It's the Final Countdown at Rover Dramawerks' One Day Only Play Festival

It's often been said that writers and artists work best when they have a gun to their head. A theater in Plano will provide five casts with that kind of motivation, and since this is Texas, we should probably mention that it will only be a proverbial gun.

Rover Dramawerks will present five short plays at 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday, all of which were written, rehearsed and produced in the previous 24-hour period as part of their 24th annual One Day Only short play festival.

The production of these plays will start at 9 p.m. Friday at the Plano theater. Carol M. Rice, the executive artistic director for Rover Dramawerks, says that the cast will consist of five directors and writers and a cast of 30 or so actors and actress. They'll start with a brainstorming session and throw those ideas into a hat for the playwrights to choose. The writers will get their play topics and spend the entire night writing a script for the actors and directors to block out and rehearse right up until the opening curtain at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The 24-hour play festival started back in 1999 when the Rover Dramawerks crew worked under the Audacity Theater Lab. Rice says they had such a good time producing the plays and were so pleased with the results that they decided to bring the concept to the new theater.

"Once we formed Rover, we said this is a really cool idea, so let's do it again," Rice says.

The start of the production process includes a traditional "speed bonding" round during which the actors and actresses are tasked with certain challenges that will help the directors get to know them and figure out which part is right for them in a very limited amount of time.

"The directors don't know everybody so this gives them a chance for every two or three minutes to rotate to a different group with a playwright," Rice says. "The director and a group of actors will have a ridiculous project to do like create a human pyramid or discuss their favorite commercial of the day. It gives them an idea of how creative are they or if they are afraid to do anything."

The playwrights will work on their scripts at the theater throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning using computers provided by the theater. Rice says this is a precautionary measure since some previous productions came from playwrights who actually had fully formed scripts long before the 24-hour period started.

The directors will show up at 6:30 a.m. the following Saturday, read through the completed plays and start assigning casts and parts based on their observations of the "speed bonding" from the previous night. Rehearsals will continue throughout the day right up until showtime.

Rice says they've had several plays produced from their 24-hour festival that have gone on to become staples in Rover Dramawerks' repertoire and some have even won a few awards and gone on to earn publishing accolades.

"It's definitely a challenge for everybody, for the actors especially because it's a huge rush," Rice says. "They always turn out great. It's kind of amazing. I've had people tell us that they are just as good as the full length shows throughout town."

See the shows on stage at 8 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $10-12. For more information, visit roverdramawerks.com.

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