A Play in 24 Hours

If you ask Whitehorse resident Justine Davidson if the $50 fee to participate in Nakai Theatre’s 24 Hour Playwriting Competition is worth it, you’ll most likely get a resounding yes.

Not only was she provided a hotel room at the Westmark, snacks galore and yoga sessions, but her play, Subway, ended up being selected as the best of the 2009 festival. She has since been commissioned by Nakai Theatre to produce it.

Having plays written at the popular 24-hour festival move on to further success is nothing new.

The plays 60 Below by Patti Flather and Leonard Linklater and Carnaval by Mitch Miyagawa saw full productions. Syphilis: a Love Story, written by Peter Jickling, enjoyed rave reviews at the recent Homegrown Festival and is slated for production in the near future.

“Essentially you’re primed for the next level through this event,” explains Nakai Theatre artistic director David Skelton. “We really try to provide opportunities to take the work to the next step.”

Skelton says while having work produced or performed beyond the competition is a perq, it is not the main purpose of the annual event – which started in Whitehorse 25 years ago and is now being mirrored in cities across Canada.

“It forces writers to write,” said Skelton. “There is immediate payoff because you end up with something that you can really make grow if you choose to.”

And while being secluded in a hotel room for 24 hours and attempting to write a play can seem daunting to some, Skelton urges all playwrights, veteran or first-timer, to give it a try.

“That’s what is great about this event: that anyone in the community can participate.”

Skelton notes that over the years, the strategies exercised by budding playwrights have varied.

Some prefer to be alone in a state of insomnia in order to create their best work, while others opt to share a room and create together.

In other instances booze was a motivating factor.

“Personally I like to have a bath, sleep and watch some TV,” explains Skelton. “But to each their own.”

Following the 24-hour playwriting session, a 24 Hour Playwriting Cabaret will be held Nov. 20, in which excerpts from each play will be performed and the winning works announced.

Skelton does offer some advice to those newbies pondering the move in to playwriting.

“Keep your expectations reasonable, start from your own experiences and don’t censor your first ideas,” urges Skelton. “Almost any idea can become a good script. It is the execution that is the challenge.

“Know your characters inside out and have a backstory for each character, and know why they behave a certain way,” he adds. “Use your own experiences and details but don’t be a slave to reality, don’t be afraid to take it away from reality.”

And if you are still unsure, Skelton says his phone is always on if you want more details or just want to throw around ideas.

The Nakai Theatre 24 Hour Playwriting Competition will take play Oct. 23 to 24 at the Westmark Whitehorse, and you must register by Oct. 15.

The cost is $50, or just $25 if you are in the communities and participating via long distance or Skype.

For more details email [email protected] or call David at 393-6042.

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