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Creative in the crunch

Alexandria's Bailee Atchinson reacts during her play called Couples Therapy with Tristen Chamberlin acting as her husband at the Project 1440 24-hour play festival this past Saturday. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)1 / 3
Tristen Chamberlin (right) gives one of his lines during Couples Therapy at the Discovery Middle School auditorium. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)2 / 3
Dan Roers and Haley Wagner hug near the end of their play called Waiting Room during the 24-hour festival. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)3 / 3

The task was daunting: Write, cast, rehearse and perform six original 10-minute plays in 24 hours.

But the group of 40 theater students from Jefferson High School was up to the challenge. They performed their plays at Discovery Middle School on Saturday and received rave reviews.

"I thought it was a success," said Jessica Chipman, JHS Theatre advisor about the school's first 24-hour one-act festival called PROJECT 1440. "The whole point was to provide students with the opportunity to do something different."

It was a completely new experience for many of the students. Some had never directed, wrote a play or even been on stage before.

"They put a lot of hard work into it," Chipman said. "I was really pleased with how they came together as a team to present theater."

The plays showcased the young people's creativity and range. With a little help from four professional theater mentors from around the Midwest, the students came up with plot lines that ranged from an absurd love triangle -- a girl with an imaginary boyfriend meets a real-life boyfriend, to a comedic therapy session with an unseen psychiatrist, to more dramatic themes -- one taking place in a hospital waiting room and another about a soldier acclimating to his return home from war.

"The audiences seemed surprised that the plays were polished, considering they were created in such a short amount of time," Chipman said.

Will there be a 24-hour play festival next year? "If the students have any say in it, we'll do it again," said Chipman.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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