Ask any theatre creator what they wish they had more of, and the answer (perhaps after “money”) would be time. And yet, every year, a group of five writers, five directors, and a large number of actors seek to circumvent that in what might be the most manic undertaking of local theatre creativity in a Kawartha region that’s filled to the brim with activity each year. It’s a viewing experience completely unique from all others, and is not to be missed.
“The project is five plays, written, rehearsed, and then performed at the end of 24 hours,” explained project founder Ray Henderson. Ray goes on to explain how he got the idea from a traveller from New York City, talking about recent crop-up projects of 24-hour plays.
Always looking for new projects to bring to the Peterborough community, Ray launched the 24 Hour Project. By its second run through, it sold out.
Now the 24 Hour Project, known now by the moniker “The Project,” is approaching its 30th run through, and has reached a number of different iterations, including to local high schools, and with a spin-off for musicians.
“You have to be crazy in general to do a project like this,” said Andrew Root, the creator of the recent Peterborough success, “Crime City”, a monthly serial radio drama, performed live.
Andrew is a first-time writer and returning actor, who this year is pulling double duty in what is affectionately known as a Dan Smith Double (named after long-time colleague of Ray’s, Dan Smith, who has written and performed in numerous Projects). “The rush you get from anything as high-wire as the 24 Hour Project is pretty addictive, so why not take that to the next level?” Andrew says about his choice to pull double duty.
Returning director, Sarah Tye, agreed with Andrew. “The best thing about the Project is the frantic, creative energy of the day, and the fun people you get to create with! It’s exhilarating to have such a limited time to put together something great that will only be performed once.”
Sarah also talked about the exciting challenges of working within the time frame, “[It’s] so different from how I usually direct… I learned my first year directing that I needed to be okay with lines and blocking not being perfect… There just isn’t the time for that.”
Alessandra Ferreri, veteran writer, is returning from Toronto this year to write in the show. In her fourth year as a writer, she explained, “It’s probably the most thrilling 24 hours you’ll ever have. You never really know what you’re going to end up with at show time, which means you get to experience the night as both an audience member and as part of the creation.”
Often, directors and actors take what they’re given from writers and twist it on its head, using the 24-hour timeline as a boon to explore beyond what would normally be acceptable or executed in a full production process.
So, what can you expect to see as an audience member?
“This is only my third year directing, and both of my previous plays have been so different,” Tye explained. “Year one was poking fun at the whole Rob Ford craziness (and it was super political and wordy), and last year was a post-apocalyptic action play about corporations taking over the world.”
As a director, you never know what to expect from the minds of writers with only 10 or so hours to work. Andrew said, “I’m looking to write the kind of show that is so stupid, it’s kind of smart, and bonkers enough that people will overlook its flaws. I would like it to be impossible to reproduce under any other circumstances because good taste would not allow it. But, y’know, classy.”
Lyndele Gauci, who is a long-time performer and also pulling double duty as a writer/performer this year said, “I’m going to have fun with it. I’m going to create a fun piece, pulling from what I find enjoyable and entertaining from an audience perspective. Of course, knowing that one of the rules is to not write anything down before the night of, my ideas have fluctuated a lot!”
As an audience member, you’re brought along on the journey, and it becomes unforgettable watching the actors and creators cheer each other on through the absolute craziness.
For Ray Henderson, it’s another exciting milestone. “When it’s all over, it’s a giant love fest and such a strong sense of community bonding. It’s also my son’s first Project. It should be pretty awesome.”
And after all, the best thing about Peterborough theatre is that you get to be a part of the family, whether you’re a creator or an audience member. It only takes… well, about 24 hours.