Ridiculous. Hilarious. Tongue-in-cheek. This is how the Redeye Theatre Project describes a typical performance.
Serious. Musical. Professional. Highbrow. This is the way Pitt’s Musical Theatre Club views itself.
Even though they couldn’t be more different, their members will take to the stage together for the first time on Friday, Oct. 31, for this year’s Redeye Festival, a 24-hour performance extraordinaire.
Brittany Coyne, Redeye’s artistic director, paints the Redeye performances, which have been going on for 10 years, as casual and freewheeling.
“It doesn’t matter if you forget a line or miss a joke, because the audience is always riled up in a good way,” Coyne said.
The Redeye Theatre Project is not your traditional theater club, in which students spend weeks reading lines and producing a play. During the Redeye Festival, Pitt students cast, write and direct a play in 24 hours. About 10 short plays are performed during a Redeye Festival, each based on a roughly 10-page script with one-minute auditions.
The play will not be an original one, but one that is already known, according to Tim Kaniecki, vice president of Pitt’s Musical Theatre Project.
“It is a glorified stage reading,” Coyne said. “The show is real, and you all have costumes, but you all have your script in hand, because you don’t have time to memorize it.”
One of the twists is that the actors won’t know what play they are auditioning for, said Coyne, a senior theatre arts major.
Auditions begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, the official opening of the festival.
“After auditions have been finished, the actors go home and sleep for the night,” Coyne said.
While they snooze, the writers get to work, using a card game to pick the actors, usually three to five for each play,” said Kayla Martine, Redeye’s casting director. The writers have until 6 a.m. to finish their scripts.
“At 6 [a.m.] the directors come in and choose the play they want to work on. At 8 a.m. the actors come in,” Coyne said. “There is a big team breakfast at 8 a.m., and then the writers go home.”
Martine, a senior fiction writing major, said that, during the day, the actors and directors practice their plays.
Coyne said the dress rehearsal is at 6 p.m., and it’s show time at 8 p.m. The actors have 10 minutes to act their hearts out, and then it’s over. The best part of being part of the production? Everyone who auditions gets a part.
“People have done a monologue, or made sandwiches or anything because [they] have to get cast,” Coyne said.
Vicki Hoskins, one of the two graduate advisers, said that she likes the tight, crazy schedule.
“It is a good way of keeping everyone fresh,” Hoskins said. “Everyone has their opportunity for sleeping.”
All Redeye Festivals have a theme chosen by graduate advisers, Hoskins said. The last festival’s theme was fairy tales. They haven’t chosen the upcoming festival’s theme yet.
At the last Redeye Festival, there was one play in which “a prince and a princess meet on an online dating site,” Kaniecki said.
“I was cast as Julie Andrews in someone’s head — so like an imaginary friend. I had to run around the stage with a British accent. It was bizarre,” Coyne said.
Martine said she acted in a tragic performance titled “Dead Baby Red Eye.”
“I was the mother of a child. You see me with the baby in the beginning,” Martine said. “As it goes on, you learn the daughter is a figment of my imagination.”
Coyne said that the short time commitment gives students the freedom to experiment.
“I suppose anything is possible, but, in 10 minutes, you couldn’t do a huge tragedy of all of ‘Hamlet,’” Hoskins said. “You could do a short version of Hamlet, but it is going to be pretty comedic, because it’s not going to have all of the character growth.”
Students can be or do almost anything related to the production — a true learning experience.
“You see people be out of their element. You can write for the first time or you can act for the first time,” Coyne said. “It’s funny to see your friend, who is usually a tech person, act for the first time.”