Red Masquers conduct 24-hour “Play in a Day”

Courtesy of Alexis Jabour | (From left to right): Ryan Graves, Sadie Raynor and Victoria Kapfer lay out the scene like a piece of cake.

by Emma Polen | features editor

Jan. 20, 2022

Some play-writes spend years creating a work. During Duquesne’s annual Play in a Day celebration, student writers, directors, actors and technical crew  had just 24 hours to  create an entire production from start to finish.

Play in a Day allowed the theatrical performers to challenge themselves to put on an entertaining production using teamwork and perseverance. 

The only direction given beforehand was the writing prompt, “Everyday locations with a genre- inspired twist.” 

The 24-hour day began at 8 p.m., Friday night. According to junior education major Erin Wrisley, the writers and directors are paired randomly, and then auditions for cast members start. This year, there were four teams that, at the end of the 24 hours, put on four separate, one-act productions. 

After auditions, the writer/director teams settled on their writing prompts. Then, everyone went home for the night except the writers, who have just 10 hours to “brainstorm, write and edit” a final script that is due at 7 a.m. the following day, said Wrisley.  

“The most challenging part of the day for me was definitely getting started with the writing,” Wrisley said. Given only the setting and genre for her production, Wrisley’s task involved creating a story around the simple prompt. 

8:30 a.m. marked the first read-through involving each production’s writer, director and cast. The director takes over from there, spending the whole day creating the scene with the cast. 

For junior marketing and theater arts major Anita Parrott, who directed “Sealed Deck,” the early morning read-through was her favorite part of Play in a Day.

“It was a really exciting time and I finally knew exactly what kind of script we’d be working with.”

After the read-through, it was up to the scenes’ directors to continue the writers’ vision. 

Parrott said, “Being a director is different from writing because I think there’s an added pressure to do the playwright’s work justice.”

The rest of the day involved the productions’ directors, cast members and technical crew bringing the writers’ finished scripts to life. 

Freshman digital media arts student Ryan Graves recalled that, as an actor in his scene, “Tale of Cake,” the hardest part was memorizing lines. 

However, along with performing typical actor roles, Play in a Day supplied a new opportunity for the cast and crew involved. 

“I was able to contribute to the set design, stage directions and costumes, and those were things I’ve never done before, so it was a change from what I’m used to,” Graves said.

Learning new roles in the theater was not the only fun part for the cast of Play in a Day. 

Second-year nursing student Sadie Raynor was a cast member of “Tale of Cake” as well. 

She described the role of the cast on production day: “My role…is to bring these stories to life and in [my] case, eat a lot of cake.” She explained that her scene’s writer, Bill Feher, wrote the entire scene based around Raynor’s love for cake.

Reflecting on the beginning vs. the end of the day, Raynor said, “In the beginning, I was really pumped up and ready to focus. By the end, I felt very sick from the cake and went to bed. But it was worth it.”

8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15 marked the final hour of Play in a Day, and the productions were officially finished. 

What the audience saw was the full-fledged, completed production. What they did not see, however, was the long, challenging journey that was 24 hours in the making. 

All interested in getting involved next semester with Play in a Day are encouraged to do so. The Red Masquers will also be putting on main stage productions including  Mama Mia! Feb. 17 – March 5, 1,000 Airplanes on the Roof March 31 – April 9 and Premieres scattered throughout this semester. 

“It’s a terrifying, chaotic, and wild experience, but it was also incredibly fun and rewarding, and just a super cool experience,” Wrisley said.