MAT 24-hour play festival goes online

Kimberly Bolta, Havre Daily News

Kimberly Bolta, Havre Daily News

24 hours of COVID Christmas … in Greece is the creative way Montana Actors’ Theatre has come up with to perform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MAT has done a 24-hour play fest for four years, said Artistic Director Grant Olson.

“We get a group of actors, directors and writers, and they don’t know who they are going to be working with at all. Then on the Friday night before the play fest, we usually draw names to make teams,” he said. “We will then assign a playwrite to a group of actors and their director. They have from 7 that night until 7 in the morning, and we take those scripts and print them out and give them to the director. The director has about an hour to look at the script. The actors show up at 9 o’clock and start rehearsing and at seven that night we put on brand new plays that didn’t exist 24 hours ago.”

This year, Olson is making the teams instead of drawing for them due to COVID-19. He said he will try to keep family members together and small groups to help combat the potential spread. Olson added that there will not be a live audience for the play fest this year, instead it will be live streamed.

The actors and directors are a mix of new and previous participants of the event. It was harder this year to find participants because MAT could not put out a casting call to get as many people involved as possible, he said.  Space to practice and perform is limited, so participants were limited as well.

MAT will be doing a live stream event intermittently throughout the 24-hour time period. People can find the link to stream on the Mat website at https://mtactors.com .

“It’s all going to be live, so (the audience gets) to see the chaos of that 24 hours. We’re going to also have some games going on online, we’re going to have a moderator to have a chat going on with everybody as the 24-hour play fest is going on,” said Olson. “We’re going to ask for things from the audience. We’re going to be sending some carolers around town to do some Christmas caroling. It’s just going to be a big, kind of fun, crazy day.”

Jay Pyette, who founded MAT with Olson more than two decades ago, is going to be involved.

“Jay is going to be writing. Last year he acted,” said Olson.

Groups will be kept small and people who have regular contact with each other will be kept together. Family members were asked to participate this year in order for that to happen. All participants are members or family members of the MAT.

The stage is set for “Mama Mia,” the play MAT was working on when the pandemic hit, right now, so that is why part of the theme is in Greece, he said. The actors will have to act within the set.

Olson said MAT hopes to perform the delayed play in March.

“We are starting to make plans for the spring. We keep making plans and then they get cancelled due to circumstances. With the vaccine coming out, we are hoping that that will be the time period,” said Olson. “We are ready to pounce on it the moment we can get an audience together

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