It sounds crazy, but Rachel Kohler said she did it and lived to tell the tale:
"Chad Howard and I used to do 24-hour theater projects in college and grad school," Kohler said — and by "24-hour projects," she means the theatrical equivalent of the all-nighter: Participants have 24 hours to write and produce a short play, starting from scratch.
Kohler and Howard, apparently none the wiser for the experience, kept thinking this would be fun to do at the Majestic Theatre in Corvallis. They pitched the idea to Jimbo Ivy, the facility's supervisor, who said, in essence, well, August is a slow month here. Go ahead.
So on Friday night, dozens of writers, directors and performers will gather at the Majestic to be randomly sorted into teams. Then the writers will have 12 hours to write a play. On Saturday morning, the directors and performers will gather to begin rehearsals.
Then, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, the teams will take to the stage to perform their 10-minute shows.
Kohler is calling the event "Iron Thespian," a play on the old "Iron Chef" cooking competition show, in which contestants had to prepare a meal using a secret ingredient unveiled just before the competition started.
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Kohler and Howard have secret ingredients planned as well: As the teams gather on Friday night, the "Iron Thespian" emcee, Priscilla Rufflebottom of the Tart of the Valley burlesque troupe, will reveal a list of "ingredients" that must be incorporated into each play. It could be a bizarre prop, an odd turn of phrase, a weird plot element, or all of the above — or something even odder.
Kohler said each writer and director will be working with casts of three to four people; more than that, she said, and it's hard to work in all the performers in a 10-minute space.
And no one will be allowed to create a one-person show: "No one wants to see a one-man show for 10 minutes that was written in 12 hours," she said. "That would be awful."
The "Iron Thespian" event appeals to people who have been interested in performing, but may not have the time to commit to a weeks-long rehearsal schedule.
The end results can be hilarious, Kohler said, and sometimes even intentionally so. But new friendships likely will be forged in each team — and a participant or two might catch the theater bug, she said, and return to see what it's like to be part of a production that takes a little bit more time to prepare.
Audience members at Saturday's show will get the chance to vote for their favorite productions, but Kohler said that's not really the point of the competition: "It doesn't really matter if you win. The point is to have fun."