The Miracle that was 24/7 2013


Chris Estey directs Edwina Herring and Mitch Voss in "Moving" by Peter Coy

Chris Estey directs Edwina Herring and Mitch Voss in “Moving” by Peter Coy


*Yesterday morning at 8:02, I sat down in the audience seating of the Down Stage theatre at Live Arts with a room full of strangers and a handful of friends and left the same space last night a member of the greater family commonly referred to as The Charlottesville Theatre Community.

That was just one of the miraculous transformations that occurred yesterday during Whole Theatre’s 24/7 Theatre Project 2013.

In my previous two blog posts, I talked about the structure of the project and even managed a post yesterday during a break from the action.  Today I am pretending to be the diva actress I always thought I would be, lounging in bed well past any decent wake-up time, chatting up new friends on the phone and via Facebook, so whipped from the previous long day  still sporting remnants of stage make-up that I have yet to find motivation to wash. I am tired to the BONE.  So doggedly exhausted that I barely feel the tiniest shred of guilt for not being outside on this warm sunny day.

Other Miracles:

7 new plays were written in 12 hours or less.

7 groups of actors and directors collaborated on projects that didn’t exist the day before.

7 plays premiered in one night.

This event is a 24 hour homage to the Art gods. A pressure cooker for creativity. A test of wills, patience, trust and faith…and in my case personal space.

The plays were all comedies with the exception of one drama.  They were all remarkably good considering they were written overnight.  Standouts were Browning Porter’s play, “The Evelyn in the Room”, (it just happened to be Browning’s Birthday and we all sang to him before his play went on during the second round of shows), “Small Room in a Small Hotel in Singapore, Alabama”, by Doug Grissom, Miller Murray Susen’s, “The Revenge of Mr. It” (no, I am not partial to the latter because I was in it, really it was just a great little play), “Spy Fangs of Lust” by Joel Jones (I laughed the loudest during this play- there is a line about how writer’s don’t make any money and I almost fell out of my chair in the balcony), Phil Horst’s, “Signatures”, in which he cleverly made a play on his focus word, “elbow” by making it a proper name, Elle Beau – very funny, “The Ottoman” by Royal Shiree (half naked men being fondled by older women- what’s not to like?), and the very sad, “Moving” by Peter Coy. Ooops.  I just named all seven plays as standouts. Well, they were all stand outs.

Seriously, it is AWESOME how this thing came together.  People were running around all day and then boom, shows went on in front of two sold-out audiences.

Before the process started I tapped into some yoga magic and asked the Universe to give me the play that was best suited for me with a great director and wonderful cast or better and guess what?  I got everything I wished for and more!

Mike Long, who is in the MFA program in the Drama Department at UVA directed, “Mr. It” and was simply fantastic.  He just jumped right in from the start with a great attitude and let us run with it.  He listened to our (the actor’s and me) suggestions and let us play around with stuff guiding us with only positive direction all day.  I would recommend him to anyone who wanted to work with a smart, talented, caring pro with a good sense of humor and excellent instincts.

In the play, my character, Secretary Lady, is all over everyone- meaning: she is obviously “doing it” with all four of the other characters.  Luckily, I got the dream cast to work with:

Robert Wray played Spy #1

Nick Heiderstadt played Spy #2

Chris Baumer played The General

Sara Shotwell played the Cleaning Lady

All of these people allowed me, as Secretary Lady, to kiss, fondle and otherwise invade their personal space over the course of our ten minute production- something that usually takes weeks to work on in “real time” theatre.

Each play in 24/7 seemed to get the right cast as if the Muses were guiding the hands choosing the names out of the hats that held the actors names when the directors plucked them that morning.

To top of my personal involvement in this project I was interviewed by a local TV station. To see the story aired on the local NBC affiliate click here.

I felt like a star today when several people said they’d seen me on TV.

There is nothing like live theater to teach one to believe in miracles.  Once the play begins it is up to the wits of the players to get through whatever happens from forgotten lines to falling scenery with grace and aplomb all while staying in character and being true to the work.  How it all (props, costumes, lighting, sound cues, make-up, etc)comes together is just a miracle.

For me, this experience was valuable in so many ways.  Theatre is in my blood and I have denied myself the pleasure of acting on stage for far too long.  But regular theatre productions with their long rehearsal process, night and weekend commitment and little to no pay is impossible for me at this time in my life.  Projects like 24/7 give people like me the opportunity to participate without sacrificing our livelihoods. I am grateful for having a space to nurture that side of my creative nature.  Thank you Ray Nedzel and Kristen Wenger of Whole Theatre for making 24/7 happen.

Below is a poem sent out to participants:

Let’s share it, let’s spread it; it’s not too late or too soon,
Our secret is blown, it’s the Elephant in the Room.

O, the props; and the set, lights, and sound — what the heck!
It was the best of the best – the best ever tech!
The costumes, themselves, were each well-sown-fame,
Like the SIGNATURES worn by Dr. El Beau Payne.

The box office, ushers and concessions were all grooving,
And who knew a 24/7 play could be so damn MOVING.
The BAND was religious!  OMG, what a hymn!
As scandalous as Sister’s “man-made” OTTOMAN.

We, too, took a trip to Sexytown, where four women made us swoon,
But there was learning through laughter and THE EVELYN IN THE ROOM.
Last night you all scored a homerun, I’d say, a grand slammer,
You made love to your muse, or, at least, kissed her wit –
Then, you killed off four people in THE REVENGE OF MR. IT.
So, to say that I love you would not be unjust,
Though honestly, it’s just SPY FANGS OF LUST.

Yes, the actors, directors, playwrights and crew made the call.
Because a person’s a person, no matter how ________.

*I meant to post this yesterday but I was distracted.  Thanks for understanding. MB – the culture maven

In the midst of 24/7

I am on a quick lunch break from rehearsing my assigned play, The Revenge of Mr. It, deftly crafted overnight by Miller Murray Susen.  I am thrilled to be cast (by chance) in MIller’s show and it is proving to be a fun if tiring experience reading, memorizing and blocking.  A channel 29 reporter interviewed me this morning- she is following my group’s process throughout the day.  I came home for a few minutes to organize some costume possibilities and eat some homemade soup, soon to head back to Live Arts to rehearse all afternoon before curtain at 7pm.

I am cast with Nick and Robert who are very funny.  Mike is our able director and we have two cameo players. Full Names to come later – you know how I am.

Already exhausted, I have little inclination as to how I will survive through the second show but that is part of the magic, right?

wish me a broken leg!

24/7 has begun




A bad phone image of the 2013 24/7 playwrights

Tonight, amongst a gathered crowd of actors, designers, directors and some actual non-associated audience members, the theme for this year’s Whole Theatre 24/7 project was revealed to the 7 playwrights who will be working through the night to write plays that will be performed tomorrow night.  The theme (drum roll), “The elephant in the room”, was chosen from several offered up at the end of last year’s event and governs all seven plays. To add to the challenge each playwright was individually assigned a focus word, like “tiny” or “ottoman” via the clever vehicle of mad libs created from a paragraph from Dr. Seuss’ class elephant tale, Horton Hears a Who.

Here’s how it worked:  Audience members were asked to break into pairs. Each pair was given a mad lib created from the same paragraph from the book.  The mad libs were then filled in by one member of the pair asking for words specific to requested parts of speech (person 1:”noun”, person 2: “monkey”).  Each playwright drew an audience member’s name from a hat and then that person read the mad lib out loud.  The corresponding numbered mad libbed word from the read mad lib was assigned as a focus word for the playwright.  For example Miller Murray Susen was the seventh playwright to draw a name and have a mad lib read aloud so she was assigned the last provided word form that mad lib.

For a new twist this year there will be a 24/7 band- a group of musicians who will write 7 original pieces of music tomorrow, one to go with each new play, and perform them tomorrow night as well.

As this is being written, 7 playwrights are typing away (hopefully) preparing for the 8am deadline. To see what they produce in the next 10 hours come to Live Arts tomorrow night.

Tickets are 10 bucks.

for more information and a full list of participants click here.

Can I survive the 24/7?

Next weekend my metal will be tested.  I have agreed to participate as an actress in the 24/7 Theatre Project produced by Whole Theatre and hosted by Live Arts.  It will be the first time since 1993 that I will memorize lines and blocking and perform before a paying audience.  As you may recall, just last month was my first time performing in a play in front of an audience in 20 years but that was a staged reading, I got to hold the script, no memorization- so this is different.  PLUS in 24/7 the script will not even exist until the wee hours of the morning before it is performed.

It sounds dangerous, right?

Below are more details.  Tickets are only $10.00 and can be purchased through Live Arts. (click here for more info).



24-7 written overnight. rehearsed all day. performed once for you.Written overnight.  Rehearsed all Day.  Performed once for you.

Twenty-Four Seven is a theatre festival created in 24 hours.

New every time, it is the cornerstone of Whole Theatre.

Here’s how we do it:

The theatrical artists’ gather on Friday evening.  A theme for the next night’s show is randomly selected from all the given suggestions – it’s literally pulled form a hat.  Then each of the 7 playwrights pull their cast requirements (i.e. 2 woman, 1 man) from the hat, and they pull their special inspirational word from the hat (i.e. Vancouver).  The playwrights write overnight.

Early Saturday morning, the new 10 minute scripts are finished.  The 7 directors each pull a script (yes, from the hat); and have a hour to confer with the playwright.  All the actors arrive.  Casting is done by each director blindly selecting names (you guessed it, literally, pulled from a hat).  Then, rehearsals begin.  And, the hat is retired.

2010 Playwrights -- before the plays are written

The Playwrights — before the plays are written

Saturday day is a full rehearsal process with no time to second guess.  There is a first read through, blocking, memorizing lines, etc.  Simultaneously, lights are focused, sound is mixed, costumes are pinned together, tech, dress, let the audience in.

Saturday night we present a full show of new works – all fully performed and all freshly premiered.  7 new plays all created in the past 24 hours.

Email Ray for more info or to get in on the fun:

Create a free website or blog at