CENTRAL POINT — About 40 students from two local high schools got a concentrated taste of the play production process Friday and Saturday nights.

For the first time, Crater Renaissance Academy's annual 24 Hour Play Cabaret event, in which students perform short plays written only the night before, has expanded to include a second high school's drama students, Rogue River High School's troupe, the Arden Ensemble.

Late Saturday morning, the student playwrights slept upstairs in the Crater Performing Arts Center after pulling an all-nighter writing the scripts. At that point, it was up to the small group of actors from two schools to find specific meaning behind their character's lines for one of the short plays, "Lost in the Woods," about four characters wandering after death who slowly realize they'll be stuck in purgatory forever.

"This script got written last night while we were sleeping," Crater freshman Katy Melger said. "It's like chaotic greatness happening."

At 8 p.m. Friday night, the actors picked a costume, name and motivation for their character, and told the playwrights what the type of play they wished to perform — with options ranging from singing and dancing to dying in a dramatic death onstage.  

Crater freshman Sierra Ibarra chose to break from her personality by playing "Alex" in the play, a mean character.

"It's really fun because I'm generally a kind of nice person," Ibarra said. "I make a genuine effort to be nice to everyone I meet. It's interesting."

Though Rogue River High School senior Matthew Kendall enjoyed the creative environment as much as his Crater peers, the Crater Performing Arts Center stage was a new environment for him. At Rogue River High School, students' productions are usually held inside their cafeteria, so the event was an opportunity for him to perform in a facility with a room devoted to light and sound, as well as a genuine stage.

"It's pretty weird to have all this access to all this stuff," Kendall said.

Crater drama director Matthew Reynolds had connected with Rogue River High School English teacher and Arden Ensemble director Kelly Gibson while they were both in the Master of Theatre Studies program at Southern Oregon University, a three-year master's program for high school theater teachers.

Reynolds said Gibson's input gives his students the experience of working with others, giving them new instructions and new ideas.

"In theater, people do things different ways," Reynolds said, citing as a real-world example of choreographers who see a different way a dancer could move.

During their break between run-throughs, Melger said she liked that the environment meant she couldn't put anything off.

"I can't procrastinate, I just have to do it," Melger said.

Though students seemed to be connecting well at 11 a.m., Gibson imagined the restless night in sleeping bags and the looming time crunch might take its toll by midday.

"I think the stress is going to hit them after lunch," Gibson said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.