2024 Brings the 11th Annual 24 Hour Play Festival

On January 7, 2024, Vermont Academy Performing Arts presented the 11th Annual 24 Hour Play Festival, a VA tradition in which students assemble small teams to write, direct, compose, create props for, and perform an original play, all within 24 hours. This year, 14 students participated, several of whom made their VA stage debut. Theater Arts Director Jonathan Barron ’96 says this was the most special part of this year’s festival. “For some of those students, English is their second language. It's always great to see people step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves in that way.”
Photos from the event can be found here.

One of those first-timers was Álvaro Vega-Martin ’27. “As an actor, I felt proud of myself for being a part of this activity and giving my best performance. The process was a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. Meeting new people from different backgrounds and sharing a few laughs made this experience even more memorable.”

On Saturday, January 6, at 6:00 p.m., the clock began to tick as students started writing their scripts. By 7:00 a.m. the next day, each team’s scripts were due for approval, and rehearsals began. Mid-afternoon brought time for a 30-minute dress rehearsal in the Nita Choukas Theater in Horowitz Performing Arts Hall before the 4:00 p.m. curtain call. Students also had the opportunity to design their set, costumes, and props prior to showtime. By the time 6:00 p.m. came around, the stage was cleaned up, and the festival finished, all within the 24 hour window. 

As tradition goes, each year, the teams are challenged to incorporate three elements in their performance. The same three elements are assigned to every group. This year, they were tasked with including a character named Q.Z. Willowby, a "tie" as either a prop, costume piece, or abstract concept, and the line of dialogue "I was hoping for a proper one, but I guess you will do." Each team sprinkled in the elements in clever ways while staying true to two very different plotlines. Spectators were also treated to some script interactivity and improvisation from the student actors. “I don't give [them] ideas,” says Jonathan, “I just tell them to think horizontally as well as vertically. I do tell them that creativity doesn't break the rules, it sits above them.”

Mr. Barron credits the students for their collaboration and creativity in the festival’s success. “I just love being able to put VA's name on projects like this because it is the ultimate representation of opportunity. It is open to absolutely everyone regardless of experience. It incorporates writing, directing, acting, graphic design, light design, set design, sound design, and costume design and it takes everyone working together to help each other succeed.”

Maya Sbardellati ’25 echoes him in recounting her experience. When asked what her favorite part of participating in the festival was, she answered, “The people. I went into this experience knowing I was going to work with friends, people I didn’t know very well, or both. I was grouped with my friends, but I [controlled] the curtain for a group filled with people I didn’t know the best, even someone I hadn’t ever met before. Everyone had a great time putting their shows together, and it was amazing to see.”

As for Andy Darcy ’25, this was his third year writing and directing a 24 Hour Play at VA, and this time around brought him new surprises. “I had no idea I would have as much fun as I did. Getting to interact with the audience and hearing their reactions was really a treat and  made me wonder why I haven't been seizing more opportunities to get up on the stage during my time here.” Even for 24-Hour Play Festival veterans like Andy, discoveries can still be unlocked during VA traditions such as this one.

The plays and their respective writers, directors, and actors were:

“Intentional Harm of A Person Taking Place in Vehicular Transport: The Squeal”
Writers: Andy Darcy ’25 and VA alumnus Alden Ormont ’23
Shared Directing Responsibilities and Acting Ensemble: 
Gabriela Romero Bermúdez ’26
Alejandro González Bonet ’27
Madilynn Catli ’26
Andy Darcy ’25
Álvaro Vega Martin ’27
Alden Ormont ’23
Sydney Palmiotto ’24

“Crazy Tasty with Quendra Z. Willowby”
Writer/Composer/Music Director: Asper Donath ’26
Directors: Suki Lambert ’25 and Asper Donath ’26
Suki Lambert ’25
Caitlin Masure ’25
Casey Rhodes ’27
Maya Sbardellati ’25

Theater Tech Crew:
Producer: Jonathan Barron ’96
Sound Design/Sound Op: Steve Cady
Light Design/Light Op: Jonathan Barron ’96
Stage Management Duties were shared among all participants.

The 11th Annual 24 Hour Play Festival performances did not disappoint, and we look forward to seeing what the creative minds of our students come up with next year. 

If you are considering getting involved in next year’s play festival, take it from Asper Donath ’26. “If you're new to acting/directing/writing, it's a great way to dip your toes in the water. I would definitely recommend trying it, at least once. Even if you're unsure about your own skills, your group will be there to help. In the end, it's all about fun!”

Special thanks go to the maintenance and housekeeping crew, VA families, and the entire VA community for their support.
Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.