News Column

24 Hours, Six Writers, Six Directors, and One Show

July 20, 2013

YellowBrix

July 20--Judy Caruso Williamson's name is almost synonymous with local theater, having been involved for better than 50 years as a teacher (for 40 years at Stagg High School), performer (last seen in Stockton Civic Theatre's "Dearly Beloved" in 2012), and director (most recently, "The Dining Room" in Linden, earlier this year).

The retired teacher and grandmother will add playwright to her resume with her participation in The 24-Hour Theatre Challenge, the brainchild of Hugo Martinez and S. Luis Bocardo.

Beginning at 7 p.m. Aug. 16, Willamson and five other writers will spend 12 hours writing a 15-minute play under the watchful eyes of Martinez and Bocardo.

When they're done, at 7 a.m. Aug. 17, six directors will be given one of the scripts, some actors and 12 hours to rehearse and stage it for an 8 p.m. production. Tickets are on sale now.

"As we were talking, developing ideas, we thought it would be great if we could put our own spin on it," said Martinez, who was aware of other 24-hour concepts. "We modeled this particular 24-hour theater project after popular shows like 'Face Off' or 'Top Chef.' It's not just the idea of creating a show in 24 hours, but dealing with obstacles along the way."

Hence, the term, "challenge."

Williamson, 68, is up for it, she said, and her involvement suggests the PG-13 rated show is not just for younger theater participants.

"I thought, 'How fun,' " Williamson said. "It reminds me of activities we did in college and improv types of situations. And of course, it puts up the word 'challenge.' Bells go off. It's going to be a challenge. OK."

When Martinez, 24, and Bocardo, 33, let friends in the theater community know of their planned project, they got immediate responses, finally capping the company at 60.

"One of the main reasons people were very open to the idea and were excited about it is they can try aspects of theater they were not able to do," Martinez said. "Theaters are tight knit and tend to cast the same people. We'll give you that opportunity. If you signed up as an actor and never acted before, bring it on. You want to direct, we'll give you a shot."

Or, if you've spent all your time since leaving Stagg High School directing or acting, as Williamson has, they'll let you write. She originally wanted to act and write, but Martinez and Bocardo talked her into picking one task.

Each playwright -- Williamson; Saul Trujillo; Evan Apolonio; Bocardo's mom, Maureen Bocardo; Samantha Roderick; and the team of Jeremy Stegmann and Shawn Carrington -- will be assigned a different genre.

Once they're done, the directors -- Nikki Pendley, Shari Garland, Carol Barry, Joe Smith, C.J. Martin and Jim Mason -- will go to work.

"That's the part that concerns me the most," Williamson admitted. "I'll create something and you have a definite idea about how it should be done, and you hand it off, and the director could interpret it completely different. It will be interesting. You just have to have a good attitude about whatever is done or who gets the work."

Bocardo and Martinez envision a night of great entertainment, but also relish the idea of advancing local theater.

"We were trying to come up with something a bunch of friends could do together," Bocardo said. "There was a general consensus among our circle of friends in theater, that with the politics, it was hard to get out of whatever you were doing. I have a friend who's just acted, but wanted to direct for years, but no one would give her a chance. Other friends involved in theater only have done crew and wanted to act, but no one ever cast them. This gives them a chance to be seen."

It also allows people who don't have the time to commit to a typical production a chance to participate.

Martinez, who discovered theater as an Edison High School freshman, has managed to work steadily in theater since returning from Los Angeles, where he earned a degree from Los Angeles Film School and worked in commercials and films. He is in rehearsal in Linden for "Deathtrap" and has acted in and directed other shows there. His time is flexible.

Bocardo, who works from home in customer service via the Internet, also has some flexibility. He has been involved in local theater since 2007 when he discovered Gnosis in Lockeford and ended a 14-year absence from the stage. He met Martinez in 2009 when both were in the cast of "Dearly Departed" at SCT.

"I limit myself to one production a year," Bocardo said. "I love it, but it does interfere with life. For one show, it's nine to 12 weeks and that's three to four months."

Because the theater has only 78 seats, an encore presentation of the show will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 18, but to keep the performances as close to the time frame as possible, scripts will be collected before the original show starts at 8 p.m. Aug. 17.

Martinez, ever the showman, has only one real concern.

"It's about the entertainment value," Martinez said. "It might be a little too out of the box for people to grasp how awesome this show can be. This off-the-cuff show might be a little too new for people to accept, especially for older crowds. That's why I'm glad June Spender and Judy are backing us up, supporting this. It says we're not so far out there."

Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or lgilbert@recordnet.com.

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(c)2013 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

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