Friday, August 24, 2018

Making something out of nothing - Schoolhouse Arts Center welcomes 24-Hour new play festival by Schoolhouse Arts Center

I caught up with the very busy actor/director Randy Hunt, co-organizer of “The Red Eye: a 24-Hour New Play Festival” (coming to Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish this fall) to get the scoop on this new event.

Where are you from? What brought you to the southern Maine theater scene?
I’m originally from the Bangor, Maine area; I moved to the Portland area in 2016 when my employer of 20 years relocated me to their South Portland Corporate office. While I was initially nervous about this move, it ended up being a great opportunity to meet new people, do new things, and to live, work, and play in a new community. I’m thrilled to have found a thriving theatre scene here -- there is no lack of theatre opportunities in the Greater Portland area. In 2011 I auditioned for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with Ten Bucks Theatre in Bangor and this became the start of a very busy theatre “career” for me. Since then, I’ve acted in 17 fully-staged productions and directed two shows.

Schoolhouse Arts Center
Where did the 24-hour festival idea come from?
I joined Ten Bucks Theatre (TBT) in Bangor in 2012, the year they held their Inaugural 24-hour New Play Festival. It became wildly successful, drawing around 30 to 45 actors, writers and directors each year and it’s been an annual event ever since. I co-organized their 2013-2017 festivals and was also able to participate as a writer, director and actor over the years. I love everything about it: meeting new people, working with old friends, trying something new (acting, directing, writing, tech, etc.), the camaraderie, the creative process, the awesome feeling you get as a writer when you see your play come to life in less than a day, fun and laughter, food, watching the plays that the other participants are in and knowing that they are all feeling that same adrenaline rush as you, and so much more. It is my favorite event of the year!

How did you and the Red Eye end up at Schoolhouse?
In April I was cast as the lead (Elwood P. Dowd) in “Harvey” at Schoolhouse -- it was my first time working with them. I met so many wonderful people and I really enjoyed the experience. I was thinking one day that perhaps Schoolhouse would be an ideal location to have a 24-hour play festival of their own, especially since Schoolhouse was originally founded to showcase the works of local playwrights.

So...I pitched the idea, and it was wonderfully received. They said “Great, we’ll get it on the calendar for next year.” And I said, “Next year? We have plenty of time to make it happen this year!” Schoolhouse board member Francine Morin volunteered to co-organize the event and she asked if we could call it “The Red Eye” because it fit her publicity concept, and so it was named.

Now here I am, helping to organize and run SAC’s inaugural event The Redeye: A 24 New Play Festival happening this October! There is something in the air that makes autumn just right for a festival like this. Since the event came together so quickly, October 19 and 20 was the only possible weekend. We feel confident that we’ll have enough participants and enthusiasm to make this an annual event at Schoolhouse Arts Center! I am so thrilled to be co-organizing this event with Francine. It’s always fun to collaborate on a project with someone who understands the vision of the project and who wants to work towards the same goal. We are also both very organized people, which makes for a streamlined workflow. It takes a team of people to make sure an event like this goes smoothly, so other Schoolhouse folks will be helping out as well, thankfully.

Who can participate in the Red Eye? And how does the 24-hour part work? Do you stay up all night?

The festival runs from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. The festival runs approximately 24 hours in total, but it is not an overnight event.

The best part about a 24-hour festival is that it gives anyone a chance to try something that they’ve never done, like writing a play, acting, or directing – this event is the perfect place to try something new. It also isn’t just for newcomers -- it’s also a fun opportunity for seasoned theatre veterans, too, giving everyone chance to get together and collaborate as a team and work towards a common goal of creating a ten minute (-ish) play that didn’t exist 24 hours before. It may sound a little intimidating at first but creating a product from start to finish in one day as a team is exhilarating and very satisfying. This event is for anyone 12 to 112!

Anyone who is interested can get started by signing up for the event at and indicating your preference (to be writer, actor, director, etc.). We’ll assign roles the week before the festival. Writers are asked to not write anything ahead of time -- this is very important!

On Friday night we’ll meet at Schoolhouse Arts Center, play some icebreaker games, and randomly assign teams consisting of a writer, a director, and 2-4 actors. Through improvisation games the writers will discover their actors’ personalities and capabilities which will shape their script ideas. Writers, actors, and directors will then meet for one-hour workshops with their mentors: Michael Tooher for the writers, Zachariah Stearn for the actors, and Jerry Walker for the directors. The writing workshop is particularly helpful for those who haven’t done much (or any) play writing but now must create one overnight! After the workshops, everyone, including the writers, will head home. While the actors and directors get their rest, the writers will fire up their coffee pots and work late into the night to meet their 8:00AM deadline. On Saturday morning we begin the work of bringing them to life. We then share one last meal together on Saturday night before inviting the public to a 7:00PM showcase performance. That’s pretty much how it goes. Remember to sign up!

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