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Black Box Arts Center’s 24-Hour Theaterfest encourages Arts engagement

By Staff | Jan 11, 2019

A couple of community members audition for the playwrights and directors of the Black Box Arts Center's 24-Hour Theaterfest on Friday evening. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — For the Black Box Arts Center, all-nighters are very much a thing of the present.

While many people leave all-nighters behind after graduating from college, the Black Box Arts Center makes use of the term twice a year, when they host their 24-Hour Theaterfests. The summer 24-Hour Theaterfest is family-friendly, while the winter 24-Hour Theaterfest — held this past weekend — is created with mature audiences in mind.

“We do one in August, and that’s for all ages, so the kids can join in. The one in January is for adults, although older teens are welcome to join in, as long as they’re okay with the adult content,” said BBAC Artistic and Managing Director Laura Bakin.

The 24-Hour Theaterfest playwrights and directors are selected a few weeks before the event starts, but the actors joining in the performance wait to find out their roles until the morning of the event. For the BBAC, that is Saturday morning, following auditions on Friday evening in which everyone is cast and assigned to a playwright. The playwrights then develop a 15-20 minute play overnight, which is emailed to their directors, who lead the play development. Throughout Saturday, the stage hands, directors and actors work together to create an audience-worthy performance.

According to Bakin, although this process can be stressful, it can also be enjoyable.

“It’s fun and it’s challenging. You’re competing not against yourself and each other, but against time,” Bakin said, mentioning she was looking forward to auditioning for a role in one of the 24-Hour Theaterfest plays this year.

Play Director Erin Beth Brackett, of Harpers Ferry, has directed in the last two 24-Hour Theaterfest events at the BBAC, and said she was excited to be joining in her third one.

“By doing this 24-Hour Theaterfest last year, I was able to meet Laura and become involved in the Black Box Arts Center,” Brackett said, mentioning she has since directed other “Godspell” at the BBAC. “You become a family, even in such a short time as this.

“I think community theater is the absolute most important thing in my life,” Brackett said. “I saw my first play, ‘Cinderella,’ at age five, and my mom said she could see I was hooked. It helped me be more confident, more well-rounded, accepting and less judgmental, because the characters in plays are all different types of people.”

While the crew of 20-30 community participants prepared for Saturday’s show, House Manager Marsha Lutz kept busy making sure the event went smoothly, even though it meant a very late night for her on Friday.

“I handle all problems that come up, anything that has to be done for people here,” Lutz said. “I’m very excited, because it’s a good community project.”

Brackets worked with Playwright La Tasha Do’Zia-Earley, Director Angelina Guiducci worked with Playwright Rene Zabel and Director Maverick McKee worked with Playwright Ty Unglebower to produce Saturday’s show.