"Anything Can and Does Happen": 14/48, Kamikaze-Style
by Erin Pike
on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM
14/48 is a venerable Seattle festival in which a pack of theater-makers write, rehearse, design, and perform 14 plays in 48 hours based on a loose theme. This year, they upped the chaos ante with a new "Kamikaze" format—not letting people know what job they were doing until the last minute. Actors directed, directors designed, designers acted, etc. Paul Constant reviewed the results here. Below is a pre-show interview between The Stranger's long-suffering theater intern Erin Pike and festival co-director Shawn Belyea. You can find Erin's other summer festival interviews—the Pinter Festival at ACT, the Intiman festival, etc.—here. —Eds.
14/48 is bored with itself, as if creating/producing 14 new plays in 48 hours weren't nuts enough. Last fall, for example, the weekends were divided up between genders—women and men. This time, it's "Kamikaze," meaning the participants don't even know how the hell they'll be participating until the night when everyone draws a discipline. Next month, 14/48 goes outdoors to be performed at Seattle Center.
Stay tuned for 14/48: Babeland, where erotic shock systems will be passed around to audience members and the actors will wear nipple clamps. And be sure to plan for next spring's 14:48: Lake Washington, in which participants will tread water and the audience will assemble on a floating dock powered by whales. Or something.
Share a brief history of 14/48: The World's Quicket Theater Festival.
Since 1996, we have been bringing theatre artists together for this event. 14/48 is growing community of over 750 writers, actors, directors, musicians, and visual artists whose method uses seemingly impossible deadlines and elements of chance to invigorate the creative process. Artist participation is by invitation only. Currently we have two festivals per year, each festival consists of two weekends. Typically, the artists are pre-assigned an artistic discipline; actor, writer, director, etc. In “Kamikaze” the artists do not know which discipline they will do until Thursday night before the festival, adding one more huge random element to the process.
What makes the process and/or product of your festival unique?
Fourteen ten-minute plays are conceived, written, rehearsed, scored, designed, and performed twice in front of a live audience in 48 hours.
Thursday night, thirty actors, seven writers, seven directors, and a corps of musicians and designers gather in a theater. Each participant writes an idea for a theme on a slip of paper, and one slip is chosen at random from the big hat (past themes have included “The American Dream,” “Instant Karma,” and the much-regretted “Boots”).
The seven writers are given the size and gender of their cast, and retire to their place of choice to write a ten-minute play on the theme, which they e-mail to production central by Friday morning at 8 AM.
Friday AM, the seven directors choose a play at random, and draw names at random to assemble a cast. The teams then have the next nine hours to rehearse, score, design, build and tech their shows before presenting them at 8 PM.
The audience at the 8 PM show is invited to submit themes at intermission and after the show one of the audiences’ themes is picked at random to be used as Saturday’s theme.
The actors and directors present another performance at 10:30 PM while the playwrights return home to write yet another 10-minute play, which they will deliver by 8 AM, Saturday morning, when the entire process repeats itself.
What are the drawbacks to a festival format?
For our kind of work: absolutely nothing.
How does your festival affect the performance community?
Artists of all disciplines get to experience the entire theatrical process condensed into a single day. This creates more complete connections between artists, something that could never happen in an audition, for example.
How much does the artistic strength of the work in your festival vary from year-to-year?
We have an incredible range with the number of artists involved each year. We have worked diligently to insure the artistic strength of the festival remains consistently solid over the years, but with 24 hours to create the whole show, almost anything can and does happen.