When auditioning for a show, theater performers prepare themselves by knowing everything about what they’re auditioning for, including the script, the characters and the title. But that’s not possible at University Theatre’s QuickSCRIPTS performances.
“The show is not even written when the actors auditioned, so they don’t really audition,” said Joshua Reaves, program director with University Theatre.
In other words, the audience members are buying tickets fully unaware of the theme.
“The interesting thing is that you don't have a script yet, right?” said George Jack, associate professor of theater at Saint Augustine’s University and playwright for one of the shows put on in this year’s QuickSCRIPTS event. “It's like, you're already selling tickets to your audience, without a script having been written, or rehearsed or even casted yet.”
QuickSCRIPTS is a one-night event that showcases four 10-minute plays from writers who get 24 hours to write a script, directors who get 24 hours to read and cast the shows and actors who are given 24 hours to rehearse before the event starts. The prompt for this semester’s QuickSCRIPTS was ‘well, that was uncomfortable,’ provided by the public and chosen completely at random.
NC State University Theatre showcased QuickSCRIPTS for the 2023 spring semester Saturday, March 4 at the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre. The show sold out with audiences from NC State and outside community members.
QuickSCRIPTS initially started in June of 2022 during TheatreFEST and has since made a comeback for its fourth showcase. Reaves suggested the idea to the University Theatre staff and walked through the process of developing it with them.
“It was kind of my brainchild, I guess so to speak,” Reaves said. “Somebody always says, ‘wouldn't it be cool if,’ and then that turns into a fully fledged project that has pretty much everyone involved in.”
The idea is that these 10-minute plays are not only about the final product, but about the process of creating it. The purpose is to show the process of a play to the audience and how scrappy it can be. It also serves to hone the fact that it’s okay to fail, try something new and overcome fear in order to avoid missing opportunities.
“This process hopefully tells these playwrights, these directors, these actors to just make a choice, go with it right or wrong and just trust their instincts,” Reaves said. “They don't have time to overthink it or to worry about it being wrong. They just have to do it.”
QuickSCRIPTS also gives opportunities to students to work with outside community members who are experienced in the performing arts industry.
Jack joined the QuickSCRIPTS event for the third time since its debut in 2022. When participating for the first time, he was unsure if he was able to write a play within 24 hours.
“I wasn't even sure if I could do it, let alone how I was going to do it,” Jack said. “And so by this third one, I had a pretty good sense of how much time it would take me, but that first hour is panic because you get the prompt and you're just like I have no idea what to do with this, and then you start brainstorming.”
After about an hour and a half of panic, Jack said he sat down and started to type out of order. After the first couple of pages, he went back and rewrote the whole piece. In total, Jack wrote for 17 hours out of the 24 hours and only slept 5 hours.
“I planned that nothing was going to interrupt me in the 24 hours,” Jack said. “All three times that I've done it I made sure that I have a full 24 hours to work.”
His final product, “To Stephen King with Love (But Please Don’t Sue Me),” directed by Gus Allen, was about horror novel author Stephen King. However, Jack never thought he’d write about King. It was just a coincidence; the weekend before, Jack attended a King writing conference.
“It's a great opportunity,” Jack said. “I'm just really grateful that I've had the opportunity to do it. … You know, when the prompt drops, people are waiting 24 hours. You've got a whole group of people, an audience that is waiting, and it's a big motivation factor to get it done.”
Through this, Jack enjoys creating his plays to improve his writing in hopes of writing longer works and novels.
Meanwhile, it was the first time Annie Taft, writer of “Arrangements,” wrote for QuickSCRIPTS. Wanting to write a play for some time, she thought it was the perfect time to submit an application after coming across the program on Facebook.
Taft thought about a comedic play once she knew the prompt, ‘well, that was uncomfortable.’
“I kept trying to think what would be the funniest way to insert that line into the script,” Taft said.
The purpose of her play, directed by Mitchell Mulkey, was women’s responsibility for emotional labor and having to track everything in a marriage. Initially, Taft thought of the characters being in their 50s.
“I was a little surprised to see how young the actors were, and I knew that it would be harder for them to relate to the characters,” Taft said.
Overall, Taft thought everyone did a great job and had a lot of fun. When asked if she would be back to write another play at NC State, Taft said we might see her again next year.
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