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Scripts complete, playwrights meet actors for tonight's Lab Theater challenge

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Deadline are a part of life. April 15th. Christmas Eve. That project that's due at work on Monday. But Laura Lorusso, Char Loomis, Michael Tomes, Carmen Crussard, and Taylor Adair Nave are deadline junkies. They assembled last night at 8 in the old church on Woodford that's home to the Laboratory Theater of Florida for an overnight playwriting challenge.

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As each playwright set up their bedding and work station, they shot furtive glances at the stage. The set is a hallway in an abandoned building somewhere, or at least an abandoned floor in a building. It's up to Laura, Char, Mike, Carmen and Taylor to decide whether their play takes place on the creepy 13th floor of an old, run down hotel, a hallway abandoned after some gruesome murder, or a hastily abandoned hallway at the haunted Greystone Hotel on Hendry and Patio de Leon.

That's the challenge. Each playwright had from 9 p.m. last night until 11 this morning to write an original play for three to four actors that is not less than ten minutes or more than fifteen minutes long. Each production will take place in The Hall, which also serves as the name and unifying theme of their play.

Beyond that, tonight's audience won't know whether they're coming to see a murder mystery, a Friends-like situation comedy, a drama or something else, but it was clear that each of the playwrights were already settling on plots and dialogue as they chose props and costumes for the actors they won't even meet until 1 p.m. today.

To add to the fun, each playwright is required to use three lines in the scripts that they generate overnight:

  • "You know you're holding that upside down."
  • "Do you really want to touch that?"
  • "But why did I have to hear about it on Facebook."

At least three of the actors for tonight's performances are children. Several others are teens. But none of them will even meet their playwrights-directors until 1 p.m. They then have roughly six and one-half hours to learn their lines, rehearse, and get dressed for tonight's show. Each performance will be scored by a panel of six judges and the audience, who will have the opportunity to ask the playwrights questions about their plays immediately following each performance.

"The jeopardy involved for writers and for actors is delightful," touts Lab Theater Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. "The audience can feel the energy sizzle - and, of course, there are running gags woven into each play." With props such as a Marvel Comics type spear, a fluffy white birthday cake, and a tarnished silver platter and costumes that include a plastic garbage bag with only one armhole, anything's possible during tonight's performances.

But there was a modicum of titters and laughs last night as Laura Lorusso, Char Loomis, Michael Tomes, Carmen Crussard and Taylor Nave got their instructions, chose numbers, and picked their props and wardrobes in turn. It was all business and the crickets outside the Laboratory Theater were jealous that the whirring of the playwright's minds drowned out the songs they normally compose on the spot each night.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida's 24-Hour Playwriting Project will be presented tonight, December 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets are just $12 and are available for purchase at www.labotratorytheaterflorida.com or at the door. However, seating is limited and advance ticket purchases are suggested. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL. For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901.

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