Insurgo’s 24-hour experiment yields mixed bag of results

Some of the best art comes from the sheer lunacy of the artists. Of course, sometimes that craziness only leads to mediocrity or nonsense. On  April 16, the players of Insurgo Theater presented the 24 Hour Theater Project with results hitting all corners of the lunacy/nonsense/mediocre spectrum.

Here’s how it works: On Friday night at 8 p.m., the actors, writers, directors and crew locked themselves inside the theater. They had one day to write, rehearse and present short plays — in this case all based in some way on Abraham Lincoln. To be fair, they started almost an hour late on show night, so this was really the 24 Hour and about 41 Minute Theater Project.

It is no surprise that the tight schedule often creates havoc. According to Stacia Zinkevich, an actor who played, among other things, Jackie Kennedy and the girlfriend of a college student on a treasure hunt, “The toughest part is the obvious time limit. You have to pick and choose what can be accomplished in the amount of time with the amount of people present. This goes across the board with costumes, set, props, acting choices, everything. It’s hard to have to compromise on certain aspects, but it’s unavoidable.”

Easily the audience favorite of the evening was the piece in which Zinkevich’s gal and her boyfriend (Glenn Heath) went searching in an old building and found the casket containing Abraham Lincoln. The educated twosome runs into another couple (Katherine Harvey and Brandon Oliver Jones, doing some fine hillbilly character work), there to make out. Their night becomes filled with horror as one by one they are attacked by Lincoln’s deadly beard.

This B-movie style sketch had the crowd delighted as characters met their demise at the hands of the evil beard.

“The concept itself was super fun to begin with — perfect humor for delirious sleep-deprived people, and I think the fact that this writer [Greg Adkins] was isolated [out of town in California] probably helped too – not too many distractions for him,” Zinkevich said. “I had a great time putting that one on its feet.”

The writer not being there is fair enough, but throughout the performance of other pieces, actors were reading from scripts. This makes sense, but it also defeats the purpose of the 24 Hour Theater Project.

Each time an actor read it took me, and probably most of the crowd, right out of a scene. Zinkevich, who did not read and only got about two hours of sleep, defends those who did use a script.

“When someone is reading from the script on stage, it’s usually because it was unavoidable. With that said, we always hope that the audience is forgiving when these circumstances arise.”

Actors performing in multiple pieces definitely made them split focus, but I guess that’s what makes the chaos so interesting. Some of the short plays clearly needed script editing and some probably could have been thrown out all together. But maybe you just don’t know until you put it up in front of an audience.

Even the more boring presentations of the night weren’t too bad. If nothing else, just made it that much more clear just how good “Beard” was.

“Knowing how challenging it was with the amount of people we had, I was pretty proud of what we did,” Zinkevich said.

Jason Harris is a local stand-up comedian.