Even without sleep, the show must go on

Insomnia Theater creates a way for students to get involved in theater production without the long-term commitment. Temple’s Insomnia Theater has created a group for those who love theater and have 24 hours to devote

Insomnia Theater creates a way for students to get involved in theater production without the long-term commitment.

Temple’s Insomnia Theater has created a group for those who love theater and have 24 hours to devote to their passion.

Insomnia Theater is an organization for students to enjoy the world of acting, directing, stage management and playwriting. The first step to producing the 24-hour play is finding officers and a playwright-in-residence – a position members sign up for and rotate each show – who then meet to discuss possible topics the short plays will cover.

SAM KELLY TTN (Above) Temple’s Insomnia Theater director T.J. Creedon advises actress Ashley Hall (middle) and actor Matthew Hanley (right). Creedon is one of five directors overseeing five separate short plays, to be performed at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center Saturday.

“Everyone throws out ideas for topics, and then the playwright-in-residence has the final say of what topic is chosen,” member Kaitlin Lavinder said.

After the topic is decided, the audition date is advertised and auditions are held. Then, the writers are given the topic and stay up all night writing, rewriting and rewriting once more with the playwright-in-residence available to help with the writing process.

The following morning, actors are paired with writers and directors for each skit and get to work. Tech and design crews work throughout the day to create the set design, costumes and props, while the actors are working on memorizing their lines and “blocking” or staging their scenes.

Two quick breaks for lunch and dinner in between numerous run-throughs of the four to five skits lead to a performance that same evening.

Matthew Flocco, the president of the organization, and Niki Ianni, the vice president, created Insomnia Theater in January 2009.

“Although the process may seem a little crazy and we all wind up incredibly sleep deprived, we always enjoy the end result, and that is producing high quality shows that make people think, question and laugh,” Ianni said.

Flocco and Ianni recognized the need for a more flexible performing arts group on Main Campus and have seen similar theater programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Drexel University.
“As someone who has been passionate about the performing arts since high school, I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to bring the concept to Temple,” Ianni said.

The program, which performs twice per semester, allows busy college students, such as Celeste Sumo, to get involved in theater without the long-term commitment.

“I got involved with Insomnia Theater because I have always been interested in theater but I haven’t had formal training,” said Sumo, a sophomore history major. “So I wanted to find a less formal group who accepted people whether they were trained or not.”

“Matt and Niki wanted to create this group so that there could be a fun and relatively low-time commitment theater group open to all students, even if they are not theater majors or in [the School of Communications and Theater],” Lavinder said.

Though the students greatly appreciate the experience, they are under a lot of pressure to present a quality production. Plays are typically allocated ample time for rehearsing, developing main characters and ensuring the plot will be clear. The uniqueness behind this organization is the challenge of creating a quality production in an incredibly short time frame.

In the last year-and-a-half, Insomnia Theater has grown to incorporate other components, such as workshops for acting and playwriting along with community service, outreach and collaboration opportunities.

The group donates all its proceeds to nonprofit organization Tree House Books, an after-school program at 1430 Susquehanna Ave., which provides North Philadelphia children a place to read, write and more.

This year, the group will participate in a toy drive for underprivileged children, as well as Christmas caroling.

“My favorite aspect of Insomnia Theater is its ability to foster creativity and collaboration within such a short frame of time,” Ianni said. “With only 24 hours to produce a series of four to five shows, the creative process is accelerated, and you are able to see incredible teamwork and support among students.”

Alexandra Olivier can be reached at alexandra.olivier@temple.edu.

[Full disclosure: Matthew Flocco is a reporter for The Temple News]

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