“It’s pretty crazy, we don’t know much, but there’s a gourd, there’s definitely a dildo, Barbara Streisand and there’s a shark,” said LSA sophomore Emily Smith.
A producer for this semester’s Red Eye Theater, Smith sat down for an interview with The Michigan Daily on the morning of Oct. 31 with co-producer and LSA sophomore Molly Leonard, both of whom are in the Residential College.
“The shark and the dildo go together, Barbara Streisand and the gourd go together. But I don’t know what happens in either of (the skits),” Leonard said, elaborating on her co-producer’s statement.
At the time of the interview, both were about halfway through the 24-hour gauntlet of theatrical creativity that is Red Eye.
Formerly known as Kamikaze, Red Eye is run by the RC Players, a student-run theatre group at the University based in the RC but open to all students. For Red Eye, the group of students writes, practices, produces and performs two one-act plays, all in a 24-hour period. The long-standing tradition has a well-developed format.
“For the most part, the general structure pretty much stays the same,” Smith said. “It’s a pretty specific schedule that you need to stay on track to get two original scripts written and locked and produced in 24 hours. But I’d say this year we included a lot of new members, so that was different. In the past, it’s been a lot of board members who would participate, and this year it’s a lot of new faces and freshman that we’re really excited about.”
Smith and Leonard chose two teams of writers, who are comprised of eight writers in total. They come from a pool of applicants and are chosen based on their writing samples and compatibility with the other candidates, according to Leonard.
Smith and Leonard continuously lead into each other, elaborating on eachother’s responses as they describe the creative processes that take place over the course of Red Eye, emphasizing the collaborative aspects.
“So we do ‘Minute of Me,’ where each actor goes on stage and talks about things that they have never done on stage before that they would like to do, or characters they would like to portray. Then the writers take notes on that, and after that they break off into rooms. Then the writers just start making an outline and start writing,” Smith said.
As the writers develop their plays, the actors take part in games and exercises to prepare for the fast-approaching performances.
“We usually do a lot of improv, and then this year we also did a lot of character building exercises with different scenarios, different movements and working with a specific movement and what emotion that evokes,” Smith said, describing the actors’ activities for the night.
“It’s not uncommon for writers to run into the auditorium, the Keene Theater, at like two in the morning, go up to an actor and be like ‘Are you cool with this? What do you think of this?’ and then run back out,” Leonard said.
While participants aren’t forced to remain awake for the whole period, both Smith and Leonard acknowledged the strange allure of Red Eye, which kept them up well into the earliest hours of the morning and would continue to drive them through the rest of the day.
“You’re just so excited and so exhausted at the same time and it’s such a weird mix,” Leonard said.
This unique energy manifested itself throughout the night as indicated by the stories Smith and Leonard recalled.
“So all the actors bring in a prop to use during the show and one girl says, ‘I brought a unicorn horn’ and pulled out a strap-on and just put it on her head,” Smith said.
“This was a violently purple strap-on,” Leonard said, adding to the image.
“I was honestly expecting a unicorn horn,” Smith said.
“I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a unicorn horn, after the initial shock of like, ‘Oh, that’s a penis.’” Leonard said in agreement.
“That probably defined the night,” said Smith, finishing the story.
That night the performances began at 8 p.m. Amid a small theatre packed with a festively costumed and eager-to-participate crowd, Smith and Leonard introduced the product of their 24-hour endeavor.
Beginning with a play that follows the behind-the-scenes escapades of a celebrity charity ice skating competition, “The Rinkonvenient Truth,” the distinctive enthusiasm that Smith and Leonard discussed earlier in the day becomes apparent.
Flubbed lines are entertaining additions instead of frustrating mistakes as the audience watches senator and presidential candidate Duncan Deez Nuts square off against the ego of Barbara Streisand and the universally beloved Al Gourd, pun completely intended.
The madcap plotting and absurd humor is something that can only be dreamed up during the long, sleepless hours that Red Eye enforces on its writers and casts. But enthusiasm never wanes as actors emphatically react to the unspoken speech of a gourd.
This continues with “I Know What You Did Last Shark Week,” where a group of actors bringing “Jaws” to the stage find themselves beset by the vengeful spirit of a murdered cast member. Playing out like a Red Eye from hell, egotistical actors clash with an obsessive director as forces from beyond the grave pick them off one-by-one. The only calming force is that of “the third best medium in Long Island,” Donnatella D’Guido, who uses a strap-on to communicate with the dead.
Consistently crazy and surprisingly clever at points, the plays are bolstered by their casts’ energy and commitment to the inherent ridiculousness of their roles. It’s a collaborative performance that can’t be seen every day, as Smith and Leonard indicated in the interview.
“There’s nothing else like it, honestly,” Leonard said. “People are like, ‘Yeah, it’s like pulling an all-nighter,’ and it is but A) you’re not doing your homework and B) you’re pulling an all-nighter, but with 25 other people.”
Looking back on the event that had kept her up for more than 24-hours, Smith had this to say about her time as a co-producer:
“It’s really kind of just surreal and absurd, but just so much fun. I mean, you really can’t describe it. It’s just such a unique experience.”