Basement Arts kicks off the season with its annual “24 Hour Theater” production. The event is exactly as it’s named — theater created in only 24 hours. Four writers, four directors and a full cast will put on four productions with only one day to prepare full sets, costumes and laughs.

24 Hour Theater

Saturday at 11 p.m.
Walgreen Drama Center

The four writers begin tonight at 11 p.m. and work for about 12 hours. Then it’s time for the directors and actors to get to their job. As a former director and current writer for the show, School of Music, Theatre & Dance junior Neal Kelley said it’s a hectic day where everyone needs to be working at high speed with little downtime. Finally, 24 hours later at 11 p.m. tomorrow, the four shows are unveiled to the public.

Last year, the “24 Hour Theater” production contained vignettes ranging from a musical to a sexual comedy. Some pieces are polished and others are chaotic, but it’s all about seeing the creative process function. The members are pushed to the brink to set a high standard for the forthcoming season. In the past, some of the productions, including “Me and My Dick,” have developed into full-scale shows that Basement Arts puts on later in the season.

Unlike other Basement Arts productions, “24 Hour Theater” takes performances to a new level by revealing to the audience that theater is not about having a perfect show, but rather having a good time while on stage. Since the performers only have one day to rehearse, mistakes happen but that’s part of the experience. From forgotten lines to missed cues, the actors go on with the show and the audience delights in the casual and sometimes reckless aspects of the performance.

As a first-time writer for this year’s show, Kelley gave us a sneak preview of his script.

“I want to write something where the audience doesn’t see what’s coming,” he said. “I want to shock them and leave them thinking with an open-ended play. But of course, what’s produced will not be what I think it will be.”

Above all, Kelley said that “24 Hour Theater” is a special experience that gives the audience a chance to sample the possibilities of live theater.

It is often easy to overlook the time and effort that goes into making a production successful. “24 Hour Theater,” however, makes the audience aware that theater is a work in progress and a collaboration of dedicated writers, directors, stage managers and actors who make the production possible.

Although the show is made up of many students, the members agree that their main concern is to appeal to the entire audience.

“It is for people who haven’t seen a play in awhile, or ever, or are thinking of joining,” Kelley said. “I want to encourage everyone to get involved in theater and the arts in Michigan.”

He added: “I want people to laugh. Making people laugh is the most enjoyable thing one can do — one of the greatest gifts you can give. It’s a high priority to me. I want the audience to enjoy themselves and appreciate the fact that although ‘24 Hour Theater’ is something that is thrown together, it has the potential to make people think, laugh and enjoy theater.”

If you like your entertainment formal and crave perfection, “24 Hour Theater” may not be for you. But there seems to be something here to entertain everyone else.

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