24-Hour Theatre

by Jada Nykamp ’21 • HCS Communications Winterim Intern

Ever wondered how many hours it takes to put together a play, a musical, or really any theater production, for that matter? Ever counted the huge number of hours that are put into writing the show, rehearsing parts, memorizing lines, constructing a set? What about doing all of that in a single 24-hour period? It would be crazy! Even impossible? But that’s the thing, it’s just crazy enough to be possible. Which is why about nine years ago Holland Christian jumped at the idea of starting 24-Hour Theater, adding it to HCHS’s other three annual theatre productions.

HCHS’s 24-Hour Theater is made up of a variety of student volunteers, from freshman to seniors, and this year we had just over 100 students participating as writers, directors, producers, actors, and crew members. Each year there are about five 10 to 15-minute long productions written by a group of five writers overnight, from 7 pm on Friday to 7 am on Saturday—an unusual way of engaging student writers. Directors and producers arrive at 5:45 am Saturday morning to meet with the sleep-deprived writers and try to understand their visions for the shows, before doing their best to bring them to life in only 12 hours.

Once writers have left, the producers and directors meet up to discuss the plan for a stage-setting, costume needs, props, and character personalities. It’s a rush against time before actors and crew show up to really get the day started. As soon as 7:15 am hits and directors have met their cast and producers have got their crew, the second round of chaos begins. Casts begin their script read-throughs and crews are quick to be running all over the school.

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The day is spent in rehearsals, line-memorizing, character building, set-creating, and hours upon hours of laughter and unmatchable bonding.

Each show group gets a blocked out hour to spend in the scene shop, prop loft, and costume room throughout the day. They also get an hour to rehearse on stage to really feel what it will be like to perform, as well as 25 minutes in the makeup room before showtime. The day is spent in rehearsals, line-memorizing, character building, set-creating, and hours upon hours of laughter and unmatchable bonding. It is an experience that is exhausting and exciting and creates an environment of creativity that will rarely be found anywhere else.

By 7 pm on Saturday night, the full 24 hours has passed and everyone is ready to put on a show even with all of their nerves. Before each show, the casts and crews of every group are helping whoever is about to perform put together their set behind the curtain in five minutes or less, and then roll it off and switch it up for the next performance as soon as the last one has finished. It’s an endless stream of support, teamwork, and immense pride in one another amidst the chaos and stress of such a long day. Once every group has performed, rewards are given out for all sorts of accomplishments, and then it’s time to take it all apart. The last hours are spent cleaning up rooms, putting away costumes and props, and tearing up sets as much as possible. And then it’s over, all in a day’s work.

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You just show up and are thrust into this really chaotic but really artistic, amazing mess.

By 7 pm Saturday night, the full 24 hours have passed and everyone is ready to put on a show, despite all the nerves. Before each of the five shows, the casts and crews of every group are helping whichever group is about to perform put together their set behind the curtain in under five minutes, and then roll it off and switch it up for the next performance, as soon as the last one has finished. It’s an endless stream of support, teamwork, and immense pride in each other—amidst the chaos and stress of such a long day.

Once every group has performed, rewards are given out for all sorts of accomplishments, and then it’s time to take it all apart. The last hours are spent cleaning up rooms, putting away costumes and props, and tearing up sets as much as possible—usually again into the wee hours of the night! And then it’s all over, all in a day’s work.

This crazy idea of 24-Hour Theatre was brought to life in 2010 by David Mosterd, Thelma Ensink, and Greg Schemper after a conversation between our then-theatre directors and East Grand Rapids’ theatre department, who had just tried it and loved it. The thought of an entire production being created and performed in a 24 hour time frame was just insane enough to be super fun. Our first attempt was “all over the place” as they learned what would work and what wouldn’t, but it was successful and exciting and incredibly fun.

24 Hour Theatre is a strong way to get so many students involved in something they otherwise may not have time for. It empowers students, especially upperclassmen, to a leadership role, besides offering underclassmen a chance for roles they otherwise might not get in a school-wide theater production. And on top of that, it’s an amazing teaching opportunity.

“All of the things we desire to do in the context of the classroom [were] happening in this set time frame,” said David Mosterd ’99. “Constraints, requirements, new issues to overcome, an authentic audience that meant there needed to be a finished product.”

And from a student perspective, 24-Hour Theater is honestly one of the most memorable student experiences we have at Holland Christian. “My favorite part of being an actor is when you get there in the morning with no idea what your part is, no idea what crazy lines you have to memorize, and no idea who you’re doing it with,” said Kaitlynne Laverell ’21 “You just show up and are thrust into this really chaotic but really artistic, amazing mess.

Students also love the environment, where everyone drops their guards and are ready to laugh, try something new and mess up, and meet new people. Nathan Disher ’21 comes back every year “because of the experience of the previous year. My favorite thing is being a writer, but I’ve been an actor too. No matter which one I’ve gotten, I had a really great time,” he said. “It’s all so original, so it’s all new and nothing that I’ve heard before, which makes it that much more interesting.”

And the HCHS staff who supervise 24 Hour Theatre love it too. Justin Dreyer ’10, HC’s tech director, loves the moment right away in the morning “when writers hand off their scripts to directors and crews. It catapults the show into everything coming together.” Elle Nieuwsma ’12, HCHS theatre director, especially enjoys relaxing in the auditorium during rehearsals, while every show practices completely without her help. “The students take everything into their own hands and they get it done,” she said proudly. Greg Schemper, the HCHS English teacher who oversees the all-night writing, loves to watch everyone “learn the value in being silly together,” as they recognize together how much they actually are capable of. He said they realize with some amazement—and joy—that “I can do this, and I can do this well!”

It’s all so original, so it’s all new and nothing that I’ve heard before, which makes it that much more interesting.