By: Dale King Contributing Writer
The audience that gathered in the Studio One Theatre on the Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University the night of May 6 witnessed an extraordinary event that’s repeated in this vicinity just once a year.
The folks that night viewed eight stage plays that did not exist a single day earlier.
The performances were crafted by eight playwrights, helmed by eight directors and acted out by a couple dozen actors and actresses who participated in this year’s “Overnight Theatre Project,” the annual fundraiser presented by Theatre Lab, FAU’s professional resident drama company.
“This exciting event brings together some of South Florida’s most recognizable playwrights, actors, directors, and theatre artists to conceive, create, produce, and perform brand new plays overnight.”
After a meet-and-greet on the evening of May 5, the group sat down in Theater Lab’s 99-seat Heckscher Stage space where Artistic Director Matt Stabile divided the group into mini-production units. After the show directors were paired with playwrights, actors were chosen in quiz-show style by selecting their photos that were taped face-backwards against the wall and numbered.
Before the set-up was complete, Stabile gave the group “advantages and disadvantages” on pieces of paper pulled from a fishbowl. Based on this, two groups got live scoring by Paul Curtis. Two had to use props stored in plastic containers containing sundry items.
Three odd props – a white cow, a police helmet and something called the “Murktroll Puppet” prop – had to be worked into three of the productions.
A couple of acting units got to “steal” performers from other mini-troupes. And because May 5 was the wedding anniversary of Stabile and his wife, actress Niki Fridh, one of the shows had to reference some type of anniversary.
Before the groups went off to work, they received a lengthy list of specific instructions from Stabile about what to do, where to go and when to go there over the next half-day. Reportedly, most dramatists worked through the night of May 5 and many theatre mavens reported getting little sleep throughout the day May 6.
At 7 p.m. on May 6, Stabile gave the “go” signal to move across the pond from Heckscher Stage to Studio One, a larger performance space with more seats.
The show went on a little after 7:30 and featured the following:
The Mystery of the $6 by Casey Dressler, directed by Clayton Phillips, with Brooke Berger as stage manager. It featured Yafi Yair, Vaishnavi Sharma, Abby Nigro, Johnny Arena and the white cow, about a spiritual retreat in the Florida Everglades.
Asking Annie by Marj O’Neill Butler, directed by Daimien J. Matherson, with Vanessa McCloskey as stage manager. It featured Matthew Korinko, Carlos Alayeto, Robert Fritz and Rachel Finley in a drama about relationships.
The Day before Tomorrow by Ricky J. Martinez, directed by Andy Rogow, with Amanda Corbin as stage manager. It featured Beverly Blanchette, Amy Coker, Laura Hodos and Lee Soroko in a show referencing human reproduction.
Selfies are for Sharing by Robert Goodrich, directed by Timothy Mark Davis, with Angelica Capote as stage manager. Featuring Daryl Patrice, Katherine C. McDonald, David A. Hyland and Stephen Hedger, the play touched on cellular regeneration and a man who cannot talk unless he his image is being recorded on a cell phone.
Massive Discrepancies by Alex Garcia, directed by Daniel Eilola, with Jameelah Bailey as stage manager. Featuring Patti Gardner, Noah Levine, Randall Swinton and Angelica Lopez Catledge. This play investigated the disappearance of a character named Gottlieb.
Sana Sana Colita de Rana by Caleb Scott, directed by Joanna Orrego, with Jacob Altman as stage manager. Featuring Jill Carr, Sandi Stock, Gaby Tortoledo and Leah Marie Sessa. Four sisters prepare a dinner in memory of their mother on the anniversary of her passing.
Visit His World by Alex Alavarez, directed by Patrick Fitzwater, with Rebecca Andros as stage manager. Featuring Frank Vomero, Ryan Maloney, Michael Gioia and Rachel O’Hara. A woman has a remarkable visit with her dead brother.
A Night at Fat Cat’s Jazz Club by Michael Leeds, directed by Susan Wemette, with Rose Figueroa as stage manager. Featuring Debbie Richardson, Aletta Kemp, Mallory Newbrough and Jordon Armstrong. A chanteuse and a young vocalist are battling over a musical audition when the girl’s mother intervenes.
Established in 2015, Theatre Lab’s mission is to engage the South Florida community with world-class professional theatre performances, workshops, and conversations with leading playwrights and theatre artists.