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Group will create play in a single day

A group of writers, actors and one director will race against time to create a play from scratch and then present it before an audience in just 24 hours.

The clock will start ticking at 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, with the play beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at The Village Gate, 539 Medford Center, Medford. Tickets to the play are $20 and are available by calling 541-246-3699 or visiting www.ctporegon.org.

The "Play in a Day" serves as the inaugural event and also a fundraiser for the newly formed Medford-based Collaborative Theatre Project.

Co-founder Obed Medina is one of several writers who will pull an all-nighter to draft a play that can be handed over to the director and actors at the break of dawn Saturday. He previously took part in a 24-hour play-creating effort while working at a Los Angeles theater company.

"I showed up not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a fun experience," Medina says.

He says writing by committee is different than penning a play solo.

"It was a lot of negotiating. Everyone had their own ideas," Medina says. "It was a lot of, 'I'll give you this if you let me have that.' "

After the Los Angeles writers came up with a basic plot, each person was assigned to write specific scenes. Piecing together a finished product was not without its challenges.

"When we put it together, we found out it was not making sense. We went back and changed it to bridge the gaps between the scenes," Medina says.

The Los Angeles team ultimately created a comedic farce about medical workers trying to find a cure for an apocalyptic illness that threatens the world. Medina says comedies tend to work better than dramas for 24-hour play projects.

For the Medford event, Medina says none of the participants are coming in with preconceived ideas about the subject of the play.

On Friday night, the actors taking part in "Play in a Day" will have brief performances to show off their assorted talents to the writers, who can then write a play that takes advantage of those skills.

Director Susan Aversa-Orrego will have one hour early Saturday morning to review the script, and then will begin working with the actors to bring the play to life.

"The whole thing is a challenge to how well we can think on our feet," she says.

While the actors are at work memorizing lines and working on the scenes, runners will race to find costumes, props and set pieces.

"The runners will get props and costume pieces as needed from wherever they can scrounge them," Aversa-Orrego says. "If they have something at home, they can get it. Goodwill is great for getting inexpensive things at the last minute. It becomes a clever scavenger hunt to get the right pieces."

Actor Pam Ward — who has experience with television, film and stage roles as well as audio book narration — is looking forward to the challenge of "Play in a Day."

"It will be contained insanity," she says.

Because the actors and director will be rehearsing in a retail space at the Medford Center, passers-by will be able to look through the glass and see the work in progress.

The newly launched Collaborative Theatre Project is in the midst of searching for a permanent home in Medford. Ward says theater companies in Ashland and Talent — including Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Camelot Theatre Company — have made the southern part of the Rogue Valley well-known for theater, but the Medford theatrical scene is growing.

"We feel there is a niche where we could move in," says Ward, who along with Medina and Aversa-Orrego is one of the co-founders of the Collaborative Theatre Project.

At the "Play in a Day" performance Saturday night, the audience will hear an announcement about upcoming 2016 events for the new theater company.

Ward says with theater professionals all coming together to create a play in 24 hours, the "Play in a Day" is the perfect inaugural event for the Collaborative Theatre Project.

"It is the very essence of collaboration," she says. "There simply isn't enough time to not get along. People will be so focused on the end product, there will be no room for anything but collaboration."

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Elizabeth Suzanne, left, Pam Ward and Susan Aversa-Orrego Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch