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This year’s 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge under way


Lab Theater’s heralded 24-Hour Playwriting Project has shifted gears this year due to COVID-19. In a pandemic-mandated twist, Lab is conducting a 24-hour screenwriting project instead of a 24-hour playwriting challenge that’s not only a fun, new way of mixing film and theater, but will serve  as a fundraiser for the theater as well.

In year’s past, the writers would cloister at Lab Theater, where they’d spend the night under the watchful eye of Char Loomis and Lab’s paranormal residents getting amped up on coffee and Red Bull while hammering out scripts to be performed on stage for a live audience the following evening. This year, the screenwriters converged on Lab Theater via Zoom, where Artistic Director Annette Trossbach, 24-Hour Screenwriting Coordinator Char Loomis and Margaret Cooley gave them the props, sound effects, handicaps and three lines of dialogue that they must include in their screenplays. Although they will remain digitally connected to Trossbach, Loomis and each other via Facebook Messenger and Zoom, this year’s creatives will compose their scripts from the comfort of home. But the pressure to producing a film-ready screenplay in ten short hours will be no less real and palpable.

Accepting this year’s screenwriting challenge are Laura Lorusso, Kinley Gomez, Darlyne Franklin and Stephen Hooper. Each has from roughly 9:00 p.m. tonight until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to produce the screen play for a 5-8 minute one-shot film for two actors – although not necessarily two characters. This year’s theme calls for a plot in which a crime is solved.

As in past years, Lorusso, Gomez, Franklin and Hooper are required to incorporate into their screenplays a sound effect, a prop and an unseen character whose arrival is heralded although he or she never actually makes it into the frame. Lorusso’s sound is a hooting owl; her prop, a switchblade; and unseen character a chief of police. A shrill scream is Gomez’s sound; her prop, a rubber chicken; and her unseen presence is one of her character’s mothers. Franklin’s sound is a knocking; her prop, a skull; and her unseen character an investigative reporter. Batting clean-up, Hooper’s sound is ringing (it may or may not emanate from a phone); his prop a ball gag; and his phantom character a CSI.

Each screenwriter has also been given three lines of dialogue that they have to incorporate into their scripts, although the order and subtext is entirely in their discretion.

Trossbach, Loomis and Cooley have also woven a couple of new surprises into the fabric of this year’s challenge, but you’ll just have to tune in tomorrow night to see the films to find out what they are. Everything will be put together with credits and available online at 8:00 p.m. (on Saturday, November 21). And you, the viewer, get to judge the entries, vote for your favorite and donate to the theater so that it can continue to serve as a force for theatricality and creativity here in Fort Myers and all of Southwest Florida.

“Though much of this work is not in person, it’s very much a team effort and we are excited to share it with you,” say Trossbach.

Now in its ninth year, the Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting/Screenwriting Challenge has been a mainstay of the Fall theater season since 2012.

November 20, 2020.

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