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Fast Times at Redmond High 

High-stakes theater project tests students' nerves

How long would it take you to write a seven-minute play?

Remember, you can't just throw down whatever ramblings wander into your head. This play needs a coherent beginning, middle and end, just like they taught you in English class. Seven minutes that make dramatic sense. You know the elements: Plot. Theme. Character.

Imagine staring at that blank computer screen, the flashing cursor mocking you. Here's all the help you get: one character name, one line of dialogue, one prop and one pop culture reference. Those are the "writing prompts."

Hurry. You have eight hours.

Why the rush? Because the actors need to learn their lines. The crew needs to find props and build sets. The director needs to bring it all together. You're already falling behind, and the play opens in 24 hours.

This is the heart-stopping scenario facing a talented and courageous group of (mostly) drama students at Redmond High School as they prepare for the "24/7 Project" (as in 24 hours and seven plays) beginning Friday evening. That's when seven sets of student writers, actors and directors will begin taking their short plays "from page to stage" in one day. By 7pm Saturday, they will have created seven separate original plays, all from the same prompts.

Hang on tight! It's one part theater and one part roller coaster ride.

"These students are going to discover something about themselves," says Redmond High's enthusiastic first-year Drama Coach Pat Tellinghusen. "They're going to discover how much they can accomplish in a short amount of time. I have always felt like deadlines inspire creativity."

Yes, creativity must flow if they're to get all seven plays ready for a live audience.

"I assume there will be a lot of challenges," says Meagan Rasmussen, one of the seven student directors. "The writers only have a limited time to write and there will probably be some problems with that." Although she hasn't directed before, Rasmussen has stage managed and served as an assistant director.

"It'll be really fun. I'll get to interpret how I want the actors to do it —and after four years of learning and participating, I'm pretty sure about my abilities."

Another 24/7 director, Lupita Ortiz, also looks forward to the challenge. "I feel like it's going to give me the experience of being in charge. I think the challenge is the timing —having to brainstorm about what we want to happen, and then have the actors come in and see how it all plays out with the actors and the props.

Tellinghusen came upon this rather non-traditional theater idea last year in Bend, where she served as a playwright at a similar 24/7 event held at the 2nd Street Theater. (Local playwright Cricket Daniel, who produced that event, has agreed to assist with Redmond High's version.) Once she participated, Tellinghusen knew she had to somehow get her students involved in the process.

"It was such an invigorating experience for me and for everyone involved," she says. "I immediately thought, I want kids to be doing this because you discover so much about yourself."

Jackson Dean, a 24/7 writer, is a first-time playwright, but he does have other experience. He knows he'll really need to concentrate to get the job done. "I have written a movie script before," he says. "Something that's hard for me is just staying on task. It's a challenge for the staff since they have limited time to make something really good out of it."

One final twist: Tellinghusen plans to round out the cast with Redmond High student volunteers who aren't even actors, as well as possibly using students from a middle school if needed. Another added wrinkle in an already nerve-jangling night of theater.

"I just think it's gonna be crazy fun." she says.

24/7 Project

Redmond High School Auditorium

675 SW Rimrock Way, Redmond

Sat. April 15, 7pm

$5 Adults, $3 Seniors & Students

541- 923-4800

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