Thursday, June 5, 2008

72 to curtain

Will local playwrights rise to the challenge?

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Tom fedor⁄The Gazette
Improv actors (from left) Wendy Donigian, Patrick Gantz, James McGarvey, and Mikael Johnson work through a scene where a trio of ancient Mayans are transported to New York City during Tuesday’s 72 Fest launch party. On the cover: Barbara Purcell (second from the right) and Scott Clawson, co-workers from Frederick, formed the team “By A Thread.” Suggestion boards collected improvisational criteria.
Most plays take months to put together. Finding the right actors, designing the set, adding music and lighting takes time. But for several groups of local playwrights and screenwriters this weekend, their ‘‘perfect” play will have to be pieced together in just 72 hours.

‘‘We’ll have to see how this all works out. I think really good things will come out of it,” said fest cofounder Clark Kline.

The idea is a spinoff of the 72 Film Fest Challenge that Kline and friends dreamed up two years ago. That event, pitting regional filmmakers against each other as they race to create short films, has grown in popularity in a short amount of time.

‘‘When we did the film fest, we knew we wanted to do different challenges, too. We thought the play fest was similar and the easiest transition,” said Kline.

The event officially kicked off with Tuesday’s launch party, where seven student teams and three amateur⁄professional teams received themes for their burgeoning productions following a night of improvisational skits that was open to the public.

Hoping to get everyone in a theatric mood, Kline said organizers wanted to include the audience as much as possible.

Now, each team is busy creating just the right scene. The competition culminates with each team’s 10-minute performance on Saturday, presided over by local judges.

‘‘I’ve been brainstorming and doing creative things to get my mind running,” said participant Caitlyn Joy. A student at Towson University, Joy signed up with four others as part of a team named Quiche.

‘‘It will be fun. This is the stuff we love to do,” said the acting major and aspiring writer.

Three finalists will move on to Sunday night performances where a winner will be crowned. Additional honors will include best acting, best writing and best overall.

‘‘I think some people are scared and hesitant because it’s something new for the area, but I think it will be fun for everyone,” Kline said.

Strict criteria make the fest even more challenging. Each group is given limited time to set up their show and break it down, meaning participants will be racing to get to the stage.

Joy said she is up for the challenge.

‘‘I think it’s a great idea because it pushes people to work harder than they normally do,” she said.

Kline is hoping that the play fest will grow to be as popular as its cinematic sibling, which has expanded to two days of film.

‘‘It’s amazing that every year it gets better. There’s just a certain type of person who can put these things together,” he said.

72 Play Fest

When: 2 p.m. (student groups) and 8 p.m. (amateur⁄professional) Saturday; Final performances at 7 p.m. on Sunday

Where: Cultural Arts Center, 15 W. Patrick St., Frederick

Tickets: $10 per show

For information:

www.72fest.com