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Under the Gun at Phoenix Theatre's 24-Hour Theatre Project

Phoenix Theatre's Hormel New Works Festival wrapped up Sunday night with the presentation of the 24-Hour Theatre Project, five fully produced 10-minute plays that had been created entirely in the previous 24 hours.

Actors (who were cast as an unassigned group a week or so ago) showed up Saturday night in costumes they'd chosen themselves, with a hand prop each had also chosen. After their names were drawn to form random groupings to assign to the five directors, the five writers each received snapshots of the ensembles thus created.

Then, while normal people slept, the playwrights crafted short works around the characters they'd been given.

This is a great workout for theater artists, who attempt to accomplish polished work in about 1/20 the normal time, and fortunately it's fun for audiences, too.

What actors and writers try to do to each other in the project appears to walk a fine line between challenge and revenge -- e.g., Marshall Glass showed up in a ash-blond wig and pink pantsuit with an otter hand puppet, and Kirt Shineman created a play about him (Kodak Courage) that made us cry.

Julie Peterson
Kasie Crenshaw and Cassy Crandall get medieval on one another's asses in The Southern Belle and the Breeze.

Kim Porter

and Ashley Naftule (full disclosure: Naftule also writes for Jackalope Ranch) wrote opening monologues for the two main characters of

The Southern Belle and the Breeze. 

Monologues are often hard to learn in one afternoon -- but Cassy Crandall and Kasie Crenshaw rose to the occasion. And writer Ben Tyler hit the jackpot with the cast for

The Center Cannot Hold

. Tyler's success was a tribute to his talent; he looked at the hand he was dealt and crafted five distinct and amusing characters: prostitutes Sabrina and Latisha, a drunken bum who's more than he seems, and a magical -- well,

Debbie

, with her faithful servant in tow.

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I can't say goodbye to the project until next year without quoting the lyrics of the song warbled by Dion Foreman (who, along with several of the other actors, writers, and directors, had to run off after Saturday's photo call to work on another show -- in Foreman's case, the grueling final performance of FrogWoman) in Sally Jo Bannow's Dibs:

"Thank you for calling Celebrity Bris / Our knives are the sharpest, and we never miss / We come on the eighth day, for boys, not for goyls / Celebrity Bris; we're the traveling mohels."

Way to go, Sally Jo -- it's good to know all those years of showtunes made an impression.

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