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The 24-hour Theatre Project featured a conflicted old storyteller, murder mystery and a playboy

A woman wearing a red and white striped shirt with jean overalls holding a pink/white stuffed animal stands up with her arms out with a man wearing a tan jacket and shirt sits on a tan couch with his arm and holding a book.
Lkhagvajargal Dalaichuluun (left) and Dallin McKay (right) act in the 24-hour Theatre Project at BYUH on May, 22, 2021.

BYU–Hawaii students in the 24-hour Theatre Project class performed 10-minute skits they had only 24 hours to write, prepare and perform on Saturday, May 22. The three skits were performed in the McKay Auditorium with a limited number of people in the audience due to COVID-19 restrictions. But the skits were also lived streamed so people could watch them without being the in auditorium.

Emma Ward, a student who participated in the production, said for some students this experience was their first time on stage.

In one of the three skits, an old man shared a story of a girl he met when he was young whose mother died. She asked him to come to her funeral with him, and his initial response was, “I never meet the parents on the first date.”

The man then proceeds to tell the audience he won an inner battle and went to the funeral to comfort the girl. They then fell in love.

However, the audience then finds out the man never actually righted his wrong; he never went to the funeral to be there for the girl.

Dallin McKay, a freshman studying theater and music from Los Angeles, said they are now planning to alter the skit to apply to Hawaiian culture, get funding and create a short film. In the original skit, Jason Bourne is a character added to the story to represent the old man’s internal struggle. In the rewrite, McKay explained, a Hawaiian volcano may replace the Bourne metaphor.

From a skit to a short film

McKay said for their three skits, “I immediately got the first idea of an old man telling a story.” He said they built the rest of the story around two required lines: “I never meet the parents on the first date” and “Don’t call me that.”

He added, “We adapted it so the audience were the people who came to hear the story.”

On a black stage, there is a man wearing tan pants, a white button-up shirt that's not buttoned with a white shirt underneath holding a black umbrella and a woman wearing a black shawl kneeling over on the ground with flowers in front of her.

When it came to organizing the production, McKay said their group took the route of asking group members which job they would like to do the least. “Most people didn’t feel comfortable doing playwriting.” He said he and one other group member felt confident in screenwriting, so they took notes from several group members to prepare the story.

“I never felt like anybody was trying to get out of work.” He said he appreciated that everyone had a different role to play in the preparation process because “everyone could focus without having to worry about [doing] everything.”

On the night of the performance, McKay said he enjoyed the feeling of not only being on stage, but also being able to use comedic timing with the audience. “Emotions are definitely contagious. You notice it so much more when you’re on stage. … If I can feel something, then that’s what’s in the room. If I can manipulate my feelings sometimes, that can manipulate the feelings in the room.”

He said when he is performing live, he can hold pauses for longer and gauge when to say the funny lines. “I’ve always loved that feeling,” McKay said.

McKay said his background is mostly in film, although he did participate in some musicals in high school. “The past three years I’ve been living in L.A. doing music and acting there.”

He said he has worked on music videos with celebrities such as Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, was involved in "Ford vs. Ferrari," Nickelodeon and has worked on commercials. He recently played the lead role in a film coming out later this year, called, “Texas Teenage Girl.”

He said because of the pandemic, his agency in Los Angeles shut down, so he recently signed with one on the island.

Being a director

The second skit invited the audience into a crime scene where the maid of honor is found dead at a bachelorette party. By the end of the play, the murderer is revealed. Another bridesmaid murdered her out of jealousy because she wanted to be the maid of honor.

Emma Ward, a freshman from Utah studying business management human resources, said when her group was trying to write the story, all they knew was they wanted to do a comedy. At first, they were speculating about doing a romantic comedy, but when one group member mentioned a murder mystery, they were all on board.

They all liked the idea of drawing inspiration from media such as “Knives Out,” “Psych,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” She said they decided who was going to be murdered first and then wrote the storyline surrounding that.

Writing the script was the hardest part, she explained, because their group all had different ideas and didn’t really know each other. “The hardest part is getting all of the different ideas together and organizing them into a rising action, climax, falling action and resolution and then figure out what happens in between.”

She said her group used a whiteboard to tackle the task so they could organize information by seeing it visually and talking through it together.

Joey Fung, a freshman from Hong Kong majoring in hospitality and tourism management, agreed coming up with and organizing the story was the hardest part. He said his group took about five hours to complete that task.

The secret was to have a lot of evenly spaced short lines, Ward explained. She said their script looked long, but when they began memorizing it and acting it out it was shorter than they thought.

“Everyone had a say in everything we did,” she said, emphasizing every group member was involved equally in the production process. For example, when they were coming up with the storyline, they made sure to ask for input from those who weren’t speaking as much.

“For the most part, my group did everything together, … It helped our flow with things. Because I’ve acted a lot in the past, I stepped up when we were blocking.” She said because of that, when they asked who the director was she stepped forward.

Ward said she started acting in high school and participated in a lot of musicals and plays. At BYUH, she is minoring in theater. Additionally, she said her family created mini videos and skits together. For example, they made a COVID-19 music video.

Ultimately, she said she enjoyed participating in the 24-hour project because it had been so long since she had been on stage because of the pandemic. “I had a lot of fun, but it was stressful. Everyone was praying backstage to help us remember our lines and cues and everything we’ve gone over in the last 24 hours.”

She said once they successfully finished their skit, there was a lot of excitement and they were all offering fist-bumps and congratulations to one another.

Playing a playboy

Fung played a role in the first skit where a boy is caught cheating on his girlfriend with her roommate.

He said his experience with theater began in high school. “That was my first experience getting knowledge about what theater is and how it helps my life.”

Fung said acting has improved his communication skills because he can memorize lines he may use in his everyday life, whether it be the language or how to handle certain situations.

When his group met together the night before to write the story, he said they originally discussed having a comedic play about two boys trying to solve a murder mystery. However, he said his group eventually thought, “Rather than talking about two protagonists and a murderer, why don’t we talk about two girls and a playboy?”

Fung played the role of the playboy, Cash. Fung said, “He’s a cool guy who doesn’t care about the outcome” of him cheating on his girlfriend with her roommate.

He said playing the role of Cash was valuable to him because he was able to experience what it’s like to be someone he is not. “Joey is not a player. I would like to try this character on stage, something … I will never experience in my life but I can experience on the stage,” Fung explained. He described the opportunity as challenging and fun.

The skit ended with laughter from the crowd as Fung, playing Cash, accidentally bumped into another one of his girlfriend’s roommates, dipped her and walked out with their arms around each other.

Passion is the key

Fung said he participated in the 24-hour project class because he enjoys becoming a different person for a short time for the audience. “It’s not about myself. It’s about other people. I like to try different characters.”

Fung said passion is the key to being successful in the class. “The whole 24 hours was tough, but we all enjoyed it because we all … are passionate about this cause. One important thing is those who join this class must have a passion or else it’s very hard to keep going.”

Ward said she took the class because one of the professors, Gailyn Bopp, is her boss in University Archives and told her about it.

She said the class taught her what it is like to be a director and how to work with other people by creating a cohesive group. She said in her group, four of the students were going to be on stage for the first time and several of them were international. “It’s a lot to do in 24 hours,” Ward explained.

21 students on stage clapping, putting up their arms and looking at each other all wearing masks with a clear part in the middle of them.
All the students in the 24-hour Theatre Project on May 22, 2021.

Fung said, “Teamwork is essential. I can’t just memorize my lines. I need to think about others. If I know their lines, I can know when to speak so I can cooperate.”

McKay said he appreciated the class because he has missed being on stage. “I love acting. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to act on stage. … When you can bounce off the audience and cue the timing with them, I love that. I’ve missed that.”