Earlier this month, 25 playwrights spent 24 hours at the Edgewater Hotel in Whitehorse trying to write plays for Nakai Theatre’s 25th 24-hour Playwriting Competition (there’s a pleasing symmetry there). Nakai’s artistic director David Skelton and Kim Hudson were on hand as dramaturges and the writers oscillated between head-clearing walks, hotel-room writing sessions and other workshops.
On November 30th the best five minutes of each writer’s output will be brought to life at the Yukon Inn Fireside Room. With such a condensed writing schedule, Skelton is quick to point out that the readings at this 24-Hour Playwriting Cabaret will be from less-than-polished work.
“Well, the idea that you’re going to see something that could possibly become something more, that’s always intriguing,” he says. “And the rawness of the creation, that it hasn’t been refined and all the bugs aren’t worked out, there’s something charming and impressive about that.”
One play that became something more was Carnaval, by Mitch Miyagawa. It was originally conceived at a 24-Hour Competition in 2004 and was developed into a full production. Carnaval actually ended up being Skelton’s first production as Nakai’s artistic director.
One of the key aspects of the competition is that the writers cannot refine their scripts between the competition and the cabaret. Whatever they have after 24 hours is all they have. When the pursuit of perfection is so often an impediment to getting things done, a deadline can be a blessing.
“You have to move your brain out of your head and just churn stuff out,” says Skelton. “The only disadvantage is if you want to create a beautiful, well-crafted Tolstoyean novel or beautiful George Bernard play in 24 hours, you’re going to be disappointed.”
This being a competition after all, there will be prizes, some of them in unlikely categories. Like Larry’s Last Line, in which Whitehorse politico Larry Bagnell selects (and reads) his favourite last line. Then there is the Best Optional Mandatory Line, which this year is “Why won’t this laminator stop slurping?” Whichever playwright makes best use of this non-sequitur will take home that coveted prize. The categories are rounded out by the People’s Choice, Honourable Mention and Best Overall awards.
“If you’re interested in theatre in the Whitehorse community, then this is definitely something to see,” adds Skelton. “And, if anyone is interested in being part of a reading, then they should contact us or they could even put their name out on Artsnet that they’re looking. The readers get in for free, so they save a whole five bucks, which is one extra beer.”
The Nakai 24-Hour Playwriting Cabaret takes place November 30th at the Yukon Inn. Admission is $5. Anyone who would like to be a reader and pocket the difference (or get that extra beer), can contact David Skelton, [email protected].