PUBLISHED: 4:20 PM on Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Life is the stage in 24-Hour Miracle
The idea of creating a play from scratch in 24 hours seems like a wild endeavor, but the Juneau-Douglas Little Theater is serious about making miracles. Exercising creative energy and gathering help from willing volunteers, the 24-Hour Miracle performance was a success last year, and they plan on doing it again.

The show will make its second appearance at The Canvas studio, located at 223 Seward Street in the REACH building.

Going from conception to curtain in 24 hours, it's essentially a process by which four playwrights have 12 hours to write a one-act play, beginning the night prior to the performance at 8 p.m.

The plays are handed off to the director and the cast; they have 12 hours to get it all staged, propped and then the curtain goes up.

The performances will debut on Saturday, September 29 at 8 p.m. with rehearsal practice beginning at 8 a.m.

"The 24-hour miracle comes from a theater group in Anchorage, called the (Alaska) Overnighters. It's something that's been done in one form or another across the country," said producer Eric Caldwell, of Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre.

"The night before the plays go up, the theme is revealed to the playwrights. The theme is a secret to everyone until it's time to go, once the theme is announced the playwrights go off and sequester themselves for 12 hours," he said.

Each play is 10-20 minutes. Each play last year clocked in at roughly 15 minutes. The plays themselves will depend largely on the playwrights.

Playwrights last year included locals, Michael Christiansan, Ishmael Hope, Christian Hutchison and Mary Lou Sparks.

"Three of those turned out not surprisingly to be comic pieces. Mary Lou Sparks wrote a more darker, dramatic piece," he said.

"All four took very different directions, from theater of the damned to an airport TSA conspiracy. TSA was announcing random guidelines so they could confiscate things to sell to soldiers in Iraq," Caldwell said.

"All of the people who were involved last year were living in Juneau. We don't know about any involvement from other groups in Southeast, but we're certainly not turning them down if they say they want to come," he said.

"One of the great values of this project, since it only involved a one day commitment, we were able to get a cross-section from a wide range of Juneau performers. Not just theatrical actors but from the opera, from the film making community, from the improve community and the clowning community," he said.

"It's rare that you're able to get such a breath of Juneau performers involved in one event. This event has accomplished that and we look forward to doing it again."

Groups included the Perseverance Theater, Lil'Buoy Clown Theater, Moorely Improv-erist, Junk Festival and Juneau Lyric Opera.

Due to sticky time limits at the VFW Hall last year, Caldwell looked for another performance area.

"Last year, it was down to the minute as far as testing out the tech before the curtain went up," he said.

While watching a performance at The Canvas, Caldwell was impressed with the space and its availability options.

"After seeing that space (ceramic) in use for theater, it became clear that was going to be a very good option. In addition to that ceramic studio, they have two more spaces so we can have three to four groups rehearsing in that area."

He said since they're using The Canvas this year, they have more time to plan and expect the technical sides of things to go a lot more smoother.

Around 58 people were involved in the 24-Hour Miracle last year; the audience was standing room only, said Caldwell.

Volunteers varied from "smooth operators" to fledgling newcomers. The Miracle group consisted of writers, actors, front of house and technical gurus.

"We had people who came out of the woodwork and said, 'I haven't acted since high school but this sounds great.' And we said, 'you're in.'"

"At its heart, this is community theater and we made it as broad and inclusive as possible," he said.

If audiences are expecting fancy costumes, think again.

"People realize with 24-hours they can't ask for too much with props or costumes. The People who were playing TSA agents (last year) had white t-shirts with TSA duct taped in black on the back," Caldwell said.

The Theatre is not looking for additional writers, he said. However, the Theatre is looking for directors, actors, technicians, box office and concessions.

Additional projects by the Theatre include a one-act playwright competition this fall.

It will be blind-panel judged and the top two selected plays will be produced in the spring. Guidelines for the competition will be available in September.

Over the past few years, the Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre hasn't been as active.

They were previously located in the Palace Theater but currently don't have a physical location.

Beginning in 2006, they co-produced "What I learned about Iraq" with Juneau Veterans for Peace in addition to 24-Hour Miracle.

"This season we're moving ahead with renewed strength and looking to produce three pieces: 24-hour miracle, the playwrighting project and a proposal that can't be announced right now," he said.

After the performances, people were just amazed at what they were able to accomplish in 24 hours, and the response of the audience was very positive, he said.

"A lot of the people who were involved were just flat out excited; they took the challenge and ran with it. For weeks afterward, I would run into participants on the streets, who would come up and shake my hand and say 'thank you for doing this and thank you for asking me,'" Caldwell said.

"As a producer that means you didn't mess up too bad!"

For more information contact: Eric Caldwell at 790-8535.