GLENS FALLS -- Jennie Golightly raises her hands above her head Saturday and holds the ballet-like pose.
“I took it out so it wouldn’t make it look cheesy,” she says to a pair of actors at the Charles R. Wood Theater. “It kind of screamed, ‘Look, I’m artsy.’ ”
The 28-year-old Glens Falls woman has written plays for years, but only for her own eyes, and never for public consumption.
That will be ending Saturday night.
“I listen to my actors and I’m freaking out a bit,” she said as four actors rehearsed her script a few hours before the curtain raised. “It’s so cool. They’re bringing it to life.”
A mix of 40 veteran thespians and first-time performers, divided into 10 teams, descended Saturday on the Wood Theater, tasked with putting together 10-minute shows drafted by playwrights in a matter of hours overnight Friday.
The 10 teams competing in the Art in The Public Eye’s first-ever 24-hour play fest — each consisting four actors, a director and a playwright with varying levels of experience — were given the theme “Seven Deadly Sins” Friday night and expected to put the stage-based short together by 8 p.m. Saturday, when the crowds would arrive and decide the winner.
The nerves were as palpable as the energy that permeated the Wood Theater rehearsal sessions among the dozen novice actors and writers during Saturday afternoon’s rehearsals, while tested veterans kept the mood light.
Gisella Montanez has acted professionally for more than three decades.
She said watching a first-timer broach her craft provided a fresh perspective on the millennia-old skill.
“People like me, who are experienced, can still learn things from people who aren’t,” she said, before snapping into character and flamboyantly offering everyone in the rehearsal area a drink.
Art in the Public Eye has looked for years for ways to bring more people into the visual arts. A competition between a blend of experienced and first-time performers seemed like the perfect prescription, said APE board member and newly promoted Wood Theater Executive Director Erin Coon.
On the stage Saturday afternoon, the various interpretations of the biblical theme played out during each team’s 30 minutes of stage time.
“When am I going to die already,” exclaimed one performer, as his director shouted for more voice projection from the theater’s wing seats.
Soon after, three would-be plaintiffs jockeyed for moral superiority about whose lawsuit had greater merit in a lawyer’s waiting room, as one of them, a haughty airline executive with a pending defamation suit, tried to bed a fellow complainant.
Aside from the time constraints, teams were asked to keep their content “PG-13,” ruling out the language’s most divisive expletives.
But the Seven Deadly Sins theme was also timely in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent resignation, an issue at least one team hoped to touch upon.
Golightly’s script focused on pride, she said, a theme portrayed with a choreographed tale of marionettes and their puppet master, all told in Dr. Seuss-style rhythm.
“I tried to work them all in last night,” she said of the other six “deadly sins.” “It gave me a migraine.”