Last weekend I was a playwright participant with the One Day Plays at Prescott College, AZ. This remarkable form of Live Theatre began at 9pm on Friday night when playwrights, directors and actors all met and placed costume pieces and props in the center of a circle.

After introductions, some theatre games to showcase the actors, and photos of each of them, the playwrights remained to write. In a room with the actors’ headshots beside their computer, (after a very democratic selection process!), each writer applied themselves to the task at hand. Our mission was to turn in a 10-minute play by 6am.

We had agreed on a roving prop to appear in each play (a lovely little wooden box) and could use any other of the props as our stories revealed themselves. (I used a little cloth doll that immediately called to mind the poppets of the Salem witch trials, and a long rope.) I also supported myself with coffee, trail mix, and headphones for my music.

It was a remarkably fast night! At 6.10am precisely I was in my car admiring the sunrise as I left for home and hopefully some sleep before returning that night to see what on earth I had written!

Meanwhile, at 7am the directors each got a script and an hour later were working with their actors. Additional costumes and props, choreographed fast set changes and music gradually filled out the shows. The production would open to a paying public at 7.30pm order to be complete by 9pm, 24 hours after we had first met!

I returned at 4 because, well, I couldn’t resist being part of the energy I knew was buzzing over there. Even though I had slept for 3 hours I needed the stimulation! I was not disappointed.

15 actors, 5 directors, 2 tech people and 3 assistants plus a few wandering playwrights like myself (doubling as crew for the transformation of the open space into a Theatre) filled the Granite Performing Arts Center. Every side room, hall, nook and cranny as well as the outside deck was filled.

By the time I got here it was cram time. Most of the actors were young college students, although there were a few older performers as well. It makes no difference at that point. Actors sitting in hunched poses, muttering lines or pacing about shouting them, directors feeding lines to panicked actors trying madly to get ‘off book’; last minute fixes of movement, clarification of set changes.

Each show had one very quick technical run-through with the genius at the board: ‘What lights where and do you want a black out or a fade?’ Actors now on stage having to do it – ‘Oh Lord, we ARE doing a show!’ The seats are being lined up. People all over the place, with glazed, scared, desperate faces, alternately racing through passages of words, then stopped, frozen, searching for the next!

I have been there. Years ago I did this back in Portland, Oregon, as one of the actors. I know the fear and the horror. ‘What on earth am I doing?’ ‘Who wrote this #@%>* stuff?’ This time as the playwright I happily agreed to some cuts and assured them I knew just what they were doing and that they were incredible. (True!)

Suddenly it is 7.15, the house is opening, the terrors are confined in the room behind the stage, costumes and makeup fully donned. Some have given up on cramming lines and are trying to relax, some are still cramming, one is even eating!

7.30, the audience is pretty much all there, programs in hand. (Yes, we even had those with all our names and the names of the plays!) The lights went down, the first music cue came up with the lights and on came 2 cowboys. The first show of the night had begun.

The magic of the evening was being released, in all its power and glory. However, the real magic, perhaps, was in the work that had been going on for 22.5 hours. Every individual, beginning with the playwrights, had applied discipline to their task, taken responsibility for their role, and filled it to the best of their ability. And for most of us, with more capacity than we knew we had!

Everyone had to say ‘Yes’ to ideas. The playwrights had to let it go, actors and directors had to work together through the anxiety and confusion. With all that, was the magic of  laughter, hand holding and hugs, encouragement and celebration. Yes, the Personal Magic of each participant created a community magic for all of us, and the audience.

Next blog I will tell you how it all unfolded, about’ The Poet, The Witch and The Butterfly’ that came to life from my imagination to the stage in the form of 3 courageous actors and via one determined director!

What I can tell you now though, is that I wrote in the Personal Magic book:

“ There is an old adage, ‘There are no small roles, only small actors.’  Likewise, there are no small people, only the small self. By embracing your Personal Magic  and bringing that to the world, you can be the hero at the center of your story.”

The One Day Plays experience serves to further demonstrate that. There were no small actors and no small people – they were all empowered and magical beings.

You don’t have to wait for the pressure of a 24 hour deadline with a public component! Just embrace your Magic now and everyday, consciously and confidently. You will shine and in the shining others will shine as well.

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