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A Play in a Day 

The DayTrippers specialize in writing, rehearsing, and performing their Fringe Festival productions in 24 hours

Wednesday, Sep 12 2001
"Welcome to DayTrippers IV!" shouts Bradford Cooreman, the 6-foot, 6-inch artistic director of the Rough Theater Company whose slightly limp suit and tie barely hint at the 24 hours of sweat, tension, and nonstop hustle that have led to this moment.

"This is how it works: At 11 o'clock last night, we gave out a theme to three writers who went back to their houses and stayed up all night writing a play!" Cooreman shouts to the sold-out, late-night crowd gathered at the Exit Theater on Taylor.

"At 8:30, 8:45, 9 o'clock this morning," continues Cooreman in a flurry of words, "the writers handed over their scripts and the actors and directors read them for the first time! They started rehearsing. We gathered props, music, and costumes. We printed a program. Now we're here, less than 24 hours later, to perform for you!" By the end of his introduction, Cooreman is nearly rabid, and the audience, which includes three additional rows of people crammed together on the floor, is audibly impressed.

But they have no idea.

10:27 p.m. the night before: In the cozy confines of the Exit Theater Cafe, a group of thespians gathers on the barstools around the perimeter of the room, sipping wine and talking among themselves. The nervous excitement is palpable. Enter Jennifer Garagliano, executive director of Rough Theater, carrying several clipboards and wearing pragmatic blue overalls, which are to become her trademark. Garagliano has been cooking food all day, in preparation for the four consecutive play-in-a-day marathons scheduled for this year's San Francisco Fringe Festival. A few of tonight's DayTrippers wave a greeting.

Jeffrey Hartgraves, who recently appeared in Ronnie Larsen's A Few Gay Men, is among them. He is quick-witted, squat, and instantly likable.

Hartgraves: "This is my first time. It's by invitation only, you know, but it's difficult to tell if they invite you because they really like you or because they really want to torture you. I'll be acting as a director for Saturday's show and as a writer for Monday's show (Sunday is my birthday). I've only heard of one person doing the trifecta -- writing, acting, and directing. It wasn't a friend of mine; all my friends are sane."

DayTripper alum and 30-year theatrical veteran Felicia Faulkner sits nearby. For DayTripper IV, she will be directing and acting. She has dark, ferine hair and crimson lips.

Faulkner: "This time I understand the need to pace myself. During my first DayTripper experience, there was so much adrenaline pumping through my body ... I wasted a lot of energy. Now I know: No matter what happens, this thing somehow, miraculously comes off. It seems inconceivable at first. Tonight I'm going home to get a good night's sleep. I've got plenty of water and vitamin C packs. I've got fruit cut up in the fridge. At 8 o'clock tomorrow, I'll walk out the door, ready to go."

10:48 p.m.: Cooreman decides to reveal tonight's theme 12 minutes early. He passes out the three envelopes to the three writers.

Cooreman: "We decided to go with a simple object this time."

The writers open their envelopes to reveal a large black word: MONEY.

Reed Kirk Rahlmann: "It's more of a concept, really."

Cooreman: "You're the writer; you tell us."

By day, Rahlmann produces trade shows and corporate events with his company Another Brain Productions. Seven of his plays have been produced for theater in San Francisco and Los Angeles, "eight if you count DayTrippers III." He has thick-rimmed black eyeglasses and wears an elegant sport coat and vest. He looks writerly, but with an understated hipster edge.

10:50 p.m.: The DayTrippers gather to discuss the theme in small groups assigned by Cooreman, comprised of one writer, one director, and three actors.

10:57 p.m.: Writer Sarah Emily Nelson rushes for the exit. Nelson is a young, pale, brooding woman with straight black hair and a stockpile of Red Bull. She has written for radio shows such as Drew Carey's Hi-Fi Club and Rock On with Ray Manzarek and is responsible for the longest piece ever produced by DayTrippers, a 35-minute opus that had the actors in a memorizing panic during DayTrippers III.

Nelson: "I've got to get out of here. I've got to go home. I don't like to know the actors, or the director. I like to do this in the most pure way possible."

10:59 p.m.: Rahlmann asks his cast members to name their favorite directors and ideal roles, while, nearby, Carl Thelin, a sizable man with wire-rimmed glasses and unsettled hair, asks his own cast for personal anecdotes about money.

Thelin, looking over his notes a few minutes later: "I'm thinking about sales. I've got someone kicking off his shoes in the sand. I might have someone moon the audience. I might not use any of it. But it's nice if I can write something the actors can immediately identify with."

11:03 p.m.: The DayTrippers have left the cafe.

11:50 p.m.: Thelin is in his studio apartment over the Rhinoceros Theater, taking a sip of what will be the first of many Dr Peppers. Piles of video equipment have been pushed to the side of the computer desk, which sits in front of a window looking into the hallway of a residential hotel. A sandwich lies on the floor, along with a bag of chips and a couple of PowerBars.

Thelin: "It might be set on a beach."

Midnight: Rahlmann sits in his Richmond bedroom/office with the window shades pulled down tight. Three lines of text blink on the computer screen and a steaming mug of Thera-Flu rests nearby.

Rahlmann: "The initial thought is still there. I wanted to see what people are willing to do for money, which is the nature of work -- and money -- to begin with. I've got a couple, in a restaurant, who are having an affair. Maybe there's a wealthy guy ... someone who's written three wills and is willing to give his money to the person willing to give up his or her most devastating secret. ... There's a tumor inside his head the size of a melon. He's dying. It's completely farcical. He's made his money off land mines and prosthetic limbs."

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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