I was going to write another essay about 14/48 running up to this summer’s festival. I’m an old hand at essays about 14/48. In fact, I once wrote an essay about how an essay I wrote about how 14/48 is partly responsible for all these essays I wright here at Just Wrought. Talk about recursion.
I was going to write an essay about how 14/48 serves as a sort of “stealth” semi-annual Seattle theatre convention, encouraging theatre artists of different disciplines, different experiences and varying amounts of “dues paid”, to get to know each other when otherwise they might not. I was going to point out that such a convention has to be “stealth”, and it has to contain as its main component the compressed camaraderie that only producing a show together creates. If someone offered to host a “Seattle Theatre Convention” where we all just gathered to chat, flirt, and share war stories, I am certain nearly no one would come. The younger theatre artists all have better things to do, mostly centered around boozing, bullshitting and getting laid. And the older theatre artists all have better things to do, mostly centered around dealing with the consequences of our earlier boozing, bullshitting and getting laid. It’s not that we old-timers don’t like you, Young Seattle Theatre Artists— far from it. You are, as the kids like to say, hella fine. But we are never gonna come to your pick-up kickball games or your Facebook arranged Karaoke nights starting after 9:30. Shit ain’t happening. The only thing I start after 9:30 at night is a bath. 14/48 forces us together, young and old, in the only way that matters: putting on a show. Just by participating I have come to know upwards of a hundred amazing artists that elsewise I might only know as names in a program.
Okay. So that’s what I would have said about 14/48. And it would’ve been enough. But the 14/48 powers-that-be have sprung some surprises for this summer’s festival, yet again upping the ante of their game. The first week of the world’s quickest theatre festival will take the form of the oft threatened but heretofore never actually implemented “kamikaze” version. Normally seven playwrights are selected to write 10 minute plays on a randomly selected theme. The plays, written between 10 pm the night of the selection and 8 am the next day, are then randomly assigned a director who randomly casts from a pre-selected pool of actors. Over the next 10 or so hours the plays are rehearsed. At 8pm, less than 24 hours from when they were conceived, the plays a performed before a rather demanding live audience. At 10:30 pm they are performed again, before a whole new audience. And then all of it happens again the next day. If you’re thinking, “Wow, that sounds like an ass-kicker,” you are thinking rightly.
So what is Kamikaze? Nothing short of more randomness, more risk. 45 veterans have been invited to participate without knowing ahead of time which of the disciplines they will working in: acting, directing, writing, band or design. 14/48 co-founder Jodi-Paul Wooster explains the rationale behind adding the Kamikaze twist: “Over the years, we’ve had a number of talented artists say ‘thanks for inviting me to [blank] but I’ve always wanted to [other blank]’ To those brave folks I say: ‘Careful what you wish for.’”
As if these Kamikaze rules weren’t wrinkle enough, a few weeks later 14/48 will twist the festival in a different direction, staging it outdoors for the first time at Seattle in the gardens on the eastern side of the Seattle Repertory Theatre. “We can never rest on our laurels,” says Jodi-Paul. “Our audience and artists expect not only new plays but new ways of creating these plays.”
I must confess a bit of shameful glee at the terror with which many of my fellow invitees are facing the Kamikaze weekend. If you break down the numbers of any given 14/48, you’ll find that actors comprise by far the largest plurality of participants.This mirrors the world of normal theatre. On the other hand, of the 45 total participants only seven are playwrights, or 15.5%. This proportion exceeds that of modern American theatre by an abnormally high value. Normally writers are much smaller minority: maybe two percent, maybe less. For many Seattle actors, 14/48 is the only chance they ever have to collaborate with a living breathing playwright to produce a brand new work. So the thought of having to wright a new work in 10 hours can be petrifying. One good friend, an actor, reached out to me for advice: “Yo, … can you give me 3 things to help me thru my fear. Maybe 3 tips to help me tell a good if not moderately acceptable story.” I’ll share my reply, lest my buddy acquire any unfair advantage from my advice, which seems damned unlikely.
It's all gonna turn out good, you know, and by my math you only have a 15% chance of being drawn as a writer. But still, I'm happy to offer a few tricks of the trade, to be taken with a grain of salt, because if you find something doesn't work for you, toss it right away.
1) Beginning, Middle, End. That's the best trick. You have a situation. It's static, in balance, but only just barely. Something's wrong with it. It cannot sustain. That's your beginning. Something happens to change that situation, throw it out of balance, either from inside or outside, either someone MAKES the change happen or it happens to them. Doesn't matter. But change happens. That's your middle. Things happen in the struggle for a new balance to be struck. …. It could be bad (MACBETH), good (MIDSUMMER) or indifferent (WAITING FOR GODOT), but the lights fall on a new order. This is your end. In 14/48 your best bet is to give 1-2 pages to the beginning. 3-5 pages to the middle, and probably not more than 1 page to the end. Your mileage may vary, but do remember, when you hit the end of typewritten page six, you are done.
2) Start jotting down ideas, characters, snippets of dialogue that strike you. Keep a little notebook. If you find yourself stuck on the night of writing, open this up and draw from it, at random if you have to. Some may say this is cheating, but there's an old saying in baseball, if you ain't cheating a little bit, you ain't trying hard enough.
3) Trust. You'll be working with 45 of Seattle's very best theatre artists, all 14/48 veterans. We're experts at making this shit fly. You don't need to do it all by yourself as a writer. (The dirtiest secretest secret about playwrights is that we're at our best when we are at our laziest.) Trust that some brilliant folks will come in and fill the gaps. And notice that I didn't say you'd be working with 44 of Seattle's best. I said 45 'cuz I'm counting you. Trust you. You're fucking awesome.
Hope that helps. Feel free to bug me some more if you get worried. It's gonna kick ass though, so don't worry too much.
My last 14/48 essay was called “Holy Fear” and in it I argued that healthy fear is essential to making good theatre.
It is what keys us into the audience’s experience of the immediacy of the moment. If you’re not feeling it, then chances are the audience won’t be feeling much of anything. And, alas, they’re used to that. If they want “perfection”, they stay home and watch the boob. Our fear as theatre artists fuels the whole machina ex deus that is theatre.
Oddly, less than two weeks out, I am mostly fear-free. I suppose, like a childish Luke Skywalker, I don’t really know enough to be afraid. And now, having written that, chill bumps rise on my arm, and I hear Yoda saying, “You will be.”
The confirmed Artist Roster for 14/48 Kamikaze is: Jose Amador; Ahren Buhmann; Susanna Burney; Dave Clapper; Trick Danneker; Nik Doner; John Farrage; Brandon Felker; Bret Fetzer; Mark Fullerton; Julia Griffin; Basil Harris; Alyssa Keene; Erin Kraft; Mik Kuhlman; JD Lloyd; Hana Lass; Teri Lazzara; David- Anthony Lewis; John Lutyens; Corey McDaniel; Ben McFadden; Pamala Mijatov; Pattie Miles Van Beauzekom; Scotto Moore; Paul Mullin; Peter Dylan O'Connor; Opal Peachey; Nik Perleros; Celene Ramadan; Shane Regan; Jaime Roberts; Carl Sander; Charles Smith; Roy Stanton; Allison Strickland; Erik Van Beauzekom; Jonah Van Spreecken; Doug Willott and Anthony Winkler.
Tickets for 14/48 Kamikaze can purchased in advance at Brown Paper Tickets, by clicking here. I highly suggest you do. They will sell out.