14/48 is one of the treasures of the Seattle theatre community. In a nutshell, it works like this: Thursday night, a group of actors/writers/directors/musicians/technicians get together at the theatre. They each put a piece of paper in the cone of destiny that answers the question: I want to see seven new plays about ____________. After the theme is drawn, the writers draw their slots and find out how many characters they have. Then they head home to write those seven new plays.
Friday morning everyone meets up at the theatre again. The directors and actors, also randomly paired, get the plays and set off to learn them as the designers, musicians, and technicians get started on hammering out the details. Twelve hours later, the show opens and the seven world premiere plays are performed.
Throughout the night, the audience can put their theme suggestions into the cone of destiny. After the show, a new theme is drawn and the whole process starts all over again. The writers head home and write seven more plays. Saturday morning those are handed off to the directors. And at 8:00 Saturday night there are seven more world premieres. It is a wonderful thing to behold.
Of course, the speed of the whole thing isn’t without its problems. Occasionally you will hit on one that just doesn’t work. The amazing part is how often it really does work. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things happen at 14/48. Occasionally, things that would probably never happen anywhere else. Ideas so crazy that they wouldn’t make it through the process of most short play festivals. But at 14/48, anything really does go.
If you would like to get an idea of what this all looks like in practice, you’re in luck. This past winter, the whole thing was filmed for a documentary. It’s still in the finishing stages, but they have released a teaser that gives a great look at the festival.
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