p.m., at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Tickets are $58 and all proceeds will benefit Naked Stage, Mad Cat Theatre Company, Promethean Theatre and Ground Up & Rising. For tickets and information, call Actors’ Playhouse at 305-445-1119 or visit www.actorsplayhouse.org. For information on Naked Stage, visit www.nakedstage.org.
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