Northview — The clock was steadily ticking down to when an audience would take their seats and the house lights would dim in Northview High School’s Max Colley Jr. Performing Arts Center. In six different rooms surrounding the auditorium, six unique theatrical visions were taking shape.
Dressed in a black T-shirt with “Little bit dramatic” in pink letters across the front, Jack Franczek gathered a team of his peers in the green room — already smelling faintly of the taco bar being assembled by parents — as he checked a list of props needed for the evening’s play.
“OK, we need glasses,” Jack said to the group.
“What kind?” asked Nico Thompson. “Nerdy, or ..?”
Moments later, Hailey Whalen held up an assortment of hats from which to choose for one actor, as Nico set down a pair of cardboard trees the theater department had on hand from a previous performance. Elsewhere, another group practiced a sword fight.
In the band room, director Sevi Cullum pleaded with one actor to deliver lines with more emotion — “Your turtle just died! He was your bestie!” — and implored another to “dial it back about five notches and it will be perfect.”
Student writers had arrived on Friday at 7 p.m. and stayed the night in the green room, hammering out their 10-minute theatrical masterpieces. All scripts were required only to include three common elements: the celebratory “dabbing” move, a briefcase and the phrase “He/she/they are right behind me, isn’t he/she/they?”
Shortly after 7 a.m. the next day, writers had gone home to catch some shuteye and directors and actors arrived to rehearse; stage managers gathered props and costumes, and sound and light technicians did their thing.
Ready or not, showtime was at 7 p.m.
Olivia Alexander had signed up to do props, but she admitted she was so nervous about doing something new that she almost hadn’t shown up.
“My whole life, I’ve really wanted to do theater,” she said as she fashioned a cardboard star to be affixed to the tip of a magic wand. “I wanted to try to force myself. I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone. And everyone has been really nice.”
Theater arts teacher Nancy Hoffman said it was the seventh year 24-hour theater was held at Northview, an idea she got from neighboring district East Grand Rapids. The experience is open to anyone in grades 9 to 12, and no theater experience is necessary.
“I love that the kids are in charge, that they have autonomy,” she said. “I supervise, but they make all the decisions. And I’m always impressed that in 24 hours they pull off these entire 10-minute productions.”
2023 Northview High School 24-hour theater plays:
• “Curtain Call” by Olivia Blumke: a troupe of actors discover they are merely players
• “Love Quest” by Brooklyn DeVries: a modern game show with a twist
• “The Writer’s Block” by Luke Moore: an accomplished writer facing writer’s block needs inspiration
• “A Grave Retelling” by Arianna Vannieuwenhoven: a “Romeo & Juliet” narrator discovers the real love story is a tragedy? Nnnoooo…
• “Switched Up For Real [fr]” by Addy Venno: a “Freaky Friday” spin with dad and daughter gaining insight about each other
• “Average Monday in America” by Taiven Willemse: an overworked office worker challenges the “CEO of Literally Everything” in hopes of a better tomorrow
Not to mention the friendships that are formed and the confidence that is built when students have a common goal, a deadline and the desire to contribute to a performance.
It was Hailey Koter’s second year involved in 24-hour theater. Last year was scary, she admitted. “It was my first time acting, and I didn’t know anybody,” she said. “But it was fun.”
Meanwhile, in the prop loft, Olivia sorted through a room stuffed with items in search of something sparkly to add to the wand she was fashioning. “I don’t really know anyone in theater,” she said, “but I just decided, ‘Who cares? I’m doing it.’”