24-Hour Theater Project People

I was honored to be asked to act in this year's Northampton 24-Hour Theater Project. Friday night I went to the “pull,” where the playwrights learned how many characters their play would have, and the general characteristics of the actors who'd be performing, and what the “trigger line” would be (that's the line that each play had to have in common).

My best-case scenario was a three-person play, mostly because the dynamic is ripe for theater. And then I won the jackpot — my super-talented friend Meryl drew a three-person play, and then drew me. Totally awesome. I booked over to a family dinner at Friendly's for Lex's birthday with a very broad smile on my face.

I'd like to say I got a bunch of sleep on Friday night and actually, I probably did, because the dream I had was long and involved.

Monstro dropped me and my bags (one of uke and uke music, another of basic-black costume pieces) off at the rehearsal site at 8:20. I found Meryl in-conference with Tim, the director, and Steve, the stage manager for her play. I went across the room, got a bagel and some coffee, and then sauntered back. Meryl handed me a script.

“Whatever you've written, I'm sure it's better than the play I dreamt you wrote,” I told Meryl. She laughed.

I dug into the script. “You're Maggie,” Meryl said.

Her play was called “The Cure” and I laughed aloud many times during the read-through. My character (Maggie) is trying to convince her brother (Matt) to donate part of his liver to to their desperately ill father. Problem is, 18 months previous to the play's action, Matt's dad sent Matt away to “People Can Grow,” a de-gay-ification program run out of Doris's apartment.

(Meryl is the founder of our town's Playwright Lab. A fellow founding member, Toby, was also writing for the project, and upon learning that Meryl was writing for me, put in a request: “Please make Lynn sing.” So, I had a bit of a song on the first page, and a bit more on page four.)

It's surprising how much you can get done on a play in not many hours. We had our tech rehearsal at 1:00, and then our stage manager scrambled around for a better sofa for us to use (the one the props people found was way too big). Much of the time before that was spent blocking our action and the stage fight between Doris and Maggie — the end of that fight finds Doris atop Maggie on the aforementioned sofa.

(A gentleman in my Playwrights' Lab sent me an email this morning: “The image of you and 'Doris' on the couch is indelible.”)

All three of us carried scripts but I mostly didn't need mine, which was a great personal accomplishment. It was the #1 thing I'd been warned about, so it was a comfort to be mostly off-book but still have it for reference when needed.

Our show was second in a lineup of six. We had a full-house for the 7:00 show and a mostly full house for the second show at 9 p.m. The audience found us hilarious and we got big laughs. My mom came to the first one and now she can cross off “watch daughter proposition another woman for oral sex on stage in front of 120 people” from her bucket list. Hey, I was trying to save my father's life. A gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do…

So, yeah, making art for a full day and being around actors and writers and directors made for my best Saturday in recent memory. This morning my quadriceps were burning — my character spent a lot of time getting up off the floor after being down on one knee; I must have done the equivalent of 400 squats in 12 hours — and I feel as though I've been beat up a bit, which I was, but applause is a tremendously therapeutic balm and the warmth of our generous audience will have me smiling for days. Brava!

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