Concordia students create plays in 24 hours

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Junior Josette Wilhelm and senior Sarah Taylor pull an all nighter in Concordia Lutheran High School’s auditorium during the 24-hour Theater Festival. BRIDGETT HERNANDEZ

FORT WAYNE — Students at Concordia Lutheran High School pulled an all nighter Feb. 8-9 during the school’s first 24-hour Theater Festival.

Fueled by caffeine and snacks, student playwrights worked through the night to draft an original play. Chris Murphy, director of theatrical arts, brought the idea for the event back from a Broadway workshop he attended last summer.

Murphy’s students were excited when he pitched them the idea. About 80 students signed up to participate in the event.

During the event, a table in the cafeteria was piled high with provisions to keep the teenagers fueled throughout the event which lasted from 7 p.m. Friday and ended with performances starting at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“Each grade level brought in something. One group brought in drinks, one group brought in desserts, one group brought in good-for-you stuff and one group brought in salty stuff,” Murphy said.

Students created, produced and showcased a new show within 24 hours. They participated as playwrights, directors, actors, costumers, makeup artists, sound and light technicians and stage managers.

“Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. we will have four shows that did not exist 24 hours ago,” Murphy said in the first hours of the event.

Murphy said he hopes the 24-hour Theater Festival teaches the students about working under pressure and working with others.

“They have no say about who they’re writing with (or) who their cast is going to be,” he said.

The 24 hours started on Friday night with pairs of playwrights who worked together under the guidance of English and theater teachers. Murphy said one of his goals was to get kids involved that don’t have theater experience.

That included senior playwright Sarah Taylor. The project was her first foray into theater.

“I’ve always been passionate about writing, so I thought it would be a great idea to do this,” she said.

In the school’s nearly empty auditorium, Taylor worked with junior Josette Wilhelm on a play about a group of teenagers who don’t have Wi-Fi so they decide to play a game of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.

Wilhelm said they both brought ideas that they “smushed together.”

“The ideas kept rolling, and we came up with jokes and other things and we just started cracking up like, ‘What if this happened? What if that happened?’” she said.

Taylor said “coffee and soda and sheer determination” were helping them stay awake throughout the night.

In the school lobby, junior Joseph Burch and senior Shirley Wang worked on a “dramedy” for a cast of about 10 people.

Burch said they were starting the process by fleshing out the characters and letting their personalities drive the plot. Their play was about three married couples at a campground who are forced together when they must take shelter from a tornado.

“At the end, they all leave changed because they get a different view on life and marriage that they never had before,” Burch said.

At 7 a.m. on Saturday, the playwrights passed off their plays to the directors. Actors arrived at 9 a.m. to begin rehearsing. At 7 p.m., the students welcomed audiences and presented four shows, about 15 minutes each.