7-11 Theatre Project 2018
- By gentleguide
- On Fri 07 Sep 2018
The 7-11 Theatre Project is now over a decade old, and still surprising people. Various groups sign up for the event, and they get a week to create a completely new, original theatre piece on a brand new set they’ve never seen before, performed in competition for prizes and awards.
The Kickoff event will be held on Friday September 14 in the Viking Theatre at Grand View University, with shows being performed the following week on September 21-23. The troupes of performers and writers don’t even get to see the set (which is new and different every year) until that initial Kickoff event, and then have to create their original show for the space. They also draw a style randomly, so until that Kickoff night they don’t know if they’re going to be doing a comedy, a romance, a mystery, or a variety of other possibilities.
Within 7 days, they have to write, cast, rehearse, and perform an 11 minute one-act on this brand new set. Flexibility is the key, along with the ability to do things quickly and decisively – but that’s also true for two of the technical people helping everyone along: Set Designer Alex Snodgrass and Stage Manager Korey Williams.
Set for Success
“I think one of the strongest features of the 7-11 Theatre Project is the creative ideas that the different troupes bring to the table,” says Snodgrass. “They are given some circumstances (prop, genre, line, location) but everything else they build together as a team. We have high school students, performers that have 20 years of experience, and playwrights all working around each other.”
“Kristin Larson [leader of the 7-11 Theatre Project] and I have a super-secret document called ‘7-11 ideas.’ It’s got lots of little notes from us about what would create a fun environment for the troupes to play in. I never quite know what’s going to spark someone’s imagination, so I always try to leave little matches everywhere.”
“I try to create a space that will create lots of dynamic stage pictures. I like to keep the World of scenery focused but open. Last year we had the Boardwalk, you could focus on the carnival aspect or more of the beach aspect. I specifically designed it to have no specific pieces that tied it to any time periods. We saw some troupes play the time period from the 1950’s and some modern day. I like to think of it as, ‘I start the sentence and they finish it.’ But when I start the sentence, I have to make sure they could take it to lots of different and interesting places.”
“Typically we start in early August and throw around some ideas,” continues Snodgrass. “I create a draft and rendering and hopefully start to build in September. It’s a quick build, only 2 weeks. We have to keep the theater locked down and limit who works on the set, as our own Grand View students have a troupe. I have a great carpenter named Krister Strandskov that I am able to bring in to help us put it all together.”
As the troupes get closer to performance time, their MVP is the Stage Manager for all the productions, Korey Williams. For a more typical theatre show, Williams gets weeks to work with a script, set, and specific light and sound all aimed at what the show’s creative team has in mind. With the 7-11 Theatre Project, it’s a bit different, as she not only doesn’t have an initial script, she has to be able to work on a dozen different presentations in just a few days.
Williams works hard to make each performance the best it can be. “We start planning for this far in advance with production meetings, just like any other production. While the set is being built in secret, the rest of the production is preparing all the necessary information for troupes and getting things set up for the competition. But the bulk of the work takes place the week before the Kickoff and all during that week.”
“We have a very short amount of time to build the set and get lights ready for the troupes to come in and make a show out of what we are giving them,” says Williams. “Our wonderful production team comes up with these ideas and helps create these sets, and the troupes then turn it into realities. There are so many wonderful stories that unfold at 7-11, and every year I am truly amazed at the talent that is presented by local artists.”
“The Reveal is just the bare bones of a set, and then once we start adding in the tech elements from each troupe it starts to feel like an actual tech for a big show. The troupes are required to move the stage back to neutral at the end of their plays. We are maintenance for the set, but once it’s built that’s what they get. Troupes are very fun and easy to work with, many understand this is a competition and want the best outcome. We are always willing to be of help in any way we can without breaking any rules or guidelines set forth by 7-11.”
For the troupes, one of the big advantages of participating in the 7-11 Theatre Project is the condensed time frame. Some people who love theatre simply don’t have the ability to commit 6-8 weeks that a typical show often requires. 7-11 provides all the fun of being involved in a theatre production without the extensive time requirement. It only takes a week from the performers’ point of view (although, admittedly, it’s a very INTENSIVE week!)
Plus, the resultant amount of variety in productions is amazing. In past seasons, shows have ranged from heartbreaking stories of loss and love, to fall down funny comedic romps, all in the same space. There have been alien invasions, quiet camping trips, and everything in between, all developed and performed in just a week. If you’d like to be a part of such a venture, the 7-11 Theatre Project is still accepting submissions for troupes through September 14th, so go to the 7-11 Theatre Project website to sign up and get more detailed information.
And even if you don’t become a part of the show, you can always attend these wonderful performances. While the Kickoff event is for the participants, the presentations will be on September 21 and 22 (different shows each night), with Select performances on September 23 along with the announcement of the awards and prizes! So get your tickets here or at the door, and make sure you get to Grand View’s Viking Theatre for brand new and totally unexpected experiences!