By Rick Palsgrove
Sitting in a circle on the softly lit auditorium stage on a Friday night, the student actors of Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Theatre Company had their first read through of a play they would perform 24 hours later.
Some of the actors sat cross-legged while others stretched out. They were relaxed, yet still performed as disciplined actors preparing for their roles. In this moment they were in the early stages of figuring out what inflections and emotions to use with their lines. Following the read through, they broke into smaller groups for rehearsals or to prepare stage sets and costumes.
Their work was all part of the Cruiser Theatre Company’s play-in-a-day preparation and performance of Ian McWethy’s play, “The 9 Worst Break-ups of All Time,” which they performed on Feb. 9.
The 24 hour play-in-a-day concept consists of students staying at the school auditorium for 24 hours to rehearse and prepare costumes and stage sets. This compact preparation period is in contrast to the normal weeks of work that precede most of their other performances.
“The 24 rehearsal period really helps the students get to know one another and learn to work together quickly, thereby enhancing their collaboration skills,” said Cruiser Theatre Company director and teacher Erin Graffis. “Theatre is inherently collaborative, and the time frame raises the stakes on establishing and maintaining positive collaboration and interactions for the duration of the show. The brevity of play-in-a-day opens doors for students who can’t commit to months of rehearsals because of other extracurriculars, transportation arrangements, health issues, and so on, to participate in a theatrical production.”
On the Friday night before the play was performed, the student director – senior Alizay Waters – patiently worked with the actors as they rehearsed each scene. Waters firmly, yet gently, gave the actors advice and guided them on how to fulfill their roles while also allowing them to express themselves creatively.
Addie Peelle, a 2018 Groveport Madison graduate and former member of the Cruiser Theatre Company, stopped by the rehearsals to take some photos.
“While I was a student, play-in-a-day was such an important experience to me and to our troupe,” said Peelle. “The difficulties of putting on a play in 24 hours helped us bond in a way that full-length productions couldn’t. I felt that we always came out of those shows closer than ever. As an alumna, I’m watching the shows now rather than being a part of them, but even as an audience member I can feel the effects of that play-in-a-day bonding. The whole stage experience radiates comradery and intimacy, two principle components of a successful troupe. ”
Graffis said the play, “The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time,” was great for the play-in-a-day format because “no one had a ridiculous amount of lines to learn.”
“Memorization of lines is a big concern in such a short time frame, but the large cast and relatively small amount of lines per person made this easier to manage, and the characters who did have more to learn, such as Eve and the two Civil War characters, had built-in options for having their lines in front of them – a professional clipboard and their letters, respectively,” said Graffis. “Also, this show is a comedy, and comedies are easier than dramas because it’s easier to play off a mistake as something that was supposed to happen. The brevity of the show (total run time of 35 minutes, including curtain call) and minimal needs for set/scenery meant there was less material to cover and technical work to do in order to make the show successful. I would not recommend doing a full-length play in a 24 hour period, but a one-act like this one is actually manageable.”
The Cruiser Theatre Company’s remaining big performance this year will be “Shrek: The Musical,” held on April 11, 12, 13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 2 p.m. at Groveport Madison High School, 4475 S. Hamilton Road, Groveport. Tickets are $7 for students and senior citizens and $10 general admission.
“I am so excited to see them perform ‘Shrek: The Musical’ after this play-in-a-day show’s impact,” said Peelle.
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