World’s quickest theater festival returns to Vashon

Anthony Winkler performs in “14/48: The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival.” (Courtesy photo)

Anthony Winkler performs in “14/48: The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival.” (Courtesy photo)

It will be an invigorating mad-capped scramble when “14/48: The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival” returns to Vashon for four shows on two nights this weekend at Open Space for Arts & Community. The production is a collaboration between Open Space and Vashon Center for the Arts, which hosted the festival last year.

This time, the shows will be performed on stage in Open Space’s newly remodeled Grand Hall at 7 p.m., and again at 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

“14/48: The World’s Quickest Theater Festival” (“14/48:TWQTF”) began as the brainchild of Seattle actors Jodi-Paul Wooster and Michael Neff in 1996, in the city’s 70-seat Chamber Theatre. The concept, which quickly caught on in the theater community, brings together seven writers, seven directors and a host of actors, designers, musicians and volunteers to create 14, 10-minute plays over the course of 48 hours.

In 2005, “14/48:TWQTF” became an itinerant festival performed in various venues from Broadway Performance Hall, Capitol Hill Arts Center, Theatre Off Jackson, Theatre Puget Sound, On the Boards, the Erickson Theatre, ACT Theatre, 12th Avenue Arts, Cafe Nordo and Seattle Repertory Theatre to Vashon Center for the Arts and now Open Space.

Island actor Maria Glanz has twice acted, twice directed and once written for previous “‘14/48’ extravaganzas,” as she likes to call them.

“It is really creative, collaborative madness in the best way,” she said. “The energy is palpable, and artists have to make snap decisions and fly with first impulses and trust their instincts. It’s like a theater amazing race and summer camp packed into one 48-hour period.”

It all begins on Thursday night when the whole company — the actors, directors, writers, designers and band — comes together. They throw themes into a hat, and one is chosen. Then the writers draw slips that indicate where their play will land in the program and the number of men and women actors involved. Two to five actors are typically assigned to each play. The writers go home, write a 10-minute play and send it back by 7:30 a.m. Friday. Next up are the directors, who arrive at 8:30 a.m. and from the hat, draw the play they will direct. A confab between directors and writers occurs before the actors arrive, with the directors drawing the actors’ names for their play from the proverbial hat.

While the writers sleep, the directors and actors rehearse the seven plays throughout the day. The band decides and rehearses what to play, and the designers gather or make costumes and props. Each play gets a 20-minute tech rehearsal, which begins at 2:30 p.m.

Then come two shows Friday evening, — the world premiere at 7 p.m. and the closing night performance at 9:30 p.m.

Between the two shows, a new theme is drawn from audience suggestions. The writers then get to work, and the whole process is repeated for Saturday’s shows.

Since “14/48:TWQTF’s” inception, artistic communities in Bellingham, Austin, Texas and in the United Kingdom have initiated different versions of the festival. Along with Glanz, island actors Mik Kuhlman and Anthony Winkler have participated in dozens of the festivals.

Tickets are available at Vashon Bookshop, and at the door. They are $10 for students and $15 in advance or $18 at the door for general admission. Parental discretion is advised due to unpredictable content.

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