Not all passion projects last 24 hours, but they do for students participating in Pitt’s Redeye Theatre Project.
Twenty-nine students participated in the Redeye Theatre Project, a 24-hour theater festival where students work as playwrights, directors or actors. The project kicked off at 8 p.m. Friday with their performances taking the stage in the black box theater in the Cathedral of Learning basement at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Redeye Theatre Project celebrated its 11th season this year, with last weekend being the fourth and final festival of the year. The festival’s executive board chooses a new theme each time, which dictates the plots of the plays.
This festival’s prompt was “Redeye Killed the TV Star” in which writers were required to use a line from a crime show, which graduate advisers assigned to teams. The writers also had to incorporate themes from a separate TV network that the executive board chose.
After receiving their assignments, the playwrights, directors, actors and crew members had to meet a series of deadlines leading up to the performance 24 hours later. Writers had 10 hours to complete a script, working all night until 6 a.m. Saturday. Teams practiced from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m., with dress rehearsal occuring at 6 p.m., before going live two hours later.
“Redeye is exhausting and insane, but the final product makes it 100 percent worth it. It’s really something you build from the ground up and only in 24 hours,” said Shannon Pender, a junior English writing major who has been participating in Redeye for the past three years.
The time-restricted yet artistically liberated style produced six unorthodox short plays.
“I really like this project in particular because it allows for a lot of artistic and creative freedom,” said Megan Klein, a junior marketing major and creative writing minor. “It’s a great way to meet other creative and funny people.”
Klein, who has participated in three festivals this year, co-wrote “Graveyard News at 11,” a late-night broadcast with monsters as anchors.
“My writing preparation is eat a lot of donuts, and then throughout the night eat even more donuts to treat myself,” she said. “However, when I was an actor, my preparation was a lot easier because I didn’t have to be in the mental state where I was creating something. Instead, I had to interpret it. Therefore, the preparation was just get enough sleep the night before.”
The overall theme of the night was like an exploration of existentialism through dark comedy.
Writers took on the dark underpinnings of life with unrelenting comedy and the occasional social commentary. Plays ranged from a revamping of “Ghostbusters” in a eulogy to Blockbuster movie rentals titled “Who You Gonna Call? A Lifetime Original Movie,” to an original adaptation of the haunted trials of two individuals in a play titled “The Real World: Amityville.”
“I like to know that it is safe for me to write dark humor and know the audience may be more receptive to that than a traditional play,” said Klein, whose “Graveyard News at 11” featured a werewolf news anchor dealing with his cheating wife in between film segments.
The night hit a high note in writers Charles Kronk’s and Davis Caramanico’s “Schindler’s Love It or List It,” a re-imagination of a real estate reality show. The short play was replete with crude references to showers and diaries, which the audience embraced.
“Who You Gonna Call? A Lifetime Original Movie” had a mellower tone and treated the receptive audience to kitsch popular culture references, such as “Ghostbusters” and sappy Lifetime TV movies. Matt Schaefer’s satirical “The Joan Ass Show” followed twin sister pop stars’ existential crises in the entertainment industry.
The twin sisters struggled as one pressed on to achieve fame through their meaningless pop lyrics, while the other fought not to succumb to the weight of their meaningless existence.
“The plays had good humor that you wouldn’t get anywhere else,” said first-year Alex Howard, who attended Redeye for the first time.
Though Redeye’s plays have an unusually limited lifespan, teamwork remains at the core of the festival, allowing students to work from many different perspectives instead of simply acting.
“What I love about Redeye is that it’s pushed me beyond my comfort zone. I started out by just acting, but after three years in Redeye, I’ve done almost everything from lighting design to directing to writing in just this past festival,” Pender said. “It’s all about collaboration — it’s about making art and producing plays that are one-of-a-kind and may never be seen again,”