Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Play in a Day


Play in a Day involved 12 plays written, rehearsed, and then performed in front of a live audience in less than 24 hours! At 6PM on Friday November 9th playwrights met at Lake Howell where themes are announced and logistics discussed. Producer Beth Marshall announced that the five minute theme would be "High School" and the one minute theme would be "The Aftermath". Then all the playwrights left to start writing. They needed to finish a one minute and five minute play by 6:30AM the following morning. Then all the directors and actors would meet up Saturday Novovember10th at Lake Howell for solid day of rehearsal. In the past, Play in a Day was produced at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, but this year it would use the much larger stage of Lake Howell High School's auditorium. Since authors are often the unsung heroes in this 24 hour production marathon, I asked Beth if I could sketch a writer at work and I was assigned to sketch Aradhana Tiwari. 

I was late to the writers meeting on November 9th. Aradhana texted to let me know she was doing research for her high school themed piece. The parking lot at Lake Howell High School was jammed. I thought to myself, "There can't be that many playwrights in Orlando." Then I heard the piercing screech of a whistle. Aradhana was getting her research and inspiration from a high school football game.  After several texts, I found her in the home team bleachers. She was eaves dropping on a group of four teenagers seated in the bleachers behind her. Then she interviewed the kids, asking them about their teachers, friends and relationships. It was a cold night for Orlando and she had on sandals so at half time she let me know she was ready to start writing. Actually the one minute piece was written in her head as soon as Beth announced the "Aftermath" theme. A character sat at a table devouring Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets as another character glowered at him. This piece turned into a political debate the next morning because Beth refused to allow Chick-fil-A chicken on her stage. She is boycotting the restaurant chain because of their anti-gay stance. Aradhana had to scramble for some other processed chicken sandwiches the morning of the show.

Five minutes may seem like a short time, but for a writer, it is an eternity until the pieces all fall in place. I met Aradhana at a Olive Garden Restaurant on Colonial Drive which is where she began to write. She ordered a bowl of black olives and a red wine. She put ear buds in her ears so she could listen to music as she worked, drowning out the clatter of all the bustling tables around her. At times she smiled and laughed to herself as she wrote. Shattered fragments of dialogue began to form. Most authors write comedy for Play in a Day, but her work tends to be more dramatic. She read to me some of what she had written. "This is either really good or really bad." She said. As in viewpoints, there would be no safe middle ground. The title of the play took me by surprise. A high school girl  stretched for a dance performance, she was very uncomfortable in her leotards. She was rehearsing with a flamboyant boyfriend who teased her until she admitted she had shaved. He teased her about her prickly situation.

Aradhana left to continue writing at home. I lingered, continuing to work on the sketch. I always need to finish what I start, even as life rushes by. At 2AM in the morning, Aradhana panicked and threw out everything she had written. The deadline was just four hours away and she began all over again from scratch. She finished the play with just minutes to spare and rushed the script to the theater. She was awake for 37 or so hours straight. As a student said in the bleachers, "We are fire breathing dragons!"

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