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  • thomasmmoran

Overnighters, redux

Updated: May 3, 2023

I've frankly been doing a pretty crap job of writing anything lately, which is why I'm glad the Alaska Overnighters came along again: no excuse but to turn around a fully-formed short play on a tight deadline. We get handed a prompt Friday night, we hand back a play Saturday morning, and the cast blocks, memorizes, rehearses and stages it in a day.

A woman behind a podium in futuristic garb
AnnaKate Williams in "Life Support," my play for the Alaska Overnighters this past weekend.

Dawson Moore has been doing these about twice a year in Anchorage since 2002 and they've come up with 263 plays (well, 266 now.) But he's only done them in Fairbanks once before, way back in '12, so I was excited when he decided to return and give it another whirl. I think he's hoping someone up here will take on the mantle and turn them into a regular thing. So am I. I suppose that could be me...

Anyway, this one went better than the 2012 iteration (which only had, I think, six actors for the three plays), probably because he partnered with Theatre UAF this time around and there was a lot more organization on both ends. He stuck with three plays over one evening, and was able to rustle up 13 actors, two other directors besides himself, and all of the other requisite folks for the production.

A hysterical old man sits in a bathrobe and talks
Bryan Kramer in "Life Support."

I was given a cast of an actor and three actresses, a great director (Andrew Cassel), and a dilly of a prompt: "You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Which is from James 4:14, apparently, and is broad enough that I didn't know what to write about ... which is why I ended up sculpting the play around a kernel of an idea that had been rattling around in my head. I was inspired by an episode of the "Reply All" podcast where one of the hosts actually lets a scammer remote-access in to his laptop after he claimed he had fallen victim to a computer virus.

So I wrote "Life Support," a near-future lark in which a guy lets a scammer remote-access into his body after claiming he has an actual virus. It took me maybe 5 hours to write. It gave my lead (Bryan Kramer, formerly my dad in "Escanaba in the Moonlight") a chance for some great physical comedy, and I think I wrapped the whole thing into a reasonably coherent plot. Not my finest work, but it's something I plan to keep playing with, and unless something else comes along and knocks me over the head, I think I may expand it into a one-act and submit it to Valdez this year. So I owe Overnighters a big debt for giving me a head start! I wish we had one of these, like, once a month.

Three actors on stage and another in the wings
Williams, Candace Crews, Kramer and Nadia Nelson in "Life Support."

I should also give props to my fellow playwrights, Daniels Calvin and Carrie Seward. Daniels' play was a little ditty about four high school students taking part in a pagan (wiccan?) ritual, and it had some great lines and an admirable attempt at characterization of everyone on stage (certainly more than I have ever attempted in an overnighter.) Carrie Seward's was an abstract piece about a woman defying her parents' wishes to ...join a marching band? Maybe? It was a little hard to follow. But it was all so wonderfully theatrical, with some crazy costumes, bombastic sound cues, and an imaginary unicorn, that the story didn't seem like that the most important concern. I sure enjoyed it on a visceral level.

Anyway, now to, I guess, go write a play or something!

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