In 2012 I was encouraged to participate in Theatre Unbound’s “Xtreme Theater Smackdown” which created six plays in 24 hours – including writing, directing, staging and performing 10 minute plays.

When asked, my first thought was “SURE – that sounds fun, why not?”

It wasn’t until I literally showed up that day and realized I was being given a script that I would need to memorize in only a few hours, learn my blocking and engage in an artistic process that seemed utterly terrifying. What had I gotten myself into?

I felt like I was in a skimpy artistic bathing suit about to do a polar plunge of theatricality. Every icy fear smacked me into the immediacy of NOW. All I could do was trust my gut and follow my artistic instincts. 

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the performance back in 2012 . . . . it is all kind of a blur. I do remember feeling an odd calm when the lights went up and we all went into high gear. The power of connection and collaboration was far more powerful than the fear of failure. We stepped into the transformation of individual artists and became an ensemble. We took the plunge together.

Fast forward six years, I am brainstorming with Anne Bertram the Executive Director of Theatre
Unbound about how best to feature the 17th Annual 24 Hour Xtreme Theatre Smackdown that will be going up on January 13th for the Connections Radio Show going up on the 6th . We wanted to capture the wildness of the event. What were the ideas that would best engage the audience about what exactly happens during the Smackdown?

Then Anne sent a note. “What do you think of this idea - doing a sort of mini-Smackdown on your show? You give us ingredients, we write and present a short play, within the hour. Let the audience listen in on the rehearsal. What do you think?”

And my first reaction is “SURE – that sounds fun, why not?”

And then . . . a day or so later . . . .some of those old fears cropped up again. Oh my gosh – creating a radio show in an hour? Will that work?

So, I went immediately to Elizabeth Horab who is an Associate Producer on Connections. Elizabeth is an accomplished playwright, director, deviser and educator . . . and without missing a beat, she tells me “Hell yes, we can do this."

And with that nod, Elizabeth and I made the plunge to make it happen on the radio.

Anne Bertram sent great ideas, Elizabeth and I refined the process and focused on our roles . . . and on January 6th . . . we celebrated a controlled chaos of art in the making. Me on the air and Elizabeth supporting the artistic process happening in the ticking down of minutes.

And it was magic.

When the group arrived, the writers -- : Anne Bertram & Eli Effinger-Weintraub began moments after they received their ingredients. Elizabeth stayed with them and supported with her calm time keeping talents. Elizabeth is also an athlete and knows timing in a visceral way.


I bring the rest of the crew down to a meeting area we can take over before going on radio. As we prepare to go on-air I have a little time to get to know the actors, director and one of the master’s of ceremony of the Smackdown. Julie Phillips aka Verisimilitude Hiptoss (Host of Smackdown), Charla Marie Bailey (Director)and actors Jamila Anderson, Mickaylee Shaughnessy, & Victoria Pyan join with me in sharing our past horrifying moments in the Smackdown process, and past terrors we all experienced. Victoria shared about using all our bag of tricks and instincts as actors, Charla tells of the letting go one needs to do as a director and wondering if any of the ideas she tried to create with the actors will show up on stage, Mickaylee tells of the monstrous voice she tried to create and busting of her voice in the
crazies of it all, we all bemoan the memorization, the strangers that needed to become co-horts, and we laughed when Julie reminds us of all the crazy props . . . . and the madness of year of garden gnome props.

And then Jamila reminds us of the “joy”. It wasn’t all about the terror, it was about the joy.

Yes. That’s what is was when the lights went up, when we only had each other and the words and director’s vision in our heads and the audience watching and waiting for us to begin with choices to be made in that immediate moment – and the gift to be bold and as radical as we want.

There is joy in the process and memories are made as well as friends.

Joy.

During the radio show, I felt that joy again. Strong women artists, making and sharing art.

A 5 minute play was both given a first read and a read after being given direction. The writers beamed as they experienced their newly written words coming to life through the actor’s rich characters. And the radio studio sizzled with the joy of being connected in the moment with art in the making.

Once again, we all held hands and took the plunge.

I couldn’t help as the show was enfolding to reflect on our cultural moment we are having in the midst of Me Too revelations. It can be terrifying to share our stories, but our stories are bigger than being a victim. We are heros .. . or perhaps “Sheroes”? I believe to move from a Me Too Moment to a Me Too Movement we need to continue to find ways to build our strengths and support each other. Me too is about willing to be terrified out loud and to find our joy
together in moving beyond the terror. To test ourselves and celebrate our successes. We need to connect and rejoice in our connection.

I encourage you to be part of the 24 Hour Smackdown Theatre – by going to www.TheatreUnbound.com and voting on the ingredients for the plays and buy tickets for the show. The Me Too Movement needs to be about DOING something.
Support these women artists, and be a part of the joy.

http://theatreunbound.com/?wp_theatre_prod=240000-xtreme- theatre-smackdown- 2018
Theatre Unbound
24:00:00 XTREME THEATRE SMACKDOWN 2018
January 13, 2018
8:00 pm
SteppingStone Theatre
St. Paul