The IDiOM Theater will present the forty-seventh (#47) 48-Hour Festival at the Sylvia Center For the Arts Studio Theater on Saturday and Sunday, January 14 and 15, 2017. In 24 hours, six original plays will be conceived, rehearsed and performed twice (at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.) by teams of writers, actors and directors. At the end of that first 24 hours, the process will be repeated.

Ramona Abbott, Zoe Bronstein and Wes Davis performed together in a previous 48-Hour festival. Photo credit: Jolene Hanson.
Ramona Abbott, Zoe Bronstein and Wes Davis performed together in a previous 48-Hour festival. Photo credit: Jolene Hanson Photography.

The very first 48-Hour Festival premiered in 2002 on the IDiOM stage in their former home on Cornwall Avenue, says IDiOM founder Glenn Hergenhahn. Literally hundreds of people have participated as actors, writers and directors since then.

Here are the key ingredients for pulling this event together:

The Theme

The theme for the evening’s slate of plays is chosen by audience applause just 24 hours before they are to be performed. Hergenhahn says the semi-random/part democratic theme selection process usually nets themes that occasionally include profanity. For some reason, he says, “festival participants love curse words, exclamation marks and the moon. Past themes have included ‘Candy!’ ‘Magic Pants!’ and ‘The Moon hates us!” A personal favorite was “A Picture of a Bee,” which was a drawing someone made of a bumblebee.

The next five themes to receive the most “votes” will be offered to the 8:00 p.m. audience on the first performance night. This group will then choose the second night’s topic in the same manner.

The Team

Creating a submission for the 48-Hour festival is just this easy. Photo credit: Jolene Hanson Photography.
Creating a submission for the 48-Hour festival is just this easy. Photo credit: Jolene Hanson Photography.

Teams are made up of writers, directors and actors. I, myself once wrote plays for a 48-Hour weekend many years ago. The writers, chosen ahead of time, are paired with directors. They will draw the actors’ names out of a hat. For this 48-Hour Festival, the performance lineup will consist of two teams of trios, two duos and two solo performers each night. I am also a survivor of a handful of 48s in which I performed as an actor (as is Lorraine Wilde, another WhatcomTalk writer.) Kimberly Ross, who has acted in many 48s over the years, prefers acting over everything else. This is especially true when performing on a team that has good chemistry.

The Steam

Solomon Olmstead and Jessica Young taken in Winter, 2013. Photo credit: Tad Beavers.
Solomon Olmstead and Jessica Young participated during the Winter of 2013. Photo credit: Tad Beavers.

Seasoned 48-Hour Festival writers, directors and performers, offered their advice, favorite memories and tips to surviving the 48. Hergenhahn says “Remember to eat, get used to not sleeping and don’t get drunk. You will probably get drunk.”

Shu-Ling Hergenhahn-Zhau, Glenn’s wife, who has directed many 48s over the past ten years, credits her success to “RUNA Berry energy drinks, The Cat’s Meow at Black Drop, a pot of coffee at home, coffee at the theater, and Kombuchatown gold.”

Ross recommends that participants, “Realize it’s just a weekend. You can do anything. It’s only 48 hours. Stay super-focused.”

Sandy Brewer, who has performed in almost every 48 Festival since the beginning, has learned to survive the weekend by incorporating rest and a positive attitude. He says that whatever happens is going to happen and a good attitude will get him through any eventuality.

When I asked about a favorite past 48 memory, Hergenhahn immediately mentioned Devon Champlin’s participation in the most recent 48-Hour Festival. Champlin, an accomplished musician and busy builder of many stringed instruments at Champlin Guitars, had worked on other productions with IDiOM Theater. Champlin, like all the other writers, wrote songs keeping with the theme, in addition to providing accompanying music and sound effects requested by the writers and directors.

Hergenhahn admits that his least favorite part of the 48 is, “the pre-show announcement for the late show on the second day when I am sleep deprived and just babble incoherently to a room full of kind people.”

The Dream

Participants and guests vote for the theme at the 48-Hour festival's outdoor kick-off selection.
Participants and guests vote for the theme at the summertime 48-Hour festival’s outdoor kick-off selection. Photo credit: Jolene Hanson Photography.

As #47 fast approaches, Ross is looking forward to theme based script writing for her first time. “It’s time,” she says. She is hoping for the opportunity to write a solo show and anticipates some, “crazy middle of the night writing inspiration. All I want is a one man show with Sandy Brewer,” Shu-Ling said. “Sandy is a veteran with more 48 battle scars than most. I love working with Sandy and seeing him on stage. I feel like a Sandy one-man show is not something I will have many opportunities to see in my life, and I am crossing my fingers that it happens.”

Brewer wonders, “Am I up to it? When you get old, your memory gets bad. Besides, there was this sock puppet that just sucked all the memory cells right outta me. With a good writer and a good situation, I’m halfway hoping I get the call …. You know me. When in doubt, ad-lib.”

Sandy Brewer faces off with a sock puppet in “Kill Me Now” written by Mathew Thomas Williamson. The sock puppet costume was made in 2013 season by Shu-Ling Hergenhahn-Zhau. Photo credit: Tad Beavers.
Sandy Brewer faces off with a sock puppet in “Kill Me Now” written by Mathew Thomas Williamson. The sock puppet costume was made during the 2013 season by Shu-Ling Hergenhahn-Zhau. Photo credit: Tad Beavers.

Photographers Jolene Hanson and Tad Beavers are huge fans of the work of the 48-Hour festival, and have lent their talents to capturing magical moments.

Tickets for IDiOM Theater’s #47 48-Hour Festival at the Sylvia Performing Center Studio Theater cost $12 and are on sale here.

The Sylvia Center for the Arts and the IDiOM Theater continue to build their support base. Contact them via their website if you are interested in becoming a board member, fundraiser or volunteer.

In the meantime, Glenn’s plans for the #47 48-Hour Festival include, “Writing, possibly directing one of the days, and most likely babbling incoherently at kind people.”

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