14/48 – The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival

The Adventures of Henry - 14/48 Seattle

I’ve just had an exhilarating and exhausting week in Seattle, attending 14/48 – ‘The world’s quickest Theatre festival’. I’ve known about the festival for about 8 years, and have wanted to make the journey ever since. The festival is a whirlwind of professional artists coming together to create. On Thursday night, the writers, directors, designers, actors, musicians (and others) meet, a theme is drawn from a hat, and seven writers are given the task of writing a 10 minute script for a set number of male and/or female actors overnight. The next day, the scripts are handed in, seven directors choose their scripts at random, and after meeting with the writer pick their cast out of male and female hats. The plays are then rehearsed, designed, scored and performed on Friday night… twice! To sell-out 450 strong audiences. The audience members submit new themes, one of which is drawn at random, given to the writers, and… the whole thing repeats itself ready for Saturday night. 14 plays in 48 hours… it should fail… but it doesn’t.

I had the privilege of acting in 14/48, first as a caveman in a subtle piece about gun control entitled ‘Gift from Moon’, and secondly as a seven-year old imagining adventures as he tries to reach a father imprisoned for some hideous crime in ‘The Adventures of Henry’. I can’t recommend the festival enough. This time-limited way of working forces you to work in a certain way; to make choices quickly, to throw yourself into your role, but above all, to support your colleagues and forge partnerships. The arts scene is very different in America, a country with little, or no, public arts funding. Professionals must work ‘regular’ jobs to live, and things like Arts in education are virtually non-existent. Without festivals like 14/48, I’ve no doubt the Seattle theatre scene would be very different; without opportunities for Artists to come together, make connections, and create in such a limited time commitment, where would those partnerships be forged? Now, I’m not saying that this is always going to be the best way of making theatre, we’re not going to create the next War Horse by giving a writer a 12 hour deadline. The Olympics opening ceremony couldn’t have been put together in a day, but as a way of forging creative communities through creative practise, the festival is phenomenal.

My head is filled with inspiration and thoughts, perhaps too much for one blog post at present, but the main thought is this… if Seattle can make amazing theatre happen despite limited funding with the help of a festival like 14/48, just think what can be done here with the potential for well-thought out projects to grow, supported by public funding.

14/48 is coming to Leicester, in May this year, and myself and Andy from Speakeasy hope to be involved in some way. I’ll share more thoughts over the next few weeks, and information regarding the Leicester 14/48 festival will be shared as it becomes available.

For more on the Seattle 14/48, visit www.1448fest.com

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