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theatreASAP holds creativity's feet to the fire, but the shotgun wedding is a happy one

"I really hope Sheila doesn't kill us for this," director Mellissa Marlowe told her three-member cast as the group took refuge in the women's dressing room of the Magik Theatre Saturday morning. Marlowe was concerned about whether to approach playwright Sheila Rinear's script, entitled Mission Possible, which was given to her only a couple of hours earlier, as a drama or a satire, Marlowe placed her apprehensions on hold and began reading through the lines with her troupe.

TheatreASAP was now in full swing and there was no turning back.

Alissa (Jimmie Vohs) is lectured by her overbearing sister Delia (Anna Gangai) in Mission Possible. (Photos by
Kiko Martinez

The second-annual show, sponsored by the San Antonio Theatre Coalition, began about 12 hours earlier when six playwrights placed their hands into a small bowl to pick a number that would determine in which order their plays would be performed the following night..

Playwright Chris Navarro drew No. 2 and was given second choice for a mandatory prop for his play. He, like all the other playwrights, was then given a rough cast list and a San Antonio-related phrase to incorporate into the script. With only 12 hours to write a 10-minute production and a 30-minute drive back to his PC in Devine, Texas, Navarro, who was also scheduled to teach an art class in Laredo the next morning, knew he had to work fast.

"All I did driving home was think about the phrase," said Navarro, who was given "Military Town" as a point of inspiration. "Nothing came to mind at first."

Playwright Donnie Neubauer was also struggling with his assignment in the wee hours of the morning. His phrase, "Lone Star," and his prop, a stuffed duck (or seagull), prompted him to follow in the steps of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, author of Adaptation, and write himself into the script.

"It was a short play," Neubauer said, "but I knew whoever got it would have room to be creative." Neubauer's play, Lone Star, follows the thought process of a playwright who is suffering from writer's block while writing a play for TheatreASAP.

Saturday morning, director Maria Ibarra led the Lone Star cast, which consisted of Eva Laporte, Martha Prentiss, Kat O'Neal, and Jason Lee Boyson, to a comfortable nook of the theater to begin rehearsing and to practice their bird squawking, which they finally agreed should sound like the seagulls from Finding Nemo.

Martha Prentiss, Kat O?Neal, and Jason Lee Boyson portray Diane Sawyer, Star Jones, and Tom Cruise in
Lone Star.

"Our group just had a good time together," said Boyson, who portrayed Star Trek's William Shatner, the Lone Ranger's sidekick Tonto, and Tom Cruise, during the performance. "The script didn't give us a lot of stress, which made it easy for us to really get into it."

After 12 hours of rehearsals, which included ironing out the technical aspects of the pieces (The Vessel called for its fair share of pings and explosions), the six plays hit center stage exactly 24 hours after writers selected their numbers.

Highlights of the evening included playwright Gregg Barrios' references to musician Johnny Cash and Tennesse Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire in his play Apres Nous, Le Deluge, playwright John Poole's eccentric and imaginative work with The Day Death Died, and Mission Possible's amazing performances by Anna Gangai, Tony Ciaravino, and Jimmie Vohs.

By Kiko Martinez