Abby Enson and Steve Jones cut up on stage, in a previous edition of the 14/48 playwriting festival on Vashon (Michelle Bates Photo).

Abby Enson and Steve Jones cut up on stage, in a previous edition of the 14/48 playwriting festival on Vashon (Michelle Bates Photo).

Writers to pen and premiere 14 new plays in fast-paced fest

Director said attendees can anticipate something different than a typical night at the theater.

A madcap whirlwind of theatrical creation will take place this weekend when Open Space for Arts & Community presents four performances of “14/48 Vashon: The World’s Quickest Island Theater Festival.”

It’s the fourth local presentation of the popular fly festival that brings together playwrights, directors and actors to create, produce and perform 14 world premiere short plays in 48 hours.

Performances of the first set of seven plays are at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24. The second set of seven plays can be seen at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25. All the shows will take place at Open Space.

Although the 14/48 festival is relatively new to Vashon, it has been around in Seattle for more than 20 years since it was first created in the late 1990s by a group of theater artists. All these years later, the festival is still a Seattle staple, and its concept has also spread to other U.S. cities as well as the United Kingdom.

According to Anthony Winkler, an island theater director who has been involved in 14/48 productions both in Seattle and Vashon, attendees this weekend can anticipate something different than a typical night at the theater.

“Audiences should expect a jolt,” Winkler said. “I like to use words like ‘fresh’ and ‘raw’ to describe what is going to come off the stage — it is very alive because the performers have to activate all of their energy and skill to bring to life the scripts they received just that morning.”

Mik Kuhlman, another local performer instrumental in bringing the theater festival to Vashon, described the process of creating the event as “taking the whole process of theater and concentrating it, and making time collapse, and saying ‘here it is.’”

Behind the scenes of all 14/48 productions, sleep-starved writers, actors, directors, musicians and designers all race against the clock to get new plays ready.

The fun on Vashon will start on Thursday night when seven writers will gather at Open Space to dip their hands into a hat to randomly select a theme for a new play. Finished plays will be due from the writers early the next morning. After that, directors draw from the hat, determining which play they will direct. Actors are also chosen at random to be in the shows, and rehearsals begin. It’s the luck of the draw, but by 7 p.m Friday, ready or not, all the players will take to the stage to debut what they have created.

Then, the whole process is repeated again on Saturday with a fresh batch of seven new plays.

More than 40 local and Seattle writers, directors and actors are involved in the production. One of the playwrights (full disclosure) is the author of this article, Elizabeth Shepherd. Others include Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma, Deb Pierce McCabe, Cyra Jane, Trista Baldwin, Angela Gist, and Marcy Rodenborn.

Directors include Winkler, Chris Boscia, Elizabeth Klob, Steven Sterne, Shawn Belyea, Samantha Sherman and James Venturing.

The show’s long list of performing artists includes such familiar island names as Kuhlman, Maria Glanz, Aimée Nicole Lewis van Roekel, Cate O’Kane, Ellie Hughes, Elise Morrill, Jeanne Dougherty, Andy James, Jennifer Potter, Tami Brockway Joyce and Jonathan Kuzma.

“This is a way of building community, and also letting art have its own journey,” she said, emphasizing that collaboration and commitment were key to the success of the production.

Tickets range in price from $12 to $20, depending on showtimes and whether they are purchased in advance or at the door. A limited number of pay-what-you-can youth tickets are available exclusively online in advance. Visit openspacevashon.com for complete information.

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