TV and film stars will work fast to pull off ‘The 24 Hours Plays’

The cast of the 2012 edition of "The 24 Hour Plays" takes its bows at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. This year's third annual staging will take place there Saturday.
The cast of the 2012 edition of “The 24 Hour Plays” takes its bows at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. This year’s third annual staging will take place there Saturday.
(Michael Bezjian / Getty Images For Montblanc)

“The 24 Hour Plays” is an annual bid to capitalize on L.A.’s convenient convergence of celebrities and celebrity lust, in a show whose proceeds go to arts education programs for public school kids.

Melanie Griffith, Rosie Perez, Jason Biggs of “American Reunion,” Jack McBrayer of “30 Rock,” Hannah Simone of “New Girl,” Wilmer Valderrama of “That ‘70s Show” and “Family Guy” voice actor Seth Green are among the stars who’ll spend Saturday rehearsing and performing under extreme time pressure for this year’s production at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

The task facing the team of 24 actors, six writers and six directors is to bring six short plays to fruition within 24 hours, beginning with an initial brainstorming session Friday night and ending with Saturday evening’s final bows.

CHEAT SHEET: Spring Arts Preview


The box office take will help fund programs run by the nonprofit group Urban Arts Partnership. Tickets are offered at $200 or $100 in the 499-seat house, with the $100 balcony section already sold out, according to the show’s online sales site.

Montblanc, a maker of pens and other luxury items, sponsors “The 24 Hour Plays” in both Los Angeles and New York, with Urban Arts Partnership as beneficiary.

This year’s directors in L.A. are Fred Savage, erstwhile protagonist of “The Wonder Years,” and more recently a TV director whose credits include “2 Broke Girls”; acting coach Leigh Kilton Smith; Julie Anne Robinson (“Weeds”); Andy Fickman (“Parental Guidance”); and Peter Ellenstein, a live-theater veteran as artistic director of the annual Inge Festival in Independence, Kan., birthplace of playwright William Inge.

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures by The Times

The writers figure to be the leading caffeine consumers: Each is expected to submit a 10-minute play by 7 a.m. Saturday, based on input received during a session at 10 p.m. Friday in which they’ll meet with the actors and directors to bat around initial ideas. Rehearsals commence by 9 a.m., and the results unfold for playgoers starting at 8.

This year’s playwrights are Gabrielle Allan, Rachel Axler, Jennifer Bicks, Jennifer Crittenden, Ben Karlin, Will McCormack and Bill Wrubel, whose television credits include “The Colbert Report,” “Sex and the City,” “Scrubs,” “Will & Grace” and “Arrested Development.”

In a new wrinkle, participants in Urban Arts Partnership’s L.A. programs auditioned for the show’s acting ensemble in May. Emanuel De Los Santos, 16, and Cedeshea Oliver, 17, were the winners who’ll give new meaning to the term “student rush.”

PHOTOS: Best in theater for 2012

“The 24 Hour Plays” also features musical guests between plays. One of them, Natalie Mendoza, has a tale or two to tell about theater-as-an-ordeal. She’d been tapped by director Julie Taymor to originate the role of Arachne in Broadway’s “Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark,” but got conked on the head by a piece of backstage equipment during the musical’s first performance in November 2010.

Mendoza suffered a concussion and subsequently exited the show, one of several cast members who were injured during rehearsals or previews for the technically complex production.


California’s new state budget reduces arts funding 7.6%

Working fast for charity, 24 Hour Plays returns to Broad Stage

Ritchie on Gandolfini: `An almost shocking humiity about his success’