Theater Jam: 24 hours of coffee and creation

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By Zack Downing, Staff Writer

Theater productions at UMass Dartmouth are known for their raunchy sense of humor and the amount of commitment and effort that goes into their production.

But what if a play was created in only a day instead of two months?

That’s the very question Sawyer Pollitt pondered when he, along with other talented performers. created “Theater Jam.”

Theater Jam is a fundraising effort for 20 Cent Fiction wherein students (whether in theater or not) gather together to write, cast, acquire props, and put on a live performance of the play.

The twist is, it all takes place in twenty four hours.

“Between 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday, a show has to be born, made and finished,” said Sawyer Pollitt, one of the actors behind the idea.

The 24 hour play format is a throwback to “Intensive Theater” a similar rushed-creation activity that a theater company used to do in past years at UMass Dartmouth.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have experience doing many of the aspects of theater,” said Gabriella Barthe, another mind behind the madness, “so we’re giving them a very low-stakes outlet where they can try directing, or acting, or writing.”

“20 Cent Fiction needs more things to do, and we need more money to do them, so we created this as a fundraising show,” Pollitt said.

Everyone who signed up got together in an apartment in Aspen, armed with coffee and creativity.

The turnout for actors and writers was actually higher than anticipated, so the team decided to split up, not just writing one play, but two at the same time.  Sixteen people signed up, and so the two plays were two casts of eight.

What ensued was sleeplessness, laughter, hundreds of ideas and lines, and ultimately, two newborn plays ready to be thrust upon the stage for an audience.

Exactly 24 hours after the writing began, props and actors were on stage in the CVPA auditorium, ready for a show.

The first play was called “Wingpeople,” and despite not featuring any winged creatures, it was still a great time.

It was about a boy and a girl who were being egged on to date by their friends, but because of their incurable awkwardness and the bad outside advice, everything goes wrong.

There was big laughter, wild acting, and backstage gay sex, all things we’ve come to expect with 20 Cent Fiction.

The second of the pair was called “How to Kill Your Butler.” It was about a ghost who kept trying to kill an old senile butler, but ended up killing everyone around him instead.

The show was stolen by the old butler, played by Megan Sullivan, who spent nearly the entire play obliviously dusting and sweeping the set.

Oh, and that play featured some hilarious crossdressing, another 20 Cent staple.

Both plays were only about a half hour, short and sweet, but not lacking in any humor or good writing.

And, even though they had only written their lines earlier that day, a lot of the actors had their lines memorized, which was very impressive.

The performances received lots of laughs and applause, and to the joy of the theater company, lots of donations were given. It was a totally successful night all around.

“We’re hoping that it will become an annual thing,” said Sawyer Pollitt hopefully.

The writers and actors all enjoyed the 24 hours of constant cognizance and creativity, and the crowd enjoyed the result.

As someone who attended, I implore everyone to come see next year’s Theater Jam, if it is indeed renewed for an annual showing.

And come out to support other 20 Cent Fiction projects, Rocky Horror and beyond.

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