UW-Rock County hosts 24-hour theater event
JANESVILLE Paul Casler of Janesville quickly fueled up with a piece of Domino’s pizza while he worked his way into character.
Here was the scenario: Casler was playing the character of Samuel Samuels, a father in “The Scruffy Show,” a one-act stage comedy about a celebrity television dog invited to a child’s birthday party.
Actually, the party is phony—a ruse set up by Samuel to meet the object of his obsession, Scruffy. Of course, there’s conflict in the play. Scruffy is dead.
“So, he’s not going to make it to the party,” Casler said. “You can see how things start to sort of fall apart from there on out.”
Never heard of “The Scruffy Show?” Well, that’s because it’s not even a day old.
The production was one of five plays that a group of playwrights, directors and actors cast, wrote, rehearsed and produced in just a 24-hour span between Friday and Saturday night at UW-Rock County in Janesville.
Some 32 members of the university’s theater and drama club participated in the event at Kirk Denmark Theater.
Some, like Zac Curtis, who directs plays at UW-Rock County, had experience. Others, like UW-Rock County Associate Dean John Fons, had no acting experience.
Curtis, who was up all night writing “The Scruffy Show,” said it was the first time that UW-Rock County tried “24-hour theater.”
“It’s unique,” Curtis said. “It allows people to create really interesting and edgy theater that otherwise wouldn’t get done. People can get involved, and learn if they like theater and drama without the usual huge, extended time commitment.”
Curtis said it is a fun and spontaneous experience for actors and for the audience, who did not know what they would see ahead of time.
“It’s a chance to create weird things, really fun pieces and give an audience a wide variety of really creative theater,” he said
Curtis said writers were constrained by a set of local headlines and current events they were given.
That information restricted, focused and challenged their writing.
Otherwise, there were no rules. For writers, some of whom spent all night writing their plays after initial casting calls Friday night, the result was equal parts improv, gut reaction, and coffee-fueled, sleep-deprived genius.
That blend takes playwriting to its essence, Curtis said. And oddly, he added, the short- leash rehearsals—just eight hours to learn lines and blocking before performing in front of an audience Saturday night—can bring out the best in actors.
“Generally in life and in creativity, you find that first instincts are our best instincts and they lead us to better things,” Curtis said. “That’s what this is. You go for it, right now.”
The plays including a drama about an aging mother that touches on themes of “sexual perversity” and a play about witches that examines subculture.
Another play examined the existential growing pains of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse as he makes the jump from common mouse to mega-famous cartoon character.
An actor cast in that play walked into the auditorium to do a final rehearsal before the show went on. In a high-pitched voice, the actor shouted a catchphrase favored by Disney’s most famous three-fingered mouse.
“Oh, Boy!” he yelled.