Overnight sensations 

There's a lot to be learned from the Central Florida Theatre Alliance's annual Play-in-a-Day project.

If you're a writer, you can learn to churn out a short play overnight and have it in the hands of an anxious director shortly after sunup the following morning. If you're one of said directors, you can learn to take that short-order masterpiece and run with it, shepherding a team of actors to whip it into shape in a frantic morning and afternoon. If you're an actor, you can learnÃ?...Ã?well, your lines. If you're the event's producer, you can learn the whip-cracking professionalism and Zen calm that are needed to ready a full program of such insta-plays for public performance come nightfall.

And if you're a reporter who thinks that following the process from beginning to end is a capital idea, you can learn the lesson I learned by doing just that at the first Play-in-a-Day two years ago: You need your head examined.

Sooner rather than later, you're sleep-deprived to the point of hallucination, you smell bad and your notes look like Sanskrit. So I only had to swallow a tiny bit of guilt to stroll into Sak Comedy Lab at 1 p.m. last Sunday, 16 hours into this year's punishing Play-in-a-Day. I expected everyone to be mired in technical battles or memorization hell. Instead, producer Paula Whigham was casually awaiting the delivery of lunch for her merry crew and making sure they all had directions to the aftershow party. After three years of mounting Play-in-a-Days (as the capper to the annual Spotlight on Theatre Convention at the Orlando Expo Centre), our creative pros have this sucker down.

Actors milled about, comparing notes on the roles they had been conscripted to interpret. "I get to be a lesbian!" Darby Ballard of the Orlando Theatre Project enthused. Quoth Zoë & Company's Peter Hurtgen Jr.: "And are you in a play, too?"

As it turned out, the eight playlets were rife with fictive lesbians, not to mention queens both out and closeted, feigned masturbation, voodoo rituals and scenes set in bad themed restaurants. When theater folk are pressed for time, they fall back on personal experience.

All afternoon, the eight ad hoc troupes rehearsed their segments, which were already in better shape than some plays I've seen on opening night. For groups with special needs, a "fight coordinator" was available. (Brad Pitt? Edward Norton? Hey, where's the sauna?)

Prop procurement was handled ably, a required car seat materializing from out of nowhere -- not from a stranger's car, I hoped -- though it was eventually discarded due to wetness and bug infestation. Even the Starbuck's cup I had been grasping was put to good use. Didn't the World War II paper drives work this way?

Preparations ran so smoothly that the evening show just had to contain a few clunkers. So the occasional line flew out the window, an audio cue was flubbed and a stagehand took a nasty gainer over a piece of foliage. In other words, it was better than some shows I've seen on closing night.

In one priceless moment, emcee Terry Olson neglected to read the title of the last playlet, "Jerk Off," aloud as he ran though the list of featured works. He later termed the oversight unintentional, but writer Bob Orshak clearly relished having authored The Play That Shall Not Be Named.

With the future of the local arts as hazy as ever, how good it was to be reminded that Orlando's finest can have theater ready on time, anytime. Like the army, they do more before nine than I do all day. And I say we keep it that way.

Aberration street:

Break out the vinyl polish, because last summer's Deviance Festival has spawned a sequel. The second annual kink-in haunts The Haven in east Winter Park this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 17 and 18, and its lineup is a reunion of old-school shocksters. There's the first official fetish show in more than a year by the AntiBabe fashion/theater troupe, an occasion that has models flying in from around the country. (They dispersed while AntiBabe queen Jodi Thomas, who masterminds the "Deviance" events, was busy having a baby.) And performance artist Gregory Patrick will present his first spoken-word set in about half a decade, replacing Lydia Lunch, who had to drop out due to a family emergency.

Other goodies will include chocolate-pudding wrestling, "sexy carnival games" and music by 18 DJs and bands, including glam gadflies Dirty Barby and blissfully incompetent joke-rockers Call to Riot. It's more than enough sickness to justify the sophomore festival's official slogan, "Your hands will never be clean again." But honestly, were they ever?

A week late and a lobster short:

"Dr. Lobster's Super Sci-Fi Theater," the late-night sketch-comedy series that was to begin Friday, Aug. 17, at the Studio Theatre, will now bow Aug. 24. The loss of two cast members forced the delay, and also brought about a title change to Dr. Piranha's Super Sci-Fi Theater. Why the aquatic reshuffling? The Dr. Lobster character was created by Jeff Lofvers, one of the actors who dropped out. Though he gave permission for the name to be used in his absence, writer/ director/actor Rory Penland -- who's now running the show -- felt he couldn't do so in good conscience. He must not have a shellfish bone in his body.


Contrary to popular belief, you can find a virgin at Valencia Community College. Friday, Aug. 17, at the school's East Campus Performing Arts Center, writer/director/producer Glenn Mobley will show a work-in-progress cut of his feature-film comedy, Virgins, which was shot around town last summer with equipment and crew provided by VCC.

According to Mobley, the picture concerns "a 27-year-old, good-looking, confident guy whose life begins to unravel when everyone finds out he's a virgin." It stars Will Bowles of THEM and Jamie Bergman of TV's "Son of the Beach".

Bonn voyage:

Godspeed to iMPACTE! Productions' Kimber Taylor and The Cerulean Group's Abigail Paul, who are bravely bucking a local trend by moving not to New York or L.A., but Frankfurt, Germany, where they've accepted jobs as English teachers. Remember, girls: If you don't have anything nice to say, say it to foreigners.

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