Most theatrical productions take months or years of preparation to write, produce and bring to life on stage. That's not the case for Juneau Douglas Little Theatre's annual 24-Hour Miracle.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26, a theme will be announced over the airwaves of 100.7 KXLL-FM. Four local playwrights will then be given 12 hours to each create a 10- to 20-minute one-act play about the chosen topic. Beginning at 8 a.m. the following morning, four local directors will have 12 hours to stage a production using the playwrights' words. Performances begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday night in the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. Tickets are available in advance at Rainy Day Books for $10, or cost $12 at the door.
"The one-act plays are written in 12 hours. Twelve hours after that the actors are off book and on stage," said Eric Caldwell, the former producer of the show who will be stepping in as a director this year. "The kind of creativity and energy that comes out when you have so little time to produce theater is incredible to watch."
Geoff Kirsch, the new president of the theater and a returning writer, also said the pressure to turn an idea into a stage production in so little time creates exciting theater.
"We've got a lot of talented people and it's really crazy - in a good way - what people can come up with in 24 hours and (people) should come down and see it," he said. "To me, it's one of the more unique things that goes on in theater in the community."
Different theater companies carry out similar challenges across the country, Caldwell said, but Juneau Douglas Little Theatre took its inspiration from the Alaska Overnighters out of Anchorage.
Caldwell had his own challenge of bringing Juneau's first 24-Hour Miracle together in a limited time frame as the inaugural producer three years ago.
"When I first joined, the board said they had this thing they wanted to do, and it started in 19 days," he said. "Nineteen days later the first 24-Hour Miracle went live."
The first two incarnations of the challenge proved to be quite different from one another, Caldwell said. The first year the theater selected "lost and found" as the theme and last year it chose "origin" as the topic.
"Interestingly, last year the four plays seemed to gravitate toward the same theme, where the first year the four playwrights all took very different takes on the theme," Caldwell said. "Last year, pretty much everyone went with the Darwinism or evolution theme. With the theme of lost and found, one writer focused on a theater of lost souls, while another one had an almost slapstick parody of the (Transportation Security Administration) confiscating random things, causing passengers of course to lose item after item."
The playwrights participating in this year's 24-Hour Miracle are Ishmael Hope, Amy Taylor, Mark Tinneny and Kirsch. The directors are Mike Levine, Kathleen Turner, Brice Habeger and Caldwell. There are also more than a half-dozen volunteer assistants and 17 actors scheduled to participate.
Kirsch said he enjoys writing comedy for the stage because it allows him to see the audience's reaction to his work firsthand.
"There's something about that element, having a live reaction to your writing," he said.
The 24-Hour Miracle is also a chance for local actors to perform who don't have the time to commit to full theater productions because of family or work obligations, Kirsch said.
"This is the kind of thing where it's just one afternoon and you're not tied into something for ever and ever," he said. "It is such a great opportunity for local talent that may not necessarily get the opportunity to be on stage or write a play."
Caldwell said it should be interesting to see what new directions the 24-Hour Miracle will take the audience in during this year's event.
"I've been amazed by the quality of work we've seen in the first two years of production and it's going to be a very interesting challenge to finally direct one of these plays myself," he said.
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.